Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Greg Patmore
Length: 4 hours, 4 minutes
Theo Swann has fallen from grace in spectacular fashion. He carries the burden of immense debt and manages a tawdry lonely-hearts column to scrape out a living. It pays the bills, but he’s far from getting ahead. When Martin St. Vincent, a now free black man and prospering merchant, walks into his small office, Theo has no idea how his life is about to change.
Martin finds himself tasked with the business of rescuing a headstrong daughter from a foolish match. He does so at the behest of his former owners, a family who treated him well while he was enslaved, but who still withheld his freedom until he turned 18. He hopes to stop their daughter from fleeing to Gretna Green with her suitor, with whom she has been communicating through Theo’s rag. When Martin realizes that his charge has eloped, he drags Theo along in a desperate chase to stop her. But Theo has secrets that could cripple everything Martin is trying to accomplish, despite the burgeoning romance between them.
K.J. Charles is pretty much an auto-buy for me and in Wanted: A Gentleman we have another sweet historical romance between two men from opposite worlds. The plot is a play off the old romance tropes and despite excellent writing, it is still a trope and comes off as a bit forced. There is also a rather rushed sense of action, but as always, it’s characterization that Charles excels at. Martin is a man who feels bound to his previous masters out of some sense of false debt. He despises this, but can’t pull way from of it. He also carries a measure of guilt that his slave experience was so much “gentler” than those of others. All of these conflicts make him a wonderfully rendered character and as readers we are angry for him and championing him to escape the hold his past has over him. Theo is catty and desperate and unabashedly himself. He doesn’t always act in the most admirable fashion, but he has his reasons and it’s hard to stay mad at him for long. These characters work exceptionally well together and while I would have enjoyed seeing more develop between them, I didn’t feel as though anything was actually lacking.
As for the audio portion of this review, I found it to be fairly enjoyable. The narrator, Greg Patmore, reads at a nice, even pace and while he is slightly monotone, it isn’t unpleasant. Patmore does have a strong English accent, which I had no problem understanding and I doubt most listeners will either. It added to the overall flavor of the audiobook. My only real complaint was the voice chosen for Martin. It tends to come off as Batmanesque — you know when Batman puts on his mask and suddenly sounds like he has some terrible cancer? Yeah, Martin’s voice was a lot like that and as a result it was distracting. It didn’t completely sink the audiobook, but given how critical Martin’s character is, it definitely left a blemish.
Overall Wanted: A Gentleman, while not perfect, is still stronger than most and saved by K.J. Charles’ distinctive writing and its wonderful characters. The audiobook made a poor choice in the voice given to Martin and it cluttered up the listening somewhat, but wasn’t otherwise terrible. Most will find plenty to enjoy with this one.