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Friday, 7 October 2016

The Viscount And The Artist - Alyson Pearce


Length: 299 pages


Blurb

Andrew Cardwell is a man driven by duty to his country and to his family. After the death of his uncle, he's determined to provide security and stability for his family as the new Viscount Cardwell—even if that means marrying and producing an heir. Surprising himself, Andrew decides to sponsor a young artist named Jeremy for the season, to help him find a patron. What he doesn’t anticipate is how well Jeremy fits in his bed…and his life.

Jeremy Leighton knows what it’s like to be a disappointment. The only son of a vicar, he's refused to follow the path his father set for him, choosing his passion for art, instead. He accepts Andrew's proposal, hoping to prove to his father—and himself—that he can succeed as an artist. After spending time with Andrew in and out of bed, Jeremy struggles not to fall for the damaged viscount, knowing the season will likely end in Andrew's engagement. 

Between a meddling cousin, a widow on the hunt for a new husband, and their own doubts about the relationship, how can Andrew and Jeremy shed the expectations of others to find true happiness? 


Review 4 Stars:

Andrew Cardwell is a damaged man, both physically and emotionally. He lost his brother to accident, his lover to war. A war that left him half-dead and deeply scarred in body and soul.

When his uncle dies, Andrew is the new Viscount Cardwell and his cousin Phoebe wastes no time in demanding that he do his duty to marry and beget an heir in sort order, so that she and the rest of the family aren't left at the whims of a distant cousin, the nearest male relative.

If it hadn't been for his uncle's death Andrew would not even have considered marriage at all, for he is a man who desires men, not women.

Jeremy Leighton is the son of the vicar and the family have long been friends of the Cardwells. Jeremy and Andrew had been friends when they were younger, getting into scrapes together. But as they grew older, Jeremey's hero-worship of Adrew grew into something more but he tried to deny his nature.

His father had agreed to let Jeremy study Art at university, but now that Jeremy's education is over, his father wants him to join the clergy too and do something useful, rather than wander about with his head in the clouds, for the vicar can so no career in Jeremy's scribbles.

Meeting again after his uncle's funeral, Andrew senses immediately a kindred spirit in Jeremy. Jeremy is reluctant at first to reveal his desire for other men, his desire for Andrew, but Andrew breaks down his defences and Jeremy admits that he too, like Andrew, prefers men rather than women.

Andrew takes Jeremy under his wing, commissioning him for a portrait and taking him to London for the Season, where he will teach Jeremy all he needs to know about approaching other men who feel as they do. But Jeremy doesn't want to approach anyone else. He loves Andrew, but Andrew seems to see him as nothing more than a project to keep him busy during the Season before he settles down and marries.

Andrew likes Jeremy in his bed, and Jeremy will have to work hard to get into Andrew's heart as well as his bed.

An interesting start to what will be a series, I think. They seemed to fall into bed a bit too fast for me, but I can see how Andrew uses seduction to forget his worries and since Jeremy was already half-way in love with him by then, I could see him unable to resist Andrew's charms.

The pacing is normally quite good, but it sagged a little in the middle, when Andrew and Jeremy confide to their friends about their relationship problems, rather than speaking to each other about it, which would have cleared everything up immediately.

The writing is good and flows well but there were a couple of niggles for me at least, a few times the author uses the word 'reigns', as in rule over a country, when it should have been 'reins', those things you hold horses with. It made me smile anyway and didn't stop me from reading on to see how things with Jeremy and Andrew progress.

It is difficult when writing in this era to get the balance between a happy ending and being true to the history of the time, when being with a man was illegal and could get you hanged for your trouble. I think how the author handled it worked really well here.

I loved both Jeremy and Andrew, both different men with their own quirks and foibles and as the story is told in alternate points of view, we get to see inside both their heads. The supporting cast is well-drawn too and I suspect we might be seeing more of Percy, Oliver and Thaddeus in future books. They too deserve their happy endings.

A great, escapist read.



