A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.
Books Book Review: The Crofton Chronicles by Rebecca Cohen
Book Review: The Crofton Chronicles by Rebecca Cohen
EW Elaine White
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The Crofton Chronicles
About the Author
I'm a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, I have left London behind and now live with my husband and toddler son in Basel, Switzerland. I can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.
Feel free to drop in at my blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/
Feel free to drop in at my blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/
November 11, 2016
epub, mobi, pdf
Warnings for the historical stories: cross-dressing, light bondage, role play, kidnapping, attempted rape, homophobia
When his sister reneges on her engagement to Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, actor Sebastian Hewel must play his most difficult role yet: impersonating his sister in order to restore the family name and pay off his father's debt, inThe Actor and the Earl. But Anthony is shrewder than the siblings had guessed, and now Sebastian and Anthony have to decide how far they're willing to play this part. InDuty to the Crown, Sebastian is happily playing the part of his sister Bronwyn, wife to the Earl of Redbourn, when the Queen asks Anthony to seduce Marie Valois to find out information about her father. With Marie and her brother, Lord Nicholas, both interested in seducing Sebastian, Anthony and Sebastian both have delicate roles to play if they're to keep their secret. InForever Hold His Peace, Sebastian's role as "Bronwyn" becomes more precarious when she is accused of witchcraft with planted evidence. Together, Anthony and Sebastian must decide if it's time for Bronwyn to retire her place to protect their love. Over four centuries later, inSaving Crofton Hall, the current Earl of Crofton, Benjamin Redbourn, is not going to lose Crofton Hall without a fight. Ashley Niven is the perfect man to help make Crofton Hall pay for itself, if Benjamin and Ashley can get past their attraction to each other, and if the secrets that the house is hiding doesn't destroy them first.See excerpt for individual blurbs.
Gorgeous Historical Series
POV – 3rd person
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Historical European
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
The Crofton Chronicles lead us through the story of Sebastian Hewel, an actor who is convinced to play the part of his sister, Bronwyn, after she absconds from an arranged marriage to Lord Crofton. However, after seeing Sebastian in a play, Anthony Crofton isn't fooled by the switch and they come to an agreement. One that can be dangerous to their very lives but also their hearts. It ends with a contemporary story set 400 years later, showing Anthony's descendants.
Now, I'll admit that I've had this for review for a long time. Between work and life, I've always had to put it aside to do something else and it didn't bother me so much because I hadn't read the author before, I was intrigued by the plot but I'm not a historical reader, by nature, so I really wasn't sure what to expect. I'm also a binge reader, so I wanted to be able to read all of the books in a row, without having to pause in between to read something else.
I should have read it sooner.
Book 1: The Actor and the Earl
POV: 3rd person, one character (Sebastian)
Star rating: ★★★★★
This was a fantastic, charming story that really lifted me reading-mood, after a few bad reads. I'd lost interest in reading for the 2-3 weeks prior to picking this up and this has completely reignited my need for historical romances.
After having read the blurb, I was a little surprised that the story kicked right off with Bronwyn having already run off and Sebastian being recruited by his own family members to take her place. I'd expected Sebastian to step up of his own choice, to save the family honour, but the conspiracy of Claire and Anthony stepping in to make everything crystal clear from the start was brilliantly done. It made it even more exciting to know that there was a circle of people who knew the secret and could be trusted with it, like Matthew, Edward and Miriam.
I found Anthony highly intriguing, because he was mysterious, secretive and had enough mood swings throughout that I could never quite pin down how he was feeling or what was going through his head, which made the ending really exciting. I never knew what was on the horizon with Anthony, but I did with Sebastian because, strangely enough, I thought exactly the same things at the same times that he did. When he doubted, so did I; when he had faith and trust, so did I. It was reassuring to have a main character, especially the primary POV, be someone that I could so easily relate to. His love of the arts and acting really helped, while also giving the perfect background to his charade.
I loved the progression of the story, how naturally Anthony and Sebastian fit together, even before they knew each other. But I also loved that it wasn't all smooth sailing, either. That Anthony had a son, a dead wife, a reputation and a whole lot of baggage as well as a real, valid need for a new wife, that the Queen had encouraged. On the flip side, Sebastian has nothing – no baggage, no scandals, no rumours haunting him, except those about his dead father.
I loved Miriam for her teasing and the constant support she offered Sebastian, especially when she warned him from getting to close at the beginning, for his own good. In fact, all the women were so brilliantly written that it was refreshing. Bronwyn was feisty and brutal with her handling of Sebastian and Anthony's relationship, while Claire was strangely business-minded one minute and then emotionally supportive and caring the next. I loved all three equally. Then add in Matthew's care, attention and his friendship with Sebastian, and Edward's friendship with Anthony and the supporting cast were just as important and significant as the main characters.
