Silas Mason has no illusions about himself. He’s not lovable, or even likable. He’s an overbearing idealist, a Radical bookseller and pamphleteer who lives for revolution . . . and for Wednesday nights. Every week he meets anonymously with the same man, in whom Silas has discovered the ideal meld of intellectual companionship and absolute obedience to his sexual commands. But unbeknownst to Silas, his closest friend is also his greatest enemy, with the power to see him hanged—or spare his life.
A loyal, well-born gentleman official, Dominic Frey is torn apart by his affair with Silas. By the light of day, he cannot fathom the intoxicating lust that drives him to meet with the Radical week after week. In the bedroom, everything else falls away. Their needs match, and they are united by sympathy for each other’s deepest vulnerabilities. But when Silas’s politics earn him a death sentence, desire clashes with duty, and Dominic finds himself doing everything he can to save the man who stole his heart.
Disclaimer: we received an ARC from the publisher, but we both preordered copies as well.
Karen: First off, I would say is that while this could be read in isolation, you really should read A Fashionable Indulgence first. When I realised that the second book in The Society of Gentleman trilogy was Silas and Dominic’s book, I was very excited, the snippets that we saw of their relationship in the first book were fascinating. Older MCs, politics, some domination…yes please.
And I was not disappointed. In my opinion KJ Charles writes the most intelligent entertaining romances out there are the moment.
First and foremost, although this is a romance, it’s the history that I found the most appealing. There are many things that are reflected in modern western society, and so make it very relatable to, there is also the love of literature – especially Blake.
For a while I have been frustrated by romances that follow a predictable pattern, with little to no external plot , and KJC makes all that go away, she is consistently different and original without trying too hard.
The MCs in Seditious are perfectly cast, contrasting and complementary.
Fra: I agree, and may I say – at the risk of sounding very fangirlish – that KJ Charles is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and that if A Fashionable Indulgence was a delightful read then A Seditious Affair basically hit all my “like” buttons in fiction.
Hell I might even crack my bucket of stars for this one – a bucket that has only been used sparsely this reading year.
So let me count the ways in which I have loved A Seditious Affair.
First of all the history and the politics: hello Spencer! And hello revolutionary theories which foment insurrections but are inevitably drawn to the prosaic denouement of failure by clashing spectacularly with reality!
KJ Charles has a way of weaving her romance in very rich history: here this skill is mastered to perfection and her extensive research shines through the narrative.
This books is the demonstration that politics and romance can co exist well within a space that, too often, reduces the first to empty slogans and the latter to formulaic recounting of intimate fumblings.
It is also deliciously British and European – complex and rooted in so much Western thinking that I found myself giving little squeals of delight every two pages.
The Revolutionary and conservative political narrative is brilliantly mirrored by the narrative journey of the two main characters. Silas is one of the strongest MCs I have read this year: a man of principles, a revolutionary through and through who has dedicated his life to the cause beautifully counterpoints Dominic, not less passionate about his stance and belief system and yet in dire need to let go of control and relinquish responsibilities.
It was a thing of beauty to see these two men grow close and fall in love with each other. It was a deliciously slow build. Silas and Dominic start a world apart: their clothing, their occupation, their belief system and place in society, all should work to keep them apart and yet, and yet the one thing that brings them together is their inclinations, the very inclinations – if you will – that the society they both inhabit would want repressed and muted. I admit freely that the journey of these two very different men from sexual partners to lovers is one of the most romantic journeys I have ever read.
I don’t think I am reading too much here when I say that the very act of Silas and Dominic falling in love is the most radical act these two men might have accomplished. As they grow close to each other, they change their stance and one another through conversation, a shared love of arguing over literature and politics and, well, yes through the intimate exploration of their “darkest” desires.
My other love in this book is the language: omg the language, the loving research that goes into KJ Charles novels is even more apparent here in the bringing together of two wildly divided classes of people with a full set of different languages and terms that add to the main characters navigating each other, their illicit relationship AND the political landscape they act against.
The literary references especially to Blake – call me a nerd but the description of Blake’s first edition had me more excited than the intimacy between the two MCs – Shelley and Milton do nothing but reinforce the narrative thread of radicalism. rebellion and sedition. All texts considered revolutionary at the time, not for the consumption of “society” they serve as the catalyst of these two men growing in love with each other. I mean, a man considered a lunatic, a woman who dared criticise society through a genre then considered scandalous and sensationalist – by the way, how fantastic was the conversation about the true meaning of Frankenstein? And the most radical of them all Milton – who made Lucifer’s fall from grace one of the most romantic stories ever written!
Karen : I think you’ve hit on another KJC strength there, the attention to detail that comes through the books. Not just in the research that gives this book in particular its effortless feel, but the way people talk and interact with each other. Many historicals feel ‘period’ because the writers throw in some random words of the era, and then the characters behave like 21st century people in breeches, or try and replicate the language and cadence of the era so much that it’s not readable to modern eyes. But both AFI and Seditious gets it bang on.
I also adored the conversations that Silas and Dom had, one of my favourites was the one you mentioned – early on when they discussed Frankenstein. It demonstrated perfectly the stage they were at in their relationship without being tell, tell tell.
Fra: And last but not least in the slightest is the love story itself: how romantic was that? I mean two men that for months don’t even know each other’s names and yet keep coming back at each other and then go and risk everything to save the other. It was so well written! So very well done.
These two very strong characters represent two very different position along the spectrum of the Regency political and societal spectrum, Radical and Conservative, lower and upper class – meant to destroy each other really if only by their position in the world they are part of. And yet and at a very visceral level the very fact that they are attracted to each other creates a more solid basis for their relationship than surmounting their different social standing could ever hope to achieve.
And, as I was saying above, I think this is the truly radical message of this novel: it doesn’t matter how different two people are, fundamentally what makes them equal is the profound love for each other and the courage of shedding their preconceived ideas to fight for one another and the relationship they share.
Karen : I think that ability to quietly and cleverly challenge preconceptions is fast becoming KJC’s trademark for me.
Fra: Finally a shout out to the Ricardians all: for their unfaltering loyalty to their friends, for the willingness to help said friends even when understanding is difficult to come by. In a world that mistakes aye sayers and sycophants for friends, the Ricardians remind us that friendship is built on love and mutual respect rather than blind, and bland, acquiescence.
So overall this was one of the books of the year for us, and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the final part of the trilogy.
You can buy the book Here