Monday, June 18, 2018

Kat's Review: Behind These Doors

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on June 28th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens
Publisher: Greenwose Books (June 22, 2018)
Series: Radical Proposals, 1
Genre: Historical Romance -- Menage

Lucien Saxby is a journalist, writing for the society pages. The Honourable Aubrey Fanshawe, second son of an earl, is Society. They have nothing in common, until a casual encounter leads to a crisis.

Aubrey isn’t looking for love. He already has it, in his long-term clandestine relationship with Lord and Lady Hernedale. And Lucien is the last man Aubrey should want. He’s a commoner, raised in service, socially unacceptable. Worse, he writes for a disreputable, gossip-hungry newspaper. Aubrey can’t afford to trust him when arrest and disgrace are just a breath away.

Lucien doesn’t trust nobs. Painful experience has taught him that working people simply don’t count to them. Years ago, he turned his back on a life of luxury so his future wouldn’t depend on an aristocrat’s whim. Now, thanks to Aubrey, he’s becoming entangled in the risky affairs of the upper classes, antagonising people who could destroy him with a word.

Aubrey and Lucien have too much to hide—and too much between them to ignore. Rejecting the strict rules and closed doors of Edwardian society might lead them both to ruin… but happiness and integrity alike demand it.

An Edwardian Romance. 

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Kat's Review:

This is my first time reading a historical romance that features a (normal! healthy!) polyamorous relationship. In an author’s note, Lucens discloses that many aspects of the story are #OwnVoices, and that makes it even more of a delight to read.

The primary story is about Aubrey, a toff, and Lucien, a working man brought up in service. But there are many stories in this story – Rupert, Henrietta, William, Ben, Edgar. And the lovely thing about it is how each character *is* a character. They’ve got their own personalities and motivations. But while there are certainly a lot of tensions between them, there isn’t an overarching murder plot or mystery. That’s not actually a criticism – there is definitely enough in this book to be going on without something like that.

A major source of tension between Aubrey and Lucien is their differences in social class and status. Lucien, having grown up with parents in service, on the edge of the aristocratic world, knows how to fit into Aubrey’s life. His accent is on point, his clothes perfectly pressed, his hair expertly pomaded.  And he is desperately aware that, if he chose, he could play the charade of being One of Them. The same is not true of Aubrey, of course. He’s never given a thought to his own valet, or how being a working man does not mean one is struggling. Lucien is consciously aware that Aubrey and Aubrey’s lovers, the Hernedales (Rupert and Henrietta), have a lot of social status and influence, though it takes Aubrey a while to understand what that means practically.

There are multiple plot threads of people understanding things about themselves and others, relationships growing and expanding, or stagnating and regressing. Lucens is so great at illuminating the struggles her characters face, and her dialogue highlights these struggles in sometimes painstaking detail.

There are a few scenes of hot sex, and many many scenes of sweet sex and intimacy. Lucens does a great job of balancing the titillating nature of some of her characters’ encounters (especially that one scene between Aubrey, Rupert, and Henrietta, so hot!) and the reality of everyday tenderness and familiarity between partners. That’s probably one of the best things about this book – how mundane it can be. Sure, it’s about polyam partners and queer sex, but these people are so relatable. They have to juggle their responsibilities and their commitments and deal with insecurities and they need reassurances and comfort.

Besides the relationships, there are historical events playing out in the background. The British Women’s Suffrage Movement was gaining traction at the turn of the 20th century (the story takes place in 1906), and Lucien, a newspaper journalist, is charged with covering their efforts along with his colleague, Miss Enfield (the only female journalist at the paper). This plot thread is nice for both bringing women into a mostly m/m story, and for providing Lucien with an opportunity to grow himself, by understanding the frustration of women not having a vote.

While I really liked this book, I did have to take a few breaks while reading it because there is a lot of emotional discussion. But that was part of the magic, too. The characters all have needs and realizations. I especially appreciated a realization Lucien makes about himself at the end of the story, that really brings it all full circle.

Since this is the first book in a series, I’m not sure what’s next or rather, who is next for Book 2.  There are a few people I’d love to see more of, namely Miss Enfield, and Henrietta’s sister-in-law (who we didn’t see much of, but who I desperately hope finds some measure of happiness), and I hope we see them in future books. I’m also not sure if future books will feature polyam relationships, but I definitely hope to see more representation of consensual non-monogamous relationships in Romancelandia.

In sum, this was an absolute pleasure to read, and I liked everyone (well, except Edgar, who I don’t think anyone would like). I could personally have done with a little less emotional intensity, but it seems like a reasonable level for so many intersecting relationships (and conversations and negotiations about those relationships). And I didn’t even mention the representation of chronic illness and disability, which also, yes please, more please.  So… read this book, it’s great.


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Source: eARC from author

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Thanks for the review, Kat! 


Until Next Time,

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