Title: A Gentleman Tutor
Author: Harper Fox
Length: 60k Words
Category: Historical Romance
At a Glance: There are strange things afoot in A Gentlemen Tutor, things I did not at all expect and which gave the story some bite just when I’d expected it to be a sweet and conventional historical romance.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: For Frank Harte, impoverished schoolteacher, January in London means a yearly fight to survive. A former soldier, his injuries have barred him from all but the lowest-paid posts, and the cold incapacitates him still more.
The chance to work as tutor to Viscount Gracewater, son of the famous big-game hunting Earl, comes as a lifeline to Frank. The Earl’s Knightsbridge mansion is huge, elegant – and, most temptingly, kept warm from basement to attics. Viscount “Scapegrace” Gracie, used to foreign climes, is delicate.
He’s also wild, charming, and only five years younger than Frank himself. His innocence and feckless good nature soon endear him to the quiet, reserved tutor.
But the Earl’s house is a dark one beneath its bright veneer, and the Viscount is in the thrall of unscrupulous Arthur Dickson, a handsome, brutal parasite who’ll stop at nothing to retain his power over Gracie’s heart and soul. Edwardian secrets burgeon as Frank begins a battle to free his student, confronting along the way the knowledge that he’s losing his own heart to this brilliant and beautiful young man.
Review: Author Harper Fox is such a steady voice in the romance genre. Fox’s writing invites readers to become lost for a while in the warm and welcoming stories she tells—whether they comprise a touch of the paranormal, the mythical, or merely convey a few precious moments in the lives of ordinary people falling in love, and it’s the rare occasion that something in her stories doesn’t touch my heart in a meaningful way. A Gentleman Tutor is a historical romance that very much fits the mold of two men falling in love under extraordinary circumstances, Fox’s voice complements the expression of emotion, and its poignancy echoed all the more for the time during which the story is set.
In typical Fox fashion, Frank Harte—the gentleman tutor in question—is made endearing as he faces the challenges before him. Frank returned from war with wounds which resulted in his now walking with a cane and which are exacerbated by the frigid temperatures he is unable to escape in a London January, even ensconced in front of the fireplace in the tiny room at the boarding house where he lives. Coal costs money, after all, and money is not something Frank has unlimited access to, so when an acquaintance and fellow veteran Cyril (who has issues of his own) shows up in Frank’s room unexpectedly one night with news of a private tutoring job, Frank has no reason not to apply. It’s after he’s hired to tutor Viscount Gracewater that trouble begins.
The twenty-year-old Gracie is not the child Frank expected to be tutoring, although he is very much childlike at times, not in a spoiled way but in a way that allows the reader access to our curiosity and to wonder why Gracie is at once charming, a bit of a mischief maker—earning his nickname Scapegrace—and at other times is submissive to the point of timidity. There are dark secrets and hidden agendas within the Earl of Gracewater’s mansion, and Gracie is at the center of it all. By extension, thanks to his growing attraction to Gracie—the curious and clever student rather than the sometimes flighty and unpredictable viscount—Frank becomes embroiled in the machinations and madness while, at the same time, being drawn into Cyril’s misdeeds, which could cost Frank not only his job but his reputation besides. Cyril, along with Gracie’s companion, Arthur Dickson, demonstrate that some relationships can be a prison all their own.
There are strange things afoot in A Gentlemen Tutor, things I did not at all expect and which gave the story some bite just when I’d expected it to be a sweet and conventional historical romance. Frank is the clear hero of the story—he truly does have a frank heart—and Gracie is offered the strength and encouragement, via Frank as well as some unexpected allies, to not only stand up for himself but to stand up against the agents who had so greedily controlled his circumstances. There are not one but two happy endings in this book, which I loved, and if it makes a political statement or two along the way, they are made with the gift of knowledge of a future far from this book’s place in history.
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