Thursday, April 19, 2018

Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastian Blog Tour

The one you love…

Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear… forever.

May not be who you think…

Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.

But is who you need…

When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?

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Book 1
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“Regardless,” Charity said, “it would be odd if I refused his invitation to join his club. I didn’t drink all that much, and I didn’t lose any money at the tables. I promise that there’s nothing for you to worry about.” At least, nothing more than the usual. “Besides, since when do you object to a gentleman having a bit of harmless fun?”

Louisa stared at her, mouth hanging open. “Charity, you are not
Charity felt herself blush. It wasn’t as if she could protest, but the fact of the matter was that she felt more like a gentleman than she did anything else. Cheeks hot, she said, “You know what I meant.”

They stood there for a moment, regarding one another—Louisa in her white dressing gown and hair in curling papers, Charity in rumpled evening clothes, cravat rakishly askew.

“What are you going to do after I marry, Charity?” Louisa asked, breaking the silence.

“I don’t know.” Charity glanced away from Louisa’s face, taking in the peeling paint on the door frame. “There’s the gamekeeper’s cottage at Fenshawe. I could stay there,” she said, knowing it for a lie.

Louisa wrapped her dressing gown tightly around her. “But we won’t own Fenshawe after Cousin Clifton inherits.”

The “we” was generous. Charity had never owned anything, least of all the estate of Fenshawe. Robbie had owned it. And since it had been entailed, it ought to have passed to his cousin. But when Robbie died, Charity had already been attending Cambridge under his name. Her thoughts muddled by grief and confusion, it didn’t seem so terrible to keep quiet about Robbie’s death and step into his shoes at home as well. The cousin, living in Dorset, could be kept in ignorance.

Sometimes when Charity was having a hard time falling asleep, she tried to think of exactly how many laws she had broken, how many ways she ought to have been hanged or transported. But Robbie had scarcely any property that wasn’t entailed. Louisa, not yet sixteen, would have been destitute and homeless. For the two years since Robbie’s death, they had stinted and scraped together enough money out of the estate’s income to fund this season in London and put together a modest dowry for Louisa. The plan was for Louisa to marry and then they would figure out a way to set things right, to let the cousin inherit and to allow Charity to go back to being herself.

Whoever that was.

“I could live with you, after your marriage,” Charity countered, already knowing that it could never happen.

“You know I'd love nothing more,” Louisa said, and Charity believed it. “But I just realized that whoever I marry will recognize you as my brother. You can’t very well put on a gown and hope nobody notices the resemblance.”

Charity had known that from the beginning. There could be no happy ending to this deception. Even when Robbie was alive and healthy and brash and persuasive, she had understood that if she went to Cambridge in his stead there would be no going back to being plain Charity.

Even if there were, she didn’t want any part of it. There would be no more gowns, no more floors to scrub.

Neither could she continue as Robert Selby one minute longer than strictly necessary. Charity didn’t have the stomach for it.

She would be alone, adrift, with no name and no friends. She would, in fact, be in much the same situation she had been in before arriving at Fenshawe over fifteen years ago. The only difference was that this time her aloneness would be the result of her own choice, a sacrifice she had made to protect the one person who was left to her. She looked fondly at Louisa.

“Charity, where will you go?” Louisa asked with her eyes wide. “What will we do?”

She leaned forward and kissed Louisa on the cheek. “Never mind that, my girl. I have it all in hand,” she lied.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I attempted to read this book from cover-to-cover, and was quite frustrated when I was forced to stop reading to go make dinner, right at the ending, no less.

To clear up any confusion or misunderstandings, I'll preface this review by stating this novel is MF historical romance, featuring a bisexual hero and a heroine who chooses to dress as a male to assume another identity. This is not transgender nor M/M romance. During the commission of the con, Charity finds the identity one in which she identifies with, like putting on a well-worn coat she hadn't realized was her own. 'Robin' was a better fit for Charity, as were the clothing and the freedom she felt. To return to the role of a woman in this era was not a life Charity wished to live.

In the era of primogeniture, Charity assumes the role of her childhood friend – Robbie Shelby – to protect his young sister. With his death, Charity wasn't thinking of her own welfare, but that of her 'sister.' Charity wished to protect the girl, wishing the beauty to have an advantageous marriage. If she hadn't assumed the role, a cousin would take control of their estate, leaving them both on the street.

At the start of the novel, Alistair was a stuffy, uptight Marquess. While it fit perfectly with the times, there's a lack of compassion and empathy, which made liking Alistair difficult to begin with. He didn't see the children his father had with a mistress as his sisters, while treating his full-blooded brother as a sibling. This was hard to swallow for me, as if his father had no say in the matter of making three illegitimate daughters, Alistair blaming the mistress and her daughters for their existence.

Obviously Alistair's character growth throughout the novel is a major facet of the premise.

The chemistry between Alistair and Charity sparks immediately, showing a different side of Alistair as he appreciates the intimacy and affection of another male in the role of friendship, one where societal influence over how to treat a woman wouldn't affect their budding friendship/relationship. This was sweet, because Alistair wasn't an easy man to befriend, proving how easily the couple came together. They just 'fit.'

As for the romance, it was slow-burn with the secrets and lies between them but ignited brightly with realism. There are other relationships riding shotgun – that of the sister, as well as the familial connection Alistair slowly builds with his sisters and their mother.

Angst, frustration, secrets and lies, sweet affection, scorching intimacy, and an intriguing premise of a woman assuming the life of a male, these threads wove together to create an addictive page-turner. The only thing better would've been if the author had thrown in a kitten...

Highly recommend to historical romance readers, both mainstream and LGBTQ, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next installment.

Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn't reading or writing, she's doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.

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To celebrate the release of Unmasked by the Marquess, we're giving away one paperback copy of The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian!

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Unmasked by the Marquess (Regency Imposters #1) by Cat Sebastian to read and review.

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