Excerpt

Sitting in the carriage outside Boodle’s, Jeremy fiddled with his coat buttons. A cold sweat had started along the back of his neck. Talking about finding a patron was one matter. Actively looking for one was completely different. He looked over at Andrew. The man was the embodiment of fashionable: his jet black tailcoat was expertly tailored, the waistcoat beneath adding a touch of colour and pattern. Even his cravat was tied in a perfect Osbaldeston. Next to him, Jeremy looked like a simple country boy, wearing clothing his father had bought him when he entered Oxford. His stomach rolled, and he regretted eating such a large dinner.
“You’re going to be fine,” Andrew said.
Jeremy fastened his buttons for a third time.
“Just relax. Hands at your sides. Deep breaths. Follow my lead and stay by my side.”
Nodding, Jeremy let his hands drop. He waited until Andrew opened the carriage door before climbing out. The sight in front of him was formal and imposing, and Jeremy wanted nothing more than to climb back into the carriage. The ground floor exterior was a white stone, while the upper levels were brick. The showpiece of the building, though, was the large, domed window in the centre, trimmed by white, scalloped stone.
“Come on.”
Andrew clapped Jeremy on the shoulder and steered them toward the door. It felt rather like he was being marched to the gallows. As they passed through the columned entrance, Jeremy balled his fists at his sides.
“You have to relax, Jeremy,” Andrew murmured. “No one is going to come and escort you out. You are here as my guest, and therefore you belong here. Unclench your fists. Drop your shoulders. Remember, every man you meet here is a potential patron. Treat them as such. Be respectful, but be yourself.”
Jeremy nodded, forcing his shoulders down. “All right. Where to first, Cardwell?”
“Let’s start by finding friends.”
After a giving Jeremy a quick tour of the ground floor, Andrew led him up the steps, toward the salon. A number of men had already started to gather at the card tables, and Jeremy stayed as close to Andrew as he possibly could. A large man with a bulbous nose and beady eyes broke away from the rest and started toward the both of them, favouring his left leg.
“Thomas Stanhope,” Andrew whispered. “A member of the Commons and not someone you want to work with.”
“Cardwell!” The man’s voice was thin and raspy, and his gaze darted between Andrew and Jeremy. “Back just in time for the Season, I see. Is your uncle with you?”
Andrew’s lips pressed into a thin line. “Uncle Richard passed a few weeks ago. You sent a letter expressing your condolences.”
Stanhope’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “Did I? I…You must forgive me. My mind is not what it once was.”
“Of course.” The words came out clipped. “Stanhope, allow me to introduce my friend, Mr. Jeremy Leighton.”
A flicker of emotion crossed Stanhope’s face, though Jeremy couldn’t place it. Whatever it was made him uncomfortable.
“Leighton…” The man frowned, as though he were trying to piece together a puzzle.
“It’s a pleasure,” Jeremy said, shaking the man’s hand.
“The pleasure is mine.” Stanhope didn’t release his grip. “Tell me, how did you become acquainted with our Cardwell, here?”
The man’s palm was sweaty and Jeremy longed to pull away, but when he tried, Stanhope simply tightened his grip. “My father was friends with Lord Richard Cardwell. I’ve been acquainted with his family since birth.”
The confusion twisted into something like satisfaction, and Stanhope smirked, a gleam in his eye.
“I see. And how—”
“Cardwell!”
Jeremy looked over Stanhope’s shoulder to see a man taller than Andrew walking over. When he looked back at Stanhope, the man’s expression had soured.
“Excuse me. I look forward to seeing you again, Mr. Leighton.”
Stanhope walked away, his expression clouded. Andrew breathed a sigh of relief and the tension visibly eased.
“Perfect timing, Percy,” Andrew said. “I thought I would have to cut Jeremy’s hand off to get him away.”
“You looked like a caged animal.” The man embraced Andrew and then pulled away. “I wondered if you would be here for the Season. We placed bets on whether or not you would turn up. Thaddeus put you down as sitting out.”
Jeremy blinked. How could he be so crass?
