secret lives of country gentlemen coverRating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel


After his mother died when he was a boy, Sir Gareth Inglis was sent away to London by his father and promptly forgotten. Gareth has grown up feeling lonely and without anyone who truly cares about him. His one bright spot is a short-lived and anonymous affair, but when that falls apart, Gareth feels even worse. However, just on the heels of that rejection, Gareth’s father dies suddenly and he inherits the title and a home in Romney Marsh in Kent. The Marsh is a place so unlike London; the landscape is both beautiful and dangerous and the area is home to many who take advantage of the remote location to avoid the law.

Joss Doomsday has been leading his family’s smuggling ring for years. The Doomsdays are well known on the Marsh, and most of the folks there are content to leave them be. People are just as happy to get the goods the Doomsdays can provide, and the family takes care of one another and those that live in the Marsh. Joss had been enjoying his dalliance in London, but when it came time to return home, things ended badly. However, when his sister gets caught for smuggling, Joss is shocked to find that the man who is to testify against her is none other than the man with whom he was having his affair, Sir Gareth Inglis. Joss will do anything to get his sister out of trouble, even if it means resorting to some blackmail to make sure Gareth doesn’t testify.

Gareth is furious at Joss, even as he is shocked to find that the man and his family are a huge part of Gareth’s new home. At first, things are incredibly tense between them. But when some men come around stirring up trouble, Joss is the only one Gareth can think of that might be able to help. And while Joss may still be angry at Gareth for getting his sister in trouble, he also isn’t going to let Gareth be hurt. As Joss gets more involved in Gareth’s predicament, it gives the men a chance to rekindle their relationship. The pair are so good together; Joss gives Gareth the affection and caring he has long been missing, while being with Gareth is a chance for Joss to put aside some of his familial obligations for someone who wants Joss the man, not Joss Doomsday the smuggler. However, even as the men are falling hard for each other, someone wants something from Gareth and they are willing to go to great lengths to get it. It will take all the men have to stop those looking to do harm before it’s too late.

I am a huge K.J. Charles fan and the author never disappoints, but some of her books are just next level for me, and that was definitely the case for The Secret Lives of Country Gentleman. I just loved everything about this story and I couldn’t put it down. Part of what made this one stand out for me is the really amazing sense of place. Charles just brings Romney Marsh to life and it is almost its own character. The land is hard, filled with swampy ground and dangerous terrain, and surviving out there isn’t easy. The community is very insular; people in the Marsh take care of one another, but have little interest in those that are “outmarsh.” They are practical people living hard lives and no one is particularly fussed about the fact that the Doomsdays are smuggling, especially because the family looks out for everyone. Gareth enters this community as an outsider, having never lived there and suddenly inheriting the title. Not to mention his immediate gaffe of implicating a Doomsday in smuggling, thus pitting himself against pretty much everyone. I loved watching Gareth fall in love with the Marsh, as well as seeing it through Joss’ eyes. Slowly, Gareth goes from an outsider to one of them and it is lovely to see him finally finding a real connection and a place he belongs. The Marsh also makes a fabulous backdrop to the danger and intrigue going on around Gareth and Joss, and it is just such a wonderful setting for the story.

We first meet the men when they are involved in a brief and anonymous affair in London. Neither man expects to ever see the other again and they part on bad terms… only to meet again on even worse ones. Yet the connection between Joss and Gareth is still there, and though it takes a bit, they begin to reconnect. I just loved these two together. These are both men who so badly need someone just for them. Gareth has never felt wanted; his father abandoned and rejected him, the uncle who raised him made clear he didn’t want him, and he is an outsider in the Marsh. Joss is surrounded by a family he loves and who loves him in return, but he also spends his whole life taking care of everyone else. Gareth is the one person who wants Joss just for who he is, not the Joss who runs the Doomsday family. They are sexy together and just so sweet; their affection for one another shines through and I loved the sense of awe these men have around one another.

In addition to the lovers-to-enemies-lovers vibe, this story has some suspense and intrigue. Soon after Gareth arrives in the Marsh, someone comes after him looking for information — information he doesn’t have or know anything about. As the story continues, the threats increase, and we slowly begin to untangle just what it is these men want and why. It adds some nice intensity, as the danger is real, and things get increasingly serious. But it also gives a chance for Joss and Gareth to work together to discover what is going on and continue to build their bond. I don’t want to give too much away other than to say it allows Gareth to discover more about himself and it adds some real excitement and intensity to the story.

I absolutely adored this book and fell in love with Joss and Gareth. Charles just released some information the next story, and I’d suggest holding off learning too much until you have read this one. It features a new couple and I am really excited at the direction things are going. If you a fan of historicals, or just are looking for an incredibly well developed story with wonderful characters, check out The Secret Life of Country Gentlemen. 

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