For the past year, Silas Mason has spent his Wednesday nights with a conservative gentleman, doing all sorts of dirty and delicious things. Silas’ doesn’t know his Tory’s name, but he does know that the man loves to be ordered around sexually, craves it in fact. Silas may be just a poor bookseller who secretly fights against government oppression in support of the common man, but when he is with his Tory, Silas is the one in charge.
Dominic Frey is a gentleman who works for the Home Office rooting out those acting against the government. But all week long he looks forward to his Wednesday nights with his radical. Dom knows what he needs, and Silas gives that to him so wonderfully, and in a way that doesn’t make Dom feel badly for his desires.
The two men are on opposites sides of political unrest, but it takes them a while to realize just how far apart they are and how dangerous their situation is. Silas is working against the government, constantly at risk of being caught and jailed, or worse. And Dominic has dedicated himself to rooting out lawlessness, and the very office he works for is the one hunting men like Silas. On top of that, Silas has a close connection with Harry Vane, the cousin of Dom’s good friend Richard. Any scandal to Silas will hurt both Richard and Harry.
Despite the danger and their opposing politics, however, Dom and Silas can’t give each other up. They not only have a deep sexual connection, but an emotional one as well. They have grown to care deeply for one another, even falling in love despite their different philosophies. But as the government continues to hunt down seditionists, Silas may find himself caught up in the hangman’s noose, and Dominick may not be able to protect the man he has grown to love.
A Seditious Affair is the second book in K.J. Charles’ A Society of Gentlemen series (and the third story if you count the wonderful short that appears in the Another Place in Time anthology). The book continues the adventures of a group of close friends who call themselves the Ricardians and who have in common their love of men, among other things. This story is very closely linked to the first book, A Fashionable Indulgence. That one features the story of Harry and Julius and follows Harry as he is taken in by his cousin Richard and enters into society. As part of that story, we learn more about Harry’s past and his close friendship with Silas, as well as learning a little bit about Dom and Silas’ connection as Harry’s story overlaps with theirs. In this book, we get the other side of those events, this time from Dom and Silas’ perspective. The first third or so of this book actually overlaps that timeline and gives us some of the same events from their perspective. Given that, while this could technically stand alone, I think you will find this story much richer if you have read A Fashionable Indulgence first.
Charles creates a fascinating story here of these two very different men who somehow find a connection. Silas and Dom couldn’t be more different. They have directly opposing political philosophies. Dom is a gentleman who believes whole heartedly in the government, as well as the traditional British way of life with its class distinctions and leadership by the gentry. Silas is a radical who thinks all men (and women) are equal and that there should be no class separations. He works in secret writing seditious pamphlets that could get him arrested and even killed. What is so particularly well done here is that these guys completely disagree, yet manage to have deep and well reasoned discussions with one another about their points of view. As much as the sex between them is such a key element of their relationship, the intellectual side is just as important. They listen to one another, take each other seriously, and respect one another for their opinions, even if they each pretty much think the other is an idiot in his thinking. I found it particularly interesting from a modern perspective, knowing that Dom is on the wrong side of history, but still learning what has shaped his opinions and the basis for his arguments. As with the first book in the series, the political framework of the book is just fascinating (and according the author’s notes a key element here is based on a true historical event) and Charles creates an engaging romance with a truly interesting historical narrative.
Part of what makes this story so good is the tension that is there right from the start. We know right away that these guys are on opposites sides of the political fight. But is more than just differing opinions; these guys are on the battle lines. Dom works for the organization that would see Silas in jail. Silas is breaking the law and Dom knows it, and he struggles with keeping his principles intact while still trying to keep his lover out of the gallows. They struggle so much to keep their outside lives separate from their relationship, but as they fall more in love, it becomes impossible. They both face the choice between their principles and their lover, both good men of integrity caught in a complex situation. Charles sets up such a delicious struggle with a truly impossible scenario that somehow manages to work out in a totally believable way.
I also enjoyed revisiting the other side characters. Harry and Julius obviously play a big role, and we see Ash and Francis as well. And of course Richard is a key player here as Dom’s best friend and former lover. We learn a lot about their relationship and why it ended years ago. It helps us to better understand Dom and his anxieties and self doubts about his sexual needs, as Richard so clearly doesn’t approve. I loved seeing Silas’ support here, refusing to let Dom feel bad for his needs and standing up for him at every turn. I’ll be honest that Richard doesn’t come across so well here. He is domineering and demanding and thinks he knows what is best for everyone. The way he treats Dom is unfair and doesn’t paint him in such a good light, although things do smooth over between them at the end. I actually quite liked that honestly, as it sets up some conflict for Richard’s book, which comes next. I like that he isn’t this perfect man, but one with his own issues he needs to work though. And OMG, I can’t even tell you how excited I am for the story of Richard and his valet (and fixer of fixers) Cyprian!
So this was a fabulous installment in what is shaping up to be a wonderful series. Charles has created such rich, well developed characters in Dom and Silas. She puts them in a nearly impossible situation and I was completely captivated seeing how it would all work out. These guys are the perfect sexual and intellectual match, getting great satisfaction out of challenging one another and considering new points of view. I just adored this story and highly recommend it, as well as the whole series.