Percy is the son of a Duke and has been raised to be a gentleman. However, Percy’s father is a terrible man and his actions threaten not only Percy’s future, but that of the Duke’s young wife, Marian, and their child. Percy and Marian are childhood friends and they have teamed up to sort things out before they are both left high and dry. The pair are being blackmailed by someone with information about the Duke’s dealings and so time is of the essence. The Duke keeps an important book that could hold the key to solving Percy and Marian’s problems. Unfortunately, the Duke takes the book everywhere and so they need to find a way to steal it from him — and for that, they will need some help.
Kit Webb made his living as a highwayman until a job gone wrong left him with his partner dead and Kit with an injured leg that took him out of the business. Now, Kit works running the coffeehouse he owns and generally keeping out of trouble. When a handsome aristocrat makes his way to Kit’s shop, Kit can’t help but be drawn to the man. But when Percy proposes hiring Kit to steal the book from his father, Kit declines, as he is no longer fit for conducting highway robbery. But Kit has his own reasons for wanting to see the Duke taken down and so, while he can’t do the job himself, he offers to teach Percy how to conduct the robbery instead.
As the men spend time together, a friendship begins to form (a bit grudgingly on Kit’s part). Kit has never wanted anything to do with a lord, especially given his past. But he can’t helped but be charmed by the somewhat arrogant and sometimes outrageous Percy. Despite all his wealth and privilege, there is also something down to earth about Percy, who spends much free time at the coffee house disguised as a commoner and chatting with his fellow customers. Kit’s friends warn him against getting involved with Percy, fearing no good can come of their relationship or Kit’s attempts at revenge on the Duke. But despite their very different lives, Kit and Percy are falling hard for one another. However, Percy’s future is still on the line and he and Kit still have a job to do. Now they must hope they can pull off the heist without getting caught… or ending up dead.
The Queer Principles of Kit Webb is a bit of a caper with a nice opposite side of the tracks vibe that pairs a former thief with the heir to a dukedom. For me, the best part of the story is the dynamic between Kit and Percy. They sort of drive each other crazy, but in a way that charges up both men. Kit’s surly, grumpy, and often disheveled demeanor is strangely appealing to Percy, and Percy’s arrogant confidence is a draw for Kit. There is sort of a cat and mouse energy here as Percy tries to convince Kit to help him and Kit finds himself drawn in almost despite himself. There is just a vibe between them that I found a lot of fun, particularly as the men get to know one another and dive below the surface front that each puts up.
The heist plot line unfurls slowly throughout the book. We start off knowing Percy and Marian are working together, that their future is threatened, and that they need to hire a thief. But we don’t know right away what is going on, why they are being blackmailed, and why it threatens their future. Similarly, we learn that Kit has a past with the Duke, but exactly what isn’t revealed until further into the story. We also have the mystery of just what this book contains and why it is so important. I enjoyed uncovering all these secrets and seeing the pieces put together, and I think Sebastian makes it an engaging mystery. That said, I do think it takes a little too long for some of this information to be revealed, as it lessens the urgency without knowing just what is motivating these men. We spend a lot of the story just sort of watching these guys dance around each other and seeing Kit teach Percy the basics of performing a robbery, but it takes just a little too long for me to get things moving. The climax here is also a little confusing and doesn’t feel fully resolved. There is a second book coming out featuring Marian, which I assume will answer some of these questions, but I would have liked things to have a bit more clarity here in this book.
That said, I still found this one charming and fun. Sebastian writes such great historicals and she makes excellent use of the Georgian era to really bring out the sense of setting here. I really liked Percy and Kit together and enjoyed Marian as a side character, so I am very much looking forward to her story and seeing how the situation continues to play out in her book.