Finally free of the orphanage, Dorian Pratt sees his recent placement at Norfolk Manor as a chance to finally start saving for the life he’s always wanted. He’s on the lowest rung of the staff ladder, but that’s nothing new for Dorian. He has always been bullied and mocked for his bizarre dreams and the disturbing art he draws. He wants to do a good job, but almost from the start Dorian attracts the wrong kind of attention, specifically from the Duke’s son, Charles.
Charles hates the fact that he finds the new servant boy so fascinating. Dorian is a nothing, a no one, and he shouldn’t matter to a nobleman. Yet Charles can’t help himself and soon curiosity turns to obsession. Charles is quickly caught in a quagmire of violence and danger, with Dorian at the center of it all. Charles must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect himself, Dorian, and their way of life. And Dorian must decide if he can love a man whose obsession knows no end.
I’m actually not even sure where to start with this one. It’s a wild and dark ride that left me wondering how anyone could walk away having enjoyed it. To say that Rise of a Nobleman is dark is an understatement, so consider yourself warned. I’d also say there are triggers here for domestic violence, non-consensual confinement, and mental abuse.
The writing in Rise of a Nobleman is consistent and competent, save for some poorly used modern day colloquiums. The pacing is decent and there is certainly enough action on page to keep most readers interested. Unfortunately, the story and one of the MCs are so off-putting, the book left a bad taste in my mouth. Aside from being Charles’ complete opposite, Dorian is a rather boring creation. It’s hard to understand why he stands by Charles or why he seems so intrigued by him. His dark dreams seem to be portents of impending doom, but this is never fully integrated into the story. It’s mentioned multiple times and he’s often accused, at least tangentially, of being a witch, yet compared to Charles he’s a veritable saint.
It’s safe to say that Charles is monstrous. He’s abusive to everyone around him, often because he’s sickened by his desire for Dorian. He’s violent and murderous and never shows an iota of remorse for his actions. He demands Dorian’s attention and devotion and makes its clear on multiple occasions that he views the boy as a possession. There is no redeeming value in Charles from my perspective. This is the first in a series, so perhaps this changes as the story evolves, but it’s hard to see how Charles can ever come back from his actions here. The plot, such as it is, exists only to further Charles’ downward spiral. There didn’t seem to be an endpoint or any specific thread to follow and even Dorian himself is ultimately overshadowed by Charles and his actions. Because there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong plot, the violence feels gratuitous and only serves to make Charles more evil with each progressive page. And maybe that was the author’s plan, but this didn’t work to engage me. Instead, I was completely disconnected from the plot and it’s characters almost from the start.
I enjoy a dark story and I appreciate blurred morals in my characters as a general rule. But Rise of a Nobleman takes everything to the extreme. Charles is fairly reprehensible and Dorian isn’t strong enough to balance this out. The plot is lost amidst moments of empty violence (but nothing here is particularly graphic) and action without purpose. If you like dark and non-traditional relationships, you might view Rise of a Nobleman differently, but this one just didn’t work for me.