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Today Jay and Sammy are doing a Buddy Review of A Gentleman Tutor by Harper Fox. You can find both of their thoughts on the book below…
Frank Harte is an impoverished teacher, wounded in the war and doing his best to get by during the cold winter. The weather makes his injury even worse and these days he is barely hanging on. Still, Frank tries to be good to his friend Cyril, the two having been friends for a long time and sharing an interest in men. Cyril is mostly a drunkard now, and way too loose with his talk, however Frank still helps him out whenever he can. When Cyril tells Frank that the Earl of Gracewater is looking for a tutor for his grown son, Frank doesn’t think he has a chance at the job, not with his poor background. But Cyril has the connections to put in a good word and, to Frank’s surprise, he gets the job.
Working with Viscount Gracewater (aka Gracie) is nothing like Frank expected. Gracie is actually only five years younger than Frank’s own 25 years, and an attractive young man. Yet there is a fragility about him, a sort of innocence that has him seemingly under the thrall of his best friend, Arthur Dickson, who is most certainly trouble. There is a darkness to Dixie, a cruelty, and the more Frank learns about his connection to Gracie, the more he knows he is bad for the young Earl.
As Frank begins to tutor Gracie, he learns that the young man isn’t quite as naive and foolish as he appears. He is sheltered and cosseted in many ways, but he is also a quick learner with a sharp mind. While Gracie isn’t used to standing up for himself or others, he is slowly learning. But something dark and dangerous is happening at the Knightsbridge mansion, something that Frank is just barely starting to understand. Even as he falls for Gracie, Frank is slowly realizing that the world he has entered is nothing like he expected, and finding a way free for him and Gracie may be harder than he thought.
Rating: 4 stars
Well, I must start by saying this book was not at all what I expected, and it turned out to be a really unique, engaging story. I assumed this would be a sort of traditional student/teacher, secret romance type of book, and that is how things start off. At first, I found it a bit slow, to be honest, as the stage is set and we are introduced to a variety of characters. But slowly, along with Frank, we readers realize that there is much more going on that we originally thought. The layers are pulled back bit by bit, and it is fascinating and, at times, horrifying to learn the truth about what is really going on in the house and with the various relationships we are following. While I had some ideas of what might be happening, I found myself totally drawn in as the story gets further along and more secrets are revealed. Harper Fox does a really nice job here with the plotting and pulling together an engaging story that really kept me eager to discover the truth.
The romance here is sweet, though not really deeply developed. We don’t see much of the romantic development between Frank and Gracie, more a friendship and some heated feelings on Frank’s part, before ultimately both men are professing their love for one another. So I would have liked more there. But Fox really does a wonderful job building these characters, particularly Gracie, who is just fascinating. He has grown up wealthy and pampered, naive to the much of the world and seemingly under the thumb of the other men in his life. At times, he is unaware of basic things a man of his age should certainly know. At the same time, he is capable and eager to learn, and he has a strength inside him that comes out when needed most. I appreciate that Fox doesn’t make Gracie just misunderstood. He truly does have his weaknesses, but there is much more to him than first meets the eye and I enjoyed discovering his many layers.
Overall I found this a really interesting story. As I said, the book goes in directions I wasn’t expecting and I enjoyed following along with the journey. It is engaging, at times haunting, and overall very heartwarming.
Rating: 4 star
A Gentleman Tutor is a nicely written historical romance that places us in England during the time of its colonial empire building era. Pairing up a poor tutor, Frank Harte, who is fresh from a war that left him with a life-altering injury, with the younger Viscount “Gracie” Gracewater, sole heir to familial title and fortune, the story maps out their short but intense journey toward a love that will save and heal not just one, but both men. Harper Fox is one of my go to authors for well written stories that don’t rely heavily on a lot of intimate sex scenes to keep the plot moving. Having said that, a few of the interactions between Gracie and Dixie are rather steamy and very intense, bordering on a bit of kink with BDSM overtones. However, those scenes are brief and more inclined to give us a deeper look into what makes the characters tick, rather than just further the plot.
It is the slower scenes of intimacy between Gracie and Frank that really shine. The quiet times when Gracie and Frank lie in bed talking and making love are so tender and sweet—particularly given Frank’s physical injuries. We see the strength Gracie draws from Frank and how it affects his personality. I found myself wanting more of those moments so that the two men falling for each other seemed more realistic. Given that they have just a few weeks to establish how much they mean to one another, the story seemed rushed to me.
Gracie is naïve and easily influenced, which is quite evident in his scenes with Dixie. When Gracie suddenly flips his entire demeanor and becomes uncharacteristically assertive and clear-minded in those latter moments with Frank, it’s rather jarring and felt out of character. I felt that if we had been given just a few more chapters to see their relationship develop and Gracie slowly make this dramatic change in personality, then the ending would have made more sense and been much more believable.
I did enjoy the dramatic reveal toward the end of this novel and shuddered to think how poor Gracie is living in such a twisted environment. Couple that with Frank who, at the beginning of the story is barely eking out an existence, hoarding coal and eating sparingly, and you have two rather tragic figures that collide at just the right time. My heart bled for poor Frank—a wounded war veteran who can barely clothe and feed himself and is one of the forgotten by society and government. His loneliness and despair are palpable and it is no surprise that Gracie becomes the balm that will heal Frank’s soul.
There is much to like about A Gentleman Tutor. From the attention to historical details to the well-developed hurt/comfort trope used as the basis for the novel, the romance swept me up in its whirlwind and left me quite satisfied with how love prevails over evil and despair.