Review: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian

Review: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastianby Cat Sebastian
Published on February 7, 2017
Published by Avon Impulse
Source: Avon Impulse

Copy for review provided by Avon Impulse in exchange for an honest review.

An earl hiding from his future . . .

Lawrence Browne, the Earl of Radnor, is mad. At least, that’s what he and most of the village believes. A brilliant scientist, he hides himself away in his family’s crumbling estate, unwilling to venture into the outside world. When an annoyingly handsome man arrives at Penkellis, claiming to be Lawrence’s new secretary, his carefully planned world is turned upside down.

A swindler haunted by his past . . .

Georgie Turner has made his life pretending to be anyone but himself. A swindler and con man, he can slip into an identity faster than he can change clothes. But when his long-dead conscience resurrects and a dangerous associate is out for blood, Georgie escapes to the wilds of Cornwall. Pretending to be a secretary should be easy, but he doesn’t expect that the only madness he finds is the one he has for the gorgeous earl.

Can they find forever in the wreckage of their lives?

Challenging each other at every turn, the two men soon give into the desire that threatens to overwhelm them. But with one man convinced he is at the very brink of madness and the other hiding his real identity, only true love can make this an affair to remember.

The Lawrence Browne affair sweeps us into the wilds of Cornwall in a vividly entertaining romance about a reclusive Earl and a con man. It features the brother of the hero in The Soldier’s Scoundrel, the author’s debut novel released in 2016 to much acclaim. While I’ve yet to read that one, after how much I enjoyed this story it’s definitely moving its way up my to-read list to the top.

Georgie Turner has gotten himself into a heap of trouble by not going along with with a recent con to defraud an elderly woman after an attack of conscience gets the better of him. When his brother Jack suggests sending him off to Cornwall to assist in assessing the mental health state of the ‘mad’ Earl of Radnor, he readily agrees, hoping to figure out a way to solve the predicament he’s put his family in. Arriving at Penkellis, the disrepair and general shoddiness of the manor seem to indicate that something is definitely amiss.

Lawrence, the Earl of Radnor, worries that the madness that afflicted his father, and then his brother is lying in wait to claim him too. Anxiety attacks are common reactions for him when things are out of the ordinary. To combat this, he immerses himself in experiments, working on the science behind a machine that would enable messages to be sent long distances with wires. With only a cook and housekeeper left after the departure of all the other servants, the appearance of Georgie, purporting to be a secretary sent by his vicar is a shock to his system – in more ways than one. Not only is he not used to company, he’s not used to the feelings that get under his skin around the man himself. Lawrence and Georgie slowly establish an odd sort of friendship, that creates trust between them, and soon enough something more. But with Georgie’s past criminal behavior catching up to him, will the happiness they’ve found together be all for naught?

What a delightful read! I felt fully immersed in this world from the very start of the story. Georgie is one of those flawed characters where the essence of right and wrong are blurred by his upbringing and need to survive. Trained as a thief and a con man since early childhood, he’s done remarkably well at it until he just can’t follow through with one last job, sending him into wholly unfamiliar territory.

The Earl of Radnor’s house is falling apart, and the Earl himself is an eccentric figure with odd habits and queer tastes – yet Georgie finds himself equally fascinated by the Earl’s imposing physical presence as by his mind. It’s clear to him that Lawrence (as he comes to call him) is not mad or deranged, just different. And he’s brilliant, the machine he’s inventing one that even Georgie can see right away will have far reaching repercussions. While his practiced eye sees the value of the material objects in the house, his growing feelings of affection for Lawrence make him determined to protect him at all costs, including from anyone who might be taking advantage of him.

Lawrence is quite a character. Staving off his inevitable (he believes) descent into madness one day at a time, the appearance of Georgie in his life is a rude awakening. Georgie makes him feel things – both positive and concerning and he struggles with how to react. Though he knows that there is something not quite on the up and up with Georgie, he does such a good job as his secretary and proves his worth in so many ways that Lawrence comes to trust him.

The sexual tension between the two men exists from the start and leads to some steamy scenes as Lawrence discovers that feeling lust for another man is not, in fact, a sign of madness. Georgie’s reassurance and matter of factness about the whole thing put Lawrence at ease. Though their relationship must remain a secret to the outside world, it’s not hard to see how it could effectively be a lifelong one given the isolation of Lawrence’s estate and his expected eccentric behaviour. The trick will be for Lawrence to find a way to convince Georgie to stay.

The isolated and windswept Cornish setting makes for an excellent backdrop to the story. The secondary characters are all interesting figures who add a sense of authenticity to the historical setting. I greatly enjoyed the scientific aspects of the tale that aren’t too involved for the average reader but make for another layer to the already intriguing setup. All in all, it’s a thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable romance with two men who believe love is not destined for them, but find it anyway.


About Cat Sebastian

Cat writes steamy, upbeat historical romances. They usually take place in the Regency, generally have at least one LGBTQ+ main character, and always have happy endings.

Before writing, Cat was a lawyer and a teacher. She enjoys crossword puzzles, geeking out over birds, gardening badly, and–of course–reading. In high school, her parents went away for a week, and instead of throwing raucous parties, Cat read Middlemarch. Even worse, Cat remembers little of a trip through Europe because she was busy reading Mansfield Park. Her proudest moment was when she realized her kids were shaping up to be hopeless bookworms too. Currently, her favorite genres are romance, mystery and fantasy.

Cat lives with her husband, three kids, and dog in an improbably small house. After growing up in the northeast, she now lives in a part of the south where every body of water seems to contain alligators or sharks, and every restaurant serves biscuits and gravy. She likes the biscuits, but not so much the alligators.