“It’s as though he doesn’t know me at all,” Andrew shot back. He turned to Jeremy. “Lord Percival Beaumont, this is Mr. Jeremy Leighton. Percy and I attended Harrow and Oxford together.”
As Beaumont shook his hand, Jeremy could practically feel the man scrutinizing his appearance. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lord,” he said, not quite meeting Beaumont’s gaze.
Beaumont gave him the same easy-going smile he gave Andrew. “Pleasure’s all mine. Please, call me Percy. Andrew, Thaddeus and Oliver are at May’s Buildings. I thought you might want to head over.”
Andrew looked to Jeremy. “What do you think? Would you rather visit the Eccentrics than stay here?”
Given the stuffy crowd and their interactions with Stanhope, Jeremy was more than eager to leave. “Yes. Could we go, please?”
“Lead the way, then, Percy.”
The trio headed back down the stairs and out the door. Rather than hailing a carriage, they set off on foot. The sun had almost completely set, and a slight chill had entered the air, but it wasn’t anything Jeremy’s coat couldn’t protect against. As they walked, Jeremy found himself trailing behind Andrew, with Percy at his side.
“So you went to school with Andrew, then?” Jeremy asked. It was easy to relax around Percy, who treated him with the same warmth he treated Andrew. Stanhope, with his odd behaviour, had had the opposite effect on him.
Percy nodded. “Our families run in the same circles, so of course I knew Andrew, but I didn’t become friends with him until university.” He lowered his voice. “We, ah, share similar interests.”
The meaning was clear. Already, Jeremy was starting to pick up on the cues and the codes. “Of course,” he said.
Part of him wanted to ask whether or not they had been together, but a much larger part didn’t care to know.
“I do believe I’ve stunned you. Forgive me, I’ve said too much.”
“Not at all. I simply…”
“I see.” Percy nodded slowly. He glanced ahead at Andrew before turning back to Jeremy. “I wouldn’t worry, if I were you. What happened between us was years ago, and I found we’re much better suited as friends. Relax.”
“I would have a greater chance at relaxing if everyone stopped encouraging me to do so,” Jeremy retorted.
“My apologies. I meant only that I would like to get to know you better, as a friend of Andrew’s.”
“Gossiping about me, are you?” Andrew’s voice came from up ahead.
“You only wish,” Percy replied. He looped his arm through Jeremy’s. “Tell me about your relationship with Andrew.”
“My father was close friends with Andrew’s uncle, Richard.”
Percy flashed him a smile. “That tells me nothing about you and Andrew.”
“There’s not much to say.” Jeremy licked his lips. “I’m an artist looking for a patron. Andrew saw my work and commissioned me to paint his portrait, and in return he offered to let me come with him to London.”
“And does he give you anything else in return?”
Anger flared in Jeremy’s veins and he let out a harsh breath. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.”
“I mean nothing by it,” Percy said gently. “As I said, I only wish to get to know you better. I know Andrew, and I only want the best for him. For you both. I know how difficult it can be to get close to him.”
“What do you know of his difficulties?”
“As one of his oldest friends, I believe a better question would be what do I not know of his difficulties?” The man regarded him with an air of suspicion before relaxing. “Come to my townhouse tomorrow afternoon. We can discuss the matter further there.”
“And what do I tell Andrew?”
“That he isn’t invited.” Percy laughed, his entire face lighting up. “He’ll hardly like it, but he will recover. Sometimes it is nice to remind him that he cannot control everything and everyone.”




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Author Bio
Alyson Pearce is an American transplant currently living in London, where she works full time in publishing and as an author of M/M romances. She fell in love with romances after discovering her grandmother’s library and hasn’t looked back. As a member of the LGBT community, she believes that everyone deserves their chance at a happily ever after. In her spare time, Alyson enjoys cooking, reading, and shouting at contestants on Chopped. The Viscount and the Artist is her first novel.






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1 comments:

Serena91291 said...

I really enjoyed this story! Can't wait for book 2.