It’s Back to Crofton Hall with Rebecca Cohen’s Saving Crofton Hall Book Tour (contest)

Standard

SCHBanner300x250

One of my favorite authors and series is back!  Today Rebecca Cohen, author of The Crofton Chronicles series, is here with the blurb and excerpt of her latest story in the Crofton Chronicles  series, Saving Crofton Hall.   I have an interview with her and a contest for all of you to enter.  Check it all out below!

Book Name: Saving Crofton Hall
Goodreads Link
Author Name: Rebecca Cohen

Up Close with Rebecca Cohen and all Things Crofton Chronicles…

Q. Rebecca, I loved the Crofton Chronicles and was so happy to see this book come up.  Why continue this series, what about this place and people wouldn’t let go of you?

RC:  I’m so glad you enjoyed the series, I loved writing them. Sometimes it is easy to move on from characters and a setting, and sometimes isn’t. And I knew once I finished The Crofton Chronicles that there were more stories to be told about the Redbourn family and their home. I did think about writing in another historical period, but once I had the idea of a modern Crofton, I thought I could sneak in references to the earls that came in between. The idea of an old family with an interesting history was too much fun to pass up, and Crofton Hall is just as intriguing in her own right.

Q.  How far are we in the timeline from the original story?

RC: Saving Crofton Hall is set in modern-day England, with Benjamin Redbourn as the 16th Earl of Crofton. Making it just over 400 years after the original series.

Q.  At the end of the third story, we saw how it all worked out for our original lovers, Sebastian and Anthony, where do these relatives come into the story?

RC: I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let’s just say it wasn’t just Crofton Hall I couldn’t let go of completely.

Q.  Historical romance can be a tricky genre to write in, especially when the author is setting her stories in several different eras.  Do you have a favorite time period to write in?  Or several?  What about those eras pulls to you set your stories and character within their cultural framework?

RC:  I love the Tudor and Stuart periods, so it’s unsurprising I set The Crofton Chronicles during the Elizabethan era. The political intrigue of the Elizabethan court and the Golden Age have always fascinated me, and characters of the time are so vibrant. The Tudors were utter bastards as monarchs, and Elizabeth I’s courtiers had to walk a fine line to keep in her good books. The gap between rich and poor was even wider than now, and social hierarchy was strict and unbending. Add in William Shakespeare, and there is no other period of history that can compare for me.

Q.  Will there be more Crofton stories  ahead?  Are you thinking of doing more modern times stories?

RC:  Saving Crofton Hall is the first in the Stately Passions series, where Crofton Hall will be the backdrop to a number of different couples and their romances. There’s still plenty to learn about the Redbourn family, and Ben and Ashley will be about in the background, but will see a different side to Crofton Hall, including below stairs.

Q.  From Manderly to Pemberly, there are many famous estates in literature. I loved  Anthony and Sebastian, and Crofton Hall, so much a third character in their stories.  Is there a Hall or Manor you have visited in England that acts as a  standin for Crofton Halls and is it open to the public?

 RC:   Crofton Hall is based on three different stately homes all open to the public: Harvington Hall, Sudbury House, and Hatfield house. Of these only Harvington Hall was built during the period of The Crofton Chronicles but Hatfield House is the basis for the Crofton Hall of today, with it gorgeous state rooms and beautiful grounds. It’s even in Hertfordshire, where Saving Crofton Hall is set.

Q.  Favorite story from your childhood that has impacted you as an adult and as a writer?  Or perhaps it’s an author as well?

RC:  I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Paddington Bear and I had a lovely book of Eastern European fairy tales. Basically I had a real passion for reading and I still do. I think my love of books in general inspired me to write, all the new worlds and fantastic tales ignited my imagination. It’s something I hope to pass on to my son, and I’m discovering so many new children’s books through him. The Gruffalo anyone?

Q.  What would be your favorite romantic hero from literature?  Or how about romantic poet?

RC:  Although not the lead ‘hero’ I adore Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing and I also loved Dartanian from The Three Musketeers. I love the poem Fire and Ice by Edmund Spenser (so much I used in The Actor and the Earl).

