Sebastian Hewel has returned to the stage, his first home before all others. He has the patronage of Anthony, Earl of Crofton and that has given his career a much needed boost. It also allows Anthony and Sebastian an additional smokescreen for their long standing affair. Despite all they have endured, they have managed to protect their relationship and indeed both men are flourishing. But the business of the court never rests and Anthony and Sebastian are drawn into investigating a threat against the king.
To catch an assassin, Anthony and Sebastian must create a farce for the outside world. It means separating themselves and navigating dangerous waters without having one another to depend upon. But Anthony and Sebastian are old hands at court intrigue and as long as they have one another, they might be able to save themselves and the king.
Anthony, Earl of Crofton involves the same main characters as The Crofton Chronicles and to really appreciate this story, you have to be familiar with that other series. Basically, this book picks up where Anthony and Sebastian’s story ended in Forever Hold His Peace (the third book in The Crofton Chronicles series). Gone is the masquerade of a married life and Sebastian has finally found much earned acclaim as an actor. He and Anthony have managed to continue their love affair, though, as ever, they must be on guard against those who would put them to the court. The pacing is fairly decent and the writing is strong, but the plot does feel a bit well worn and failed to really achieve what it needed to in terms of creating real tension.
I don’t think Anthony or Sebastian showed any significant growth in the book, but I’m not sure they needed to. Anthony, Earl of Crofton shows our heroes in the throes of a well-established relationship. The emotional ups and downs of their early days have faded and now, while the passion is still there, the dramatics are not. And it works for this couple. They feel like old friends here rather than strangers fumbling their way through the plot. It was a real strong point for this book.
My real frustration is the lack of real depth to the antagonists and the lack of definition in the plot against the king. There are multiple baddies here and they just feel flat and boring. Their actions felt rather rote and, as a result, the danger never felt real. The stakes just didn’t seem believable and because of this any threats against Anthony and Sebastian lacked much substance. Additionally, the plot against the king didn’t seem particularly well developed. I think given how enmeshed our characters are with the court, this aspect needed some more work.
Anthony, Earl of Crofton follows the ongoing romance between Anthony and his long-term lover, Sebastian. These characters are rather sweet and charming and while we don’t see any huge changes to their relationship, it was both comforting and comfortable to visit with them again. The antagonists were lackluster and whatever tension I was supposed to feel as a reader never materialized and that was a tad frustrating. I just wanted there to be more overall substance to the wider storyline and to the dangers faced. If you’re a fan of The Crofton Chronicles I think you’ll enjoy this ongoing addition, even if wasn’t quite as strong as I would have liked.