Throughout the story, I loved that Sebastian's first thoughts were about how to save Anthony from scandal, if they were ever found out. But I also loved that he had his head screwed on straight and he was always aware of the risk, even when Anthony forgot or didn't care. I did worry that Lady Eleanor might be vindictive enough to discover their secret and let it slip (and still might), but I also loved their very smart decision to get Bronwyn involved and legitimise the act.
The only issue was the small editing problem of missing or extra words and a single instance of Anthony being called by a surname other than Crofton, which was a little confusing.
Overall, it was an incredibly fun, exciting read with some real moments that had me in tears and some moments that made me worry for Sebastian's head. I was constantly intrigued to see how each twist would play out and am still intrigued as to how it will continue. I loved the jealousy, the realism of the emotions, the chemistry between the characters and how much it hurt me when Sebastian hurt. The inclusion of historically accurate material – the nice slip of The Globe and Shakespeare helping Sebastian learn his lines – all served to make the story more real and relatable. The brief slips Sebastian made from familiarity were brilliantly handled, as were his reactions to Anthony's first apology reunion, which was gut-wrenching. There was so much to love about it that it just had me on a constant emotional rollercoaster.
I marked so many that I could only whittle it down to four.
““Gift? Who would give us money to marry Bronwyn? I was convinced we'd be stuck with her, since there's no money left from my father's estate for her dowry.”
“Lord Crofton has been most generous.”
“That is because he has not met Bronwyn, or he would've sewn shut his purse.””
““I should not press you.”
Sebastian couldn't remember the last time his heart had beaten so fast, but with Anthony's hand on his face and the warm, spicy scent that came from the other man, his heart pounded.
“Maybe I want to be pressed.””
“Anthony had no made a declaration of Love. But Sebastian thought rather sadly that it would be the closet to it that he would ever get from Anthony Crofton.”
““There is only so much a man can overlook before he either turns blind or goes mad.””
Book 2: Duty to the Crown
POV: 3rd person, one character (Sebastian)
Star rating: ★★★★★
Wow. This was another great story with all the right drama in all the right places.
There were some more serious issues in place here, with Anthony being ordered to seduce a young French girl and then having to ask Sebastian to do so, when the tables turned against him. Then, Sebastian having to 'pretend' seduce both brother and sister as Bronwyn and Sebastian respectively, there was the chaos of gender inequality, sexism and homophobia. But then it escalated into a claim of domestic abuse, a kidnapping and then an attempted rape, all of which were handled sensitively and with respect. Sebastian never turned away from expressing his true disgust, pain or thoughts on the subjects as they occurred.
I feel that Sebastian and Anthony's relationship is a little more turbulent than before, with the constant deception and the orders to seduce other people, leading to rife jealousy. I love how it was portrayed and explored throughout the story. Anthony is a very “you catch more bees with honey” type of man, while Sebastian has to prove that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and that, sometimes, playing hard to get could be more effective, while friendship was also a logical route over romance. The awkwardness that Sebastian brought to his scenes with Nicholas and Marie during the 'courting' process were both hilarious and cringe-worthy. Yet, I loved that Anthony got a taste of his own medicine.
As before, the chemistry between Sebastian and Anthony was off the charts brilliant! I loved the banter, the playfulness, even the perfectly ordinary moments where you saw Sebastian badgering Anthony about taking his medicine or where they enjoyed some quality time together. It all strengthened my faith in this couple and the belief that they should be together.
Overall, there were so many wonderful moments that it's impossible not to fall in love with this book and series. The characters are realistic, relatable and exciting; the things they go through are intriguing and make me laugh, cry, worry and freak out. I couldn't have asked for a better series to remind me how much I love the historical sub-genre and that a forbidden romance can be just as beautiful as one allowed in a modern age.
““Listen to me, Anthony Crofton. While I accept that you cannot refuse the Queen, do not think you can come near me until you have worked out a way to complete this request without me having to contain the desire to punch you.””
“Anthony was waiting as Sebastian left his room. “I thought we could arrive at the Great Hall together – and a good job, too, as you appear to be besmirching my good name.”
“It can hardly be called besmirching when it is true,” replied Sebastian, taking the arm Anthony offered.
“Why do I put up with you?”
“Because I'm wonderful, Anthony, and don't you forget it.””
