Jack Turner grew up in the London slums with a criminal past. Now he uses his talents to help others in need. Jack is sort of a “fixer,” someone who helps women and servants resolve problems and who is not afraid to go outside of the law or stand up to wealthy and powerful gentlemen. In fact, he doesn’t much trust gentlemen at all.
Oliver Rivington has returned from years away at war and now he is at loose ends. After so much chaos and death, Oliver craves a return to a world where there are rules and order to life. But he also isn’t quite sure what to do with himself now either, as endless days sitting at his club leave him feeling empty.
When Oliver comes to confront Jack over services he provided Oliver’s sister, he ends up hearing about Jack’s latest case, that of a noblewoman who is being blackmailed over some incriminating letters. Appalled at the idea of Jack’s methods, not to mention bored and not sure what to do with himself, Oliver ends up getting involved and helping Jack and hopefully keeping him in check.
The men start out at odds as Jack definitely doesn’t have much interest in interacting with the Oliver, but as the case continues, they begin a friendship and then more. Jack knows it is a bad idea; Oliver is bored right now but soon he will realize that a friendship with a man like Jack is nothing he wants long term. Not to mention what future can there be between the son of an earl and a man living on the shady side of the law? But the men can’t stay away from each other and as the case winds up, they must figure out if there is any chance for a future between them.
Oh, this book was so fabulous! I had heard wonderful things about The Soldier’s Scoundrel, but this story exceeded even those high expectations. Sebastian manages to craft two really engaging characters in Jack and Oliver and watching them interact, as well as following along with the way Jack’s clever mind works, is just incredibly satisfying.
Jack is a wonderfully fascinating character. He grew up in the slums with criminal parents and he doesn’t think much of casually stealing or other minor crimes. He has channeled his street smarts into a career as sort of a cross between a private investigator and what I’ll call a “fixer.” Jack takes cases for those who have little other way to protect themselves. He helps the tradespeople who are being taken advantage of by rich gentlemen, or women with abusive husbands. Jack’s methods are usually not within the law, but he is also helping people with nowhere else to turn.
The case Jack takes on here is of less importance that actually watching him solve it. Jack has a way of looking beyond the superficial trappings of wealth and power and title and seeing the little things that others do not notice. For example, a family whose lowest servants are paid enough to afford two pairs of good boots are likely not being robbed by their staff. Jack’s mind is fascinating and he is able to put seemingly random bits of information together to form a picture that no one else sees. There is such cleverness here and it makes the story so compelling as we watch him work.
Oliver, in contrast, is straight laced and desiring structure. He came out of war looking for a sense of calm and order. After years of living with chaos, he can’t handle the idea that even in a city with laws and rules, Jack is working outside of that. So he inserts himself into the case, determined to rein Jack in, but soon realizing there is much more to Jack than his criminal side and falling for the man himself. Oliver’s journey is more of realizing that appearances can be deceiving, that sometimes you need to take action that is outside of the lines for the greater good, and that he can be far happier living outside the rigid expectations of himself.
So I adored these guys together. Things start out with a bit of an enemies to lovers vibe as they are at odds early on, but soon the chemistry between them is undeniable. Jack is sure this bout of boredom on Oliver’s part will pass and he will be left alone soon enough. He is trying to protect his heart by keeping Oliver at a distance, but the connection between them is too strong. These guys are sort of an odd couple together, yet they totally work.
I am not sure I am doing this book justice, but I found it to be absolutely wonderful. I just loved Jack and Oliver and found them so engaging together. I love the way Sebastian uses the case as a backdrop to establish the connection between these men and see their relationship grow. The story is fabulous and I highly recommend The Soldier’s Scoundrel.
P.S. It looks like this one is going to continue as a series, with the second book featuring Jack’s brother coming out early next year. Hurray!