Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 9 hours, 2 minutes
A Gentleman Never Keeps Score is one of my favorite books in Cat Sebastian’s incredible body of work. It is the second in her Seducing the Sedgewick’s series (though it can stand alone), and is such a beautiful romance between two such lovely men. (If you want to see my full review of the book, check that out here.)
Hartley and Sam are both such caring, giving people, willing to put themselves out for others with hardly a thought. Sam’s actions are more visible, as he runs a pub that is a place of refuge for many of the free Black citizens in London, and gives away money and food to whoever is in need. Hartley, at first glance, is a wealthy and entitled gentleman, an image he has cultivated over the years as somewhat of a shield. But we see quite clearly how much Hartley sacrifices for others, both in the past for his brothers, as well as in the present, as he will give all he has to help Sam and his own servants. This book is such a warm, lovely story as we see these men find some solace, peace, and happiness in each others arms, as they are both so deserving.
This is also a story that highlights class and race in a way that I really appreciated. It is rare to see historicals that feature non-white characters as the lead, and Sebastian takes care to show how Sam lives as a free Black man. He faces racism and assumptions and deals with struggles a white man wouldn’t face. We also see the sense of community Sam works to foster, to offer a place of refuge where his customers can be with others like them and feel comfortable. We also see the trappings of class in Hartley, as he begins the story a gentleman (albeit one who has fallen from grace due to the revelations of his sexual orientation). However, Hartley is pretty much miserable, and it isn’t until he lets go of his desire to be accepted as a gentleman and lives the life he truly wants that he is happy. To quote a line from my original review: I loved seeing his progression over the course of the book from someone who is outwardly perfect but miserable inside, to someone who embraces what he wants without a care for what others think.
The story also deals with sexual abuse, so while things aren’t explicitly depicted here, be aware if this is a trigger area for you. We learn in It Takes Two to Tumble that Hartley was preyed upon by an older, wealthy man who offered much needed financial resources to the Sedgewick boys in exchange for sex with Hartley. Hartley was just a teen at the time, groomed by this older man who took advantage of his desperation to take care of his family. It takes Hartley time to come to terms with this, to accept that it wasn’t his fault, that he was abused by his godfather. His past has affected his comfort with sexual encounters, and this story really beautifully shows Sam’s sensitivity as he helps Hartley to feel comfortable and confident. Sam is so clearly a place of safety for Hartley, someone he can trust with his mind and his body, that it helps him to move forward.
I listened to this one in audio with narrator Joel Leslie. Leslie is doing a wonderful job with this series, and this type of book is really one of his specialities. There are a variety of accents, as people of different classes and from different regions mingle, and Leslie provides great narration for these characters. Sam and Hartley are nicely distinct from one another, and the many side characters are also easy to distinguish. The pacing is good and the tone is spot on, really capturing the emotion of the story and some of the more intense scenes. Listening to these books in audio has made me really appreciate how wonderful this series is, and Leslie’s narration makes this a wonderful choice to check out in audiobook form.