Book 3: Forever Hold His Peace
POV: 3rd person, one character (Sebastian), with an epilogue by another character
Star rating: ★★★★★
Oh. My. God. I swear, if this had been the last ever, I wouldn't have been disappointed. Not since I'm now going to go and buy the paperbacks of all these books so I can re-read them over and over and over again. But the fact that there is one more, even if it's contemporary, is just so, so exciting!
Once again, the drama was so perfectly plotted to keep the story moving along, without being overbearing or leaving the story without any happening.
I loved the idea of plotting a lesbian-aided quintuplet of convenience, for if they were able to survive the claims of Bronwyn being a witch. Amongst that, the storyline of Haven and Bronwyn making a rare visit, while Sebastian contemplated a potential return to the theatre, were all equally interesting plots and twists within the storyline. Each one held it's ground, did it's best to move the story forward while showing how Anthony and Sebastian dealt with each incident. And I loved that each of them related, even indirectly, to incidents and events that had taken place in previous books.
Again, the host of characters changed just enough to provide new, intriguing cast members, while retaining those who were important. The addition of William's tutor, Samuel, and the two plotters were great additions that showed us more of Anthony and Sebastian and how they came across to outsiders, while also providing relevant people to take care of relevant issues.
I cried. A lot. When Miriam and Sebastian said goodbye, Sebastian's difficulty in dealing with the loss of Lady Crofton, during the entire Epilogue and so many times it's unreal.
I can't say much more without giving too much away, but it was brilliant and the perfect end to the historical part of the story. I loved that the Epilogue showed up William as a grown man, trying to guide his grandson to the truth of just what Anthony and Sebastian had shared, but it killed me to hear about their end days and all that had happened. Killed me!
“Sometimes even the most wicked of tongues speak the truth.”
““Samuel Jenster is a villain and a thief, but there are few men 'd rather have on my side during a fight.”
“It sounds like there's a story in there,” said Sebastian.
“Didn't he tell you how we met? About how he came to my aid when someone pulled a knife on me in Southwark?”
Sebastian shook his head. “No. But he told me to let you know that if you need him to get you a body, it'll be no trouble.”
“As if I'd ask anyone else.””
Book 1: Saving Crofton Hall
A Crofton Hall Novel
POV: 3rd person, dual character
Star rating: ★★★★☆
Okay, so I have to say that while I loved this one, it really would have been better as a stand-alone accompanying novel, NOT as part of this bundle. Because, personally, I cried and my heart ached and I was completely in love with the ending to book 3 within the historical era. Reading this one stole that happy, crying, wistful mood and left me feeling a little flatter than before. The ending of book 3 was PERFECT. And it really should have been left to be the ending, with the Stately Passions book(s) as a completely separate companion series. Putting them together just ruined the magic.
Saying that, I did enjoy it. Ben is an amazing mix of Anthony and Sebastian's personality traits that it was an easy slide from reading about them to reading about Ben. It felt comfortable and almost-familiar to go from Sebastian's POV to Ben's. He's as feisty as Anthony, but with that level-headed control and quick tempter of Sebastian.
This is also the first book that is dual POV, which is a chance, but not necessarily a bad one. However, I'm not entirely sure that it was needed in places, because we often say things in say Ashley's POV that were later explored and/or explained in Ben's, meaning that we didn't have to see it first hand if we were going to be discussing it at length later or vice versa.
It also felt really long to read. I mean I read it in an afternoon, so it's not that long realistically, but it felt like it dragged on, whereas I felt like I flew through the previous books. This could be because there's not a lot happening in this book beyond the romance. There's the Ben and Ashley romance storyline, plus the background story that kicks it all off of Ben's mother putting them in financial difficulties. However, other than that, nothing really happens in between and there were times when the story dragged or flagged because of that. There was none of the drama or excitement that the historical books had, for sure.
I was a bit disappointed about the ending. Sebastian would have turned in his grave if he knew what they'd done with that folio, which goes against everything he and Anthony stood for. While I get the logical side of it, the artist in me was screaming the whole time and wishing that some other plot arc had crept in to surprise us with another option. The implication that I understood was that this was the incomplete play that Shakespeare had written for Sebastian about his life with Anthony and that it makes it even more of a travesty to have to sell it, placing it in the care of someone outside of Crofton Hall. It just felt like it wasn't properly appreciated by Ben or Anthony, who I thought would have been more eager to find a way around keeping it while getting the money to save the Hall.
