Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, lives an isolated life in a crumbling castle in Cornwall. Lawrence’s father was mad, his brother was mad, and Lawrence is certain he is mad as well, or at least headed that way. Most of the villagers are terrified of him, but that doesn’t bother Lawrence much, as he has no interest in interacting with anyone. He is content to spend his days isolated and working on his scientific research. If Penkellis falls apart around him, well so be it. The place has nothing but bad memories and Lawrence can’t be bothered to care.
Georgie Turner has made his living as a con man. Growing up in the rough streets of London, Georgie had to survive any way he could. And he is good at making friends, getting people to trust him, and then making off with their money. Georgie doesn’t even feel that bad about it; he does what he needs to in order to survive. Until the day Georgie can’t go through with the swindle of an elderly woman, and in preventing her from being cheated, Georgie incurs the wrath of his partner in crime, Mattie Brewster. Now Mattie is after Georgie for retribution, and Georgie will be lucky to escape with his life.
Lawrence’s local vicar is concerned for his mental health and puts a call in to some friends for help. Georgie’s brother, Jack, helps him get set up to pose as Lawrence’s new secretary, theoretically to evaluate Lawrence’s sanity on behalf of the vicar. But in reality, this is a chance for Georgie to get safely out of town and away from Mattie. And when Georgie is done the job, he will just skip out with a few of Lawrence’s candlesticks for his efforts.
Georgie’s appearance in Lawrence’s life initially sends him into a tailspin. He can barely tolerate interacting with other people, and a man as attractive as Georgie is even worse. Especially when Georgie steps in and starts helping Lawrence get his life together, organizing his research, getting his house in order, and helping Lawrence take tiny steps toward some human interaction. Georgie surprises himself with how much he likes Lawrence, with how much it pains him to imagine ultimately hurting the man by his theft. In fact, it doesn’t take long for Georgie to realize he couldn’t steal from Lawrence after all. The men slowly become friends, and then more, their love surprising them both. But Georgie knows that Mattie is still after him, and that his presence in Cornwall is threatening people he has come to care about. Now both Georgie and Lawrence have a chance at real happiness together, if Georgie can only escape the mistakes of his past.
The Lawrence Brown Affair follows Cat Sebastian’s amazing The Soldier’s Scoundrel. This second story in the series features Georgie Turner, brother of Jack, one of the main characters in the first book. The books are fairly independent of one another. We meet Georgie briefly in the first book, and Jack and Oliver have small roles here, but the main setting of the stories is very different. So you could jump into this book without having read the first, but Do Not Do That. Because The Soldier’s Scoundrel was amazing, one of my top picks for 2016. So read it. But you could easily pick up this one first.
One of the things I love about these books is the really rich and well developed characters Sebastian creates. Lawrence, in particular, is totally fascinating. This is a man who grew up believing he would one day be crazy; in fact, he is not positive he isn’t already. Yes, Lawrence is a little on the odd side. He is reclusive and doesn’t do well with people, and he is passionate about his research to the point where he loses time and skips meals as he focuses on his experiments. His home is literally crumbling around him and he can’t be bothered to care. So yes, eccentric, but not crazy. Lawrence also suffers from what we would probably call panic attacks in modern day, a heart stopping sense of terror when he encounters unfamiliar people or experiences. So the legacy from his father and brother has haunted him all his life, and he can’t quite accept his own sanity, even when Georgie works to convince him otherwise. At one point Georgie tells him, “I wonder what will happen when you realize you aren’t mad. So much of your life hangs from that one supposition.” When Lawrence finally accepts that there is nothing wrong with him, his whole world opens up. It is really is fascinating to see both how the specter of madness influences his entire life, and how its absence changes Lawrence for the better. He still has a hard time with social engagement and being in crowds or away from home. But over the story we see him slowly re-engage with the rest of the world, and with his son and Georgie in particular, and it is so rewarding.
Georgie is also a fascinating character. He is a man who has lived his life moving from place to place, taking opportunities where they come and then quickly getting out. He has done what he needs to for his own survival, and his conscience has never bothered him, until the day it does, ruining everything. I love that Georgie sweeps in and takes Lawrence in hand. He is at once both firm and determined to help Lawrence get his life together, but also so careful with him to make sure that the way is as smooth as possible. He refuses to let Lawrence hide away when his young son comes to visit, but he also makes sure that Lawrence’s new clothes are in a style that will feel familiar so it doesn’t cause too much stress. Even as we know Georgie has done bad things, we never really think badly of him. He shows such strength and kindness and really brings Lawrence to life. And just like we want good things for Lawrence, we also want to see Georgie have happiness, and find a place to belong and someone who wants to keep him.
I just loved this story and adored Georgie and Lawrence together. These are men who shouldn’t work together, but yet they do so well. Being together brings out the best in each man and I loved seeing how their chaotic lives are slowly calmed by the other’s presence. Cat Sebastian has impressed me yet again with this wonderful story, and I highly encourage you to give The Lawrence Browne Affair a try.