Rebecca Cohen’s Earls of Crofton series, past and present, are among my favorite romances to read. It’s a been a delight to be able to follow the members of the Redbourn family throughout the centuries, from the first Earl of Crofton, Anthony Redbourn and his lover, the actor Sebastian Hewel, all the way to the Modern Crofton series and present, Ben Redbourn, the 16th Earl of Crofton , and his husband, Ashley Niven.
Slowly, Cohen is filling in the gaps between the two eras, giving us the histories and romances of the Earls of Crofton of the time periods that bridge these men who share so many similarities of features and personality traits. And of course a title, a love of men, and Crofton Hall.
A neat narrative element in the Modern books has been to explore, via the “recently discovered” vast collection of Crofton books and papers that have been found in the caverns underneath Crofton Hall, some of the Earls of the past. Just hints and guesses as to their natures and backgrounds.
Now we’re getting their stories.
Charles Redbourn, 8th Earl of Crofton, is a man of many passions. Protected by his titles and inner circle of highly influential equally titled friends, he spends his time pursuing pleasure, partying, indulging in passionate sexual activities with those of both sexes, while insuring that his reputation may be wild , he himself never allows for anything to actually endanger himself, or his family. Wild and wily. Self indulgent, highly intelligent, and yet protective and intelligent.
Cohen paints a picture of wealthy, bored , over indulged entitlement that layers over a bedrock of steadiness and loyalty. Even more remarkable is that Charles exists within a family unit that enthusiastically encourages his lifestyle. Both his wife, yes he’s married with a son, and his sister both live and love much like he does. They treat each other with fondness, a loving respect, and have lovers of both sexes often, sometimes at parties they throw. Marriage is done for convenience and to preserve blood lines. It’s a time of high debauchery , endless wines, gorgeous clothes and incredible food and parties. Just be careful enough. And have the right friends.
I ended up understanding and liking both the sister, Amelia , and wife, Lucy. Great layered characters, full of personality, and with rich lives of their own. The author has a wonderful ability to create a supportive cast of characters , like Marchent, that fit in with the main people in such a tightly defined manner that it makes you feel as though you want more of them as well.
The other main character? That’s Captain Timothy Thorne, an officer of the Light Dragoons. And soon the spotted prey of Charles.
This aspect of the story would be reprehensible except that Charles is upfront about his pursuit. It’s discussed between the men, and Timothy is given the choice of calling it off. There are reasons behind the conflict between them, which make sense given Timothy ‘s upbringing, profession, and lack of personal experience.
It’s a complicated subject and I thought it required more page time to address all the issues brought up, especially when real, potentially devastating events occur to speed things up.
Cohen uses historical data to ground her books and storylines to help her readers understand the world around her characters. It works far better when she’s had the page time to dive deeper into whatever era she’s based her character in. I didn’t feel we actually got that with Charles. Only a mildest of outlines for the 18th century here and the troubles that were rocking the royals.
Perhaps we will find a greater depth of the era with his son’s story, Samuel. Samuel is a huge part of this tale. His own marriage, his failure of a romantic relationship with a man called Hugo, and how his father and Timothy help him survive a family tragedy with the help of the Redbourn’s family enduring legacy of decadence and debauchery. It’s a really great twist.
At the end, we leave all the entire Redbourn family together at the end, Charles, Timothy, Lucy, Amelia, and Samuel carrying on their lives together At Crofton Hall, with Samuel heading into the next stage of his life.
Cue up his story, the next in the Regency Earls of Crofton series.
My thoughts on Charles, the story, not Charles the utterly fabulous Earl of Crofton, was that we missed out on pieces, or had tears in the fabrics of the tapestry of his story so it felt as though we had not enough time or information to fulfill the fully rounded tale the storylines Rebecca Cohen promised. But it came very close.
I am recommending Charles for lovers of the Crofton universe, and fans of Rebecca Cohen , and regency romance. It’s another twist on romance of it’s time.
Regency Earls of Crofton series:
The Crofton Universe :
The Crofton Chronicles–Historical (Elizabethan/ Early Stuart):
The Actor and the Earl
Duty to the Crown
Forever Hold His Peace
The Love and the Anger Historical (Elizabethan/ Early Stuart)–Sebastian/ Anthony 10 years together
The Earls of Crofton–Historical: (Different eras–can be read as individual standalone novels):
Anthony, Earl of Crofton (Early Stuart)
James, Earl of Crofton (Restoration) Charles, Earl of Crofton (Regency) Samuel, Earl of Crofton (Regency)
The Modern Crofton–Contemporary: Saving Crofton Hall
Making History at Crofton Hall
Below Stairs at Crofton Hall
Getting Married at Crofton Hall Starting Again at Crofton Hall
Standalones in the Crofton Universe Much Ado About Lady Macbeth Note: Sebastian Hewel is a minor character
Something extra for Crofton! Modern Crofton Short Story: Ben and the Mistletoe (set the Christmas after Saving Crofton Hall)
Anyone who had thought Lord Byron mad, bad and dangerous to know, obviously hadn’t met Charles Redbourn, 8th Earl of Crofton.
Charles Redbourn cares little for anyone’s opinion, life is there to be lived and the London Ton provides a host of pleasures. He is used to getting his own way and, after another clash with the impertinent Captain Timothy Thorne, Charles is determined to put the uniformed upstart in his place.
Both are stubborn and passionate men, and someone is going to win this battle of wits—to the winner the spoils.
But when enemies turn into lovers, they face an uncertain future. Charles has to decide which is more important, Timothy or being the Earl of Crofton.
Trigger warnings: drug use and recovery.