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Length: Novel

Today Jay and Sammy are teaming up for a Buddy Review of the newest book in J.L. Langley’s Sci-Regency series, Diplomatic Relations. This series started way back in 2007 with My Fair Captain, followed by The Englor Affair in 2008. When My Regelence Rake released in 2012, we reviewed all three of the books here at Joyfully Jay. The books were originally published by Samhain Publishing and they have been recently re-released by Dreamspinner Press in anticipation of the release of fourth book, Diplomatic Relations, which we are reviewing here today.

Dalton Fairfax spent his years before joining the military acting out, behaving scandalously, and causing all sorts of trouble — earning his nickname, Lord Demon. But two years in the military have (mostly) reformed Dalton and he is now home for a short break before taking on a new post in the Regelence military. When his uncle asks Dalton to take on the role of bodyguard while he is home, Dalton is happy to help out. Partly this is because there is an important investigation afoot and Dalton wants to help out in any way he can, but also because he will be protecting Blaise Thompson, a man who caught his eye the last time Dalton was home.

Blaise is the son of a politician and he himself is being groomed as a future Intergalactic Navy Councilman. While he finds Dalton attractive, Blaise isn’t so thrilled to be spending time with such a proven scoundrel. Blaise need to maintain his good reputation, especially since he has to spend half his time keeping his brother out of trouble. But as they spend time together, Blaise learns there is a lot more to Dalton than his bad reputation. And when a priceless object gets stolen, Dalton teams up with Blaise to help find it. Along the way, they discover more about what is going on in the poorer areas of Regelence, something that inspires both Blaise and Dalton to get involved.

As the days go by, Blaise and Dalton are really falling for one another. But Dalton is due back on duty and Blaise has new responsibilities being placed on his shoulders. Now the men must share their feelings and be brave enough to risk their reputations for a chance to continue the relationship they have been building.

Jay’s Review

Rating: 3.75 stars

I read the first two books in this series back when they were originally released and picked them up again when the third book came out. This series has always held a fond place in my heart and I have been eagerly awaiting another installment, though it has been almost seven years since the last book. To prepare for this one, I did go back and reread both the book blurbs and our reviews, so I felt pretty caught up with the basics. While this story does have appearances from many of the series regulars, Blaise and Dalton are new main characters, so jumping in here even after so much time isn’t too hard. What you really need to know about the overarching series storyline is that some weapons were stolen from Regelence and it looks like the Intergalactic Navy is somehow involved in some sort of nefarious plot that is not yet totally clear. The King Consort, along with several of the other series characters, are involved in trying to figure out what is happening and why.

Here the story shifts somewhat from the first three books that focused on sons of the royal family, though both of these men do have connections to them (Dalton is Raleigh’s nephew and Blaise is friendly with the sons). I really enjoyed these guys as a couple. I tend to be a fan of age or experience gaps between my MCs and, in this case, Dalton has lived a pretty wild life, while Blaise is much more sheltered. I liked seeing how Dalton opens Blaise up to a little fun. It’s also nice to see that for all of Dalton’s wild past, he really is a solid guy and the military has helped give him a sense of discipline and purpose. There is also a nice side plot involving Dalton’s parents. We learn that he has had a very strained relationship with them for years (thus leading to his acting out) and here we learn more about what was really going on and see them begin to mend things between them. It is really rewarding to see and I like that things don’t just end in a pat resolution, but we can see that they are all working toward a better relationship going forward.

One of the things that has always made this series a standout for me is the world building. The story takes place centuries into the future, but society is very much like Regency England, with the exception that Relegence high society is mostly gay men (by genetic engineering). It is a clever role reversal to see the young lords needing to protect their reputations and play out many of the roles young women lived in our own history. What I particularly love is the way that this is juxtaposed with a futuristic world, and past books in the series have really excelled in combining the historical and futuristic together in interesting ways. I will admit that here I found things less exciting in this area. More than any of the other books, this story reads almost exactly like a traditional historical. While there are a few nods here and there to some of the science fiction aspects, it is barely part of the story and I definitely missed that. I also found myself questioning some of the world building elements. For example, Blaise is concerned about his reputation as he is a young, unmarried lord. As both he and Dalton are of about the same age and social class, even though Dalton is his bodyguard, they can not be alone together unchaperoned for fear of Blaise’s reputation and him being ruined. Yet Dalton has a wild reputation for sleeping with married men, among other things, and it doesn’t seem to be an issue for him ultimately marrying or in any way keeping him out of polite society. So why is it an issue for Blaise but not Dalton? Also, why is it ok for Blaise and his best friend, another young lord, to be alone together? Or any of the other pairs of young men who are friends? They all spend time together without chaperones. I just found that there is a lack of consistency here that made me question the apparent rules, particularly since protecting Blaise’s reputation is a major issue in the story.

