cover image The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen

KJ Charles. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-72825-585-9

Charles (the Will Darling Adventures series) launches the Doomsday Books series with a dark and stunning love story between a smuggler and a newly minted baronet. In the Kentish moors of the early 19th century, smuggling boss Joss Doomsday, head of the formidable Doomsday clan, and Sir Gareth Inglis, whose absent father’s death has lately conferred the baronetcy on him, commence a tumultuous but tender affair while dodging a rival smuggling gang’s hunt for 10,000 guineas owed them by Gareth’s father and navigating a handful of troublesome relatives on both sides. The author’s gift for historical fiction is on clear display, as Romney Marsh, Kent, is vividly evoked with both its scenic landmarks and local fauna (indeed, there are a surprising number of beetles and newts for a romance). Charles does not shy from the darker side of the smuggling business, with beatings and murders featuring heavily in the plot, but the characters grapple with morality in a convincing way through discussions and arguments and fallings-out. The few threads left dangling at the end only whet the appetite for future books. Readers will devour this. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary. (Mar.)