I know it’s been a really long time since I have posted a review. But after reading A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant I have felt compelled to write a review. I absolutely loved Grant’s first book A Lady Awakened, and she doesn’t disappoint in this book either. I do have to say that this book definitely needs a flaming chili pepper rating and perhaps even a roasted chili pepper. I don’t quite remember the love scenes being quite that explicit in her first book. But perhaps it has to do with the fact that the female lead in this book is a courtesan, who was previously employed as a prostitute.
The story starts in 1815, with Will Blackshear trying to get medical attention for one of his men, Talbot, who was injured at the battle of Waterloo. While Will thought that he was doing the right thing by bring the injured man to the hospital, he may have in fact hastened the man’s death.
Will has since sold his commission in the army is now back in London, and needs money to execute a plan. We encounter Will at a gentleman’s club, where numerous men have brought their mistresses. Will is intrigued by one in particular, Lydia Slaughter, and he is not sure why. Will is even more intrigued when she is able to fleece him out of a sizable amount of money, which he needs to execute his plan. The next time they meet, he demands that she return his money. Lydia refuses, seeing that she has a plan that needs money as well. That same night while playing cards, Lydia arranges for Will to win back the exact amount she fleeced him out of. It turns out that Lydia had a head for numbers and uses that to her advantage while playing cards. It dawns on Lydia, that Will and she could both win the amount of money that they need, if they work together. This of course entails them spending a lot of time together and the attraction between them builds.
There are many reasons why I enjoyed this book. Cecilia Grant has a really different take on the historical romance genre. All of Grant’s female characters are incredibly intelligent, perhaps even smarter than her male leads. Oftentimes it is the female lead that actual teaches the men a few things. In A Lady Awakened, Martha teaches Theo about how to manage an estate. Here in A Gentleman Undone Lydia teaches Will how to count cards and cannot understand why he has difficulty with her counting system.
Another aspect of Lydia which I liked was the fact that she was comfortable with her sexuality. She truly enjoys having sex, and took some pride in the fact that she was good in bed. However, I do think that because of what happened to Lydia, to land her in a brothel in the first place, that there is an aspect of punishment in the act of sex for her.
Will, in many ways is much more of a typical leading man. He is the war hero who comes home with a promise made to a man in his last few minutes of life. But what makes Will’s situation slightly different from the norm is that he actually feels responsible for causing Talbot’s death. He has taken it upon himself that if he had left Talbot on the battlefield and brought the doctor’s to him he may have lived.
So an overall great book from Cecilia Grant, I can’t wait to read her third book, A Woman Entangled, which involves another Blackshear sibling.