I also found the plot here somewhat meandering, touching on a lot of different areas but never really fulling coming together. The ongoing series thread regarding the threats to Regelence are still there, but they are so backburnered, especially compared to early books where they are a major part of the plot. We touch on it early, then here and there throughout, before things come back around at the end. After the tension and high stakes of the previous books, I wished we had more attention paid to this area. Instead, the story seems to jump in and out of a lot of plot elements — a stolen artifact, homeless orphans, Blaise’s rivalry with a fellow intern, etc — and the story never really settled for me. I also found frustrating that much is made of the orphan situation, but then we get no actual resolution on this, especially to all the political questions that come up as Blaise and Dalton investigate the issue further. I just felt like the storylines surrounding their relationship needed more focus and I just didn’t find this one as compelling as past books.

All that said, I continue to be a fan of this series and I am so happy to see that Langley has started writing it once again. We are given a peek at the next book here and I am super excited as it sounds like it is going to be just up my alley. And I love these characters and this world, so even if this one wasn’t my favorite, I loved the chance to revisit Regelence. If you are at all intrigued by this story, definitely go back and start from the beginning. It is a great series and I am looking forward to more.

Sammy’s Review

Rating: 3.5 stars

Even though it’s been seven years since J.L. Langley released her last book in the Sci-Regency series, I was excited to revisit this interesting world. The world Langley creates with its mixture of early 19th century clothing and morals mixed with futuristic elements, such as the Amazon Echo-like “butler” who responds to voice commands, and “carriages” that are more akin to hovercrafts, has always somehow managed to work. I like this world primarily due to the author’s ability to consistently keep it fresh, while maintaining what has already been established in older novels. I do wish that Langley had thought to give us a family tree of sorts or a bit of a recap of the larger story thus far, as it was sometimes difficult to remember who was who, especially since most everyone was addressed by multiple names and or titles. For instance, Dalton Fairfax was sometimes called Dalton, Demon, or Ashbourne, indicating his Earl’s title. With many, if not all, of the characters sporting more than one moniker, I found myself occasionally floundering trying to remember who the story was referring to and what their relationship was to the other characters in the story.

However, Raleigh and Stephen and their offspring never fail to entertain, primarily due to the humor the author infuses into the series. How Raleigh copes with his sons who have nicknames that are indicative of their personalities, such as Trouble, is really marvelous, so much so that I really would love to see a prequel of sorts featuring Raleigh and Stephen and their courtship. As romances go, this story certainly did its job in creating solid chemistry between Blaise and Dalton. I found myself drawn into their story and delighted in seeing Blaise evolve from an innocent, who was reeling from his first kiss, to the sensual lover he becomes. With the introduction of Blaise, we get a few more pieces of the ongoing mystery surrounding the Intergalactic Navy (IN) and the threat they represent to the standing government on Regelence. I’m hoping we get to the bottom of this mystery soon as it has now spread over four novels and it too is getting difficult to keep track of since it often takes a real back seat to the romance elements of the various books in this series.

Despite the rich romance and relationship that so nicely developed between Blaise and Dalton, I have to say that I was not a fan of the final few chapters in this story. Everything was moving along quite nicely and suddenly Blaise’s father throws a monkey wrench into the plan, which signals a real dilemma for Blaise and Dalton, and I didn’t like Dalton’s reaction. I understood his disappointment over how Blaise handled the entire snafu, but his behavior was just so out of character. Then just as quickly as the affair seemed to be over, things were resolved and we had the happy ever after epilogue that made this entire ending feel rushed and contrived. It felt as if the author decided the story needed a big shakeup, but didn’t want to put the work into developing the plot to support it or use page time to resolve it. I was really baffled by the entire thing.

I think the other genuine problem I had with this installment was the introduction of Blaise’s arch-nemesis, Percy. Percy was the other intern vying for the one committee position that Blaise was trying to get. There was this entire subplot about the man and quite a bit of buildup painting him as this smarmy and corrupt individual. While I thought initially this guy was going to be some sort of threat to Blaise and Dalton by perhaps exposing their secret trysts or maybe somehow be involved in the IN plot, nothing ever really came of it. Even his involvement with one of Raleigh’s sons seemed to fizzle and never get off the ground. So why did the novel spend so much time building Percy up as a villain simply to take it nowhere?

In the end, I’m afraid I felt Diplomatic Relations was not nearly as well-crafted as the first books in this series. Perhaps too much time had passed between novels and rereading them all would have made sliding back into this world more easily done. I do think if there could have been a recap of the main mystery element concerning the Navy, we would have been able to sink back into the sense of urgency Raleigh and the others had to find a missing Admiral and unravel why the planet Skye was so important to the IN. Most importantly, if the author had applied the same energy to the final chapters of the novel as she did to the developing romance between Blaise and Dalton, I think the story would have been much more satisfying overall. I do enjoy this series and hope that the next one really focuses on developing more of the overarching mystery theme so as to balance out the romance aspect of what appears to be Bannon’s upcoming story.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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