At the same time, I was disappointed in the ending because it left a lot unanswered. It didn't tell us whether they actually sold it and saved the Hall or not. It didn't tell us whether the exhumed Sebastian and Anthony's bodies to prove they'd been buried together as husband and wife. It left a lot to the imagination, that I presume will be told in future stories. However, it's the only one in this bundle so far to leave us with questions unanswered and plot arcs unexplored, so that was disappointing.
I also got a little annoyed at the constant use of “cut him up” or “cut up” in terms of the driving, because this isn't the proper saying. It's “cut him off” or “cut off”, whereas the author's use has a completely different and much more sinister meaning. I have to take this as a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the saying, as it happens too frequently to be an editing mistake. Maybe it's a thing in England, but I live in Scotland and I have never ever heard of this version.
I loved seeing the familiar names popping up and the hints that led back to the historical novels; e.g. The Duchess of Marchent, the play of Macbeth, even how alike that they were to the previous cast, as Catlin was the spitting image of Bronwyn and Ben and Ashley both had equal traits to Sebastian and Anthony.
Overall, while it was a fun contemporary romance and I'll be interested to read the rest of the series, it didn't grab my hear the way the historical novels did. I wouldn't be rushing to buy this in paperback, the way I feel with the historical stories. This one was less dramatic, less exciting and much slower to get through, completely stealing the perfect ending of book 3 and leaving me with a feeling of disappointment that wouldn't have been there had this story not been included in the bundle.
““Have you ever thought what I actually want? Maybe I do want a night where someone would cook me dinner, read to me in the bath, and cuddle up without expecting anything in return. But that's not the real world, Catlin. People look at me and see the earl, not the man.””
““When you kiss me, do you feel like you're seeing stars?”
Adam scowled. “What are you on about? Of course I bloody don't.”
“And there's the problem.”
He walked away, determined not to look back, and his traitorous mind suggested that if Ben Redbourn were to kiss him, it'd be like crashing headlong through a supernova.”
Often when you have a series, the first book is fantastic and then the others slowly dwindle in interest or the first takes too long to introduce the characters, spending too much time letting us know them, and doesn't have an interesting story while it takes either book two or three to pick up the reader's interest. This series doesn't do that. Right from page one of book one I knew I'd love it. And I was right to believe that, because it proved to be true.
There are slight editing issues throughout, but nothing that impeded my enjoyment of the story, so I chose not to let it impact my rating of the bundle or the individual stories. The main issue was a missing word here or there, that was usually so small that it wasn't missed much and the meaning of the sentence was still clear, or an extra or repeated word.
I found it a little strange that William never spoke until book 3, by which time he spoke in perfect sentences. Yet, in book 2, he was grunting to get his point across, despite only being one year younger. There's no explanation of him being incapable of speaking or just being lazy by not using his words, which is a little odd, but I figure it's a small thing and I overlooked it, because William was such a minor character.
I particularly loved the way that Sebastian was treated by those socially engaged with Anthony, how some looked down on him because they thought him too plain for a wife of a philanderer, while some thought it a perfect match because Sebastian's family are known for their loyalty to the Queen. Yet, at the same time, there was this constant feeling of Sebastian being judged, the worry that Anthony might find more interest elsewhere and the concern of being caught and the consequences, should that happen. There was never a moment where drama wasn't present, but I loved that there were such varying degrees of drama and for all kinds of reasons. Even the worry that Anthony's son might not take to him was really well written and handled.
The historical accuracy was incredible. Not only through the clothing, style and the social engagements required of someone close to the Court, but in the concern over a gay relationship, the slightly skeezy bars and gambling halls that kept a tight lip about whatever went on inside, even Sebastian being mistaken for a prostitute was so well handled and historically accurate. There wasn't one single detail that wasn't properly explored and thought through.
There were strong LGBT members throughout all stories; bisexual, gay, straight, lesbian, poly. They were all represented in both the historical novels and the modern, which was great to see.
There is one other thing I have to mention and it's not a negative or a positive, so I didn't let it influence my rating. I had a weird sense of deja-vu multiple times throughout the story, as the plot is quite similar in style and theme to two other books I've read. The prospect of a man pretending to be a woman was similar to one of the Chronicles of Tournai fantasy novels, by Antonia Aquilante. And the Edward incident, with the manor house and such, reminded me of Victoria Sue's Innocent Auction. There was also a hint of Rowan McAllister's Historical Greatest Hints Bundle, in places. HOWEVER, the similarities didn't diminish my love of this book or the others, but if you loved this one, you'll love the others and vice versa.
For me, the modern story at the end was the let down and the weakest of the bunch. If only it could have ended at book 3, with a separate bundle for the contemporary stories, it would have been perfect.
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