Q. What’s next for Rebecca Cohen?

RC:  I’ve a Sci Fi novel about a novice planet builder who is reunited with his lost love going through submission, so keeping my fingers crossed for that. On the WIP front, I’m currently working on a novella series based around an amateur dramatics group in London.

STRW:  That’s both surprising and wonderful.  I can’t wait for it to come out.  Now for all the readers out there, a closer look at Crofton Hall and all those who love that dignified lady in Saving Crofton Hall!

Author Bio:
Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Author Contact: Facebook , Twitter

Publisher: Dreamspinner PressSaving Crofton Hall400x600
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Sales Links:  DSP ebook,  DSP paperback   amazon  amazon UK   All Romance

 

Saving Crofton Hall Blurb:

Benjamin Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, has no intention of giving up his beloved ancestral home without a fight. Faced with his mother’s gambling debts, forgery, and the possibility of foreclosure by the bank, Ben vows to make Crofton Hall pay for herself. But opening an Elizabethan manor house to the public isn’t a one man job. With time running out, Ben needs help—and fast.

Ashley Niven has experience managing events, and he also loves history. Being in charge of opening Crofton Hall is a dream come true. As he works with Ben to prepare the house as a venue for lavish weddings and receptions, Ashley finds himself drawn not just to the charm of the house but to the dashing Earl of Crofton. Even if Ashley can look past Ben’s playboy reputation, he fears an affair could prove too much of a distraction.

But Crofton Hall has many secrets, and something hidden for over four hundred years is about to change all their lives.

Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

Saving Crofton Hall Excerpt:

“How much?”

She wouldn’t meet his eye.

“Mum!”

“Just short of five million to the bank.”

Ben lost his balance and landed heavily on his arse in a nearby chair.

“How the hell did you manage that? I only agreed to borrow five hundred thousand, and that was for essential repairs, and the estate could easily repay the loan in ten years.”

“I approached the bank with a business case for a visitor attraction.

They were very enthusiastic.”

“What gave you the right?”

“Your father left us both in charge of Crofton Hall, Benjamin,” she said sharply.

He glowered at her and she deflated.

“I needed the money, and the only way I could get it was to tell the bank I wanted to open Crofton Hall to the public.”

“And they agreed to lend the money without my permission?” he asked carefully, hardly believing his mother’s audacity, but getting the feeling he knew what she was going to say next.

“They might have been under the impression that you’d agreed to it, and I was acting on both our behalves.”

“Really. And how would they have thought that?”

“Your signature isn’t exactly hard to copy.”

Ben covered his face with his hands, understanding what his mother had done.

“I know I shouldn’t have, not without your permission, but I was desperate. And the bank thought our business plan was excellent.”

He looked up at her. Elena’s eyes were red from crying, but there was still an edge of defiance in her face. “How much is left?”

She shrugged. “A few thousand, maybe.”

“And you used Crofton Hall as security?”

“Yes.”

The anger flashed through him, burning through his usual amicable nature. “How could you have been so stupid? Were you even thinking past your own selfishness?”

Elena cowered in her seat.

“You’ve ruined us, destroyed this family!”

“I didn’t mean—”

Ben didn’t want to hear her feeble excuses. “Oh, that’s all right, then. We’ll tell the bank, you didn’t mean it, and they’ll forget all about it.”

Ben reined in his anger. Taking deep, slow breaths, he clenched and unclenched his fists as he regained his calm. He watched Catlin pace up and down. Harry stood slumped against the fireplace, shell-shocked. Now was not the time to panic. He needed to know exactly how much trouble they were in and deal with it.

“Get me the paperwork.”

Without argument, Elena jumped to her feet and scurried over to the writing bureau in the corner. From the folds of frills and ruffles of her blouse, she fished out a key on a chain and unlocked the bureau. She drew out a sheaf of paper.

“It’s all here.”

“Right, let’s hope my economics degree wasn’t for nothing.” Ben snatched the papers. “I suggest you all keep your distance until I’ve finished reading.”

He sank into a chair by the unlit fireplace, blocking out the angry thoughts as he scanned sheet after sheet. The figures danced before his eyes, and he saw the terms and conditions his mother had agreed to. The interest, compound interest, and payback terms were listed and categorized in black and white with no way of denying the facts. They were in deep shit, the bank would be at the door within weeks, and Ben seethed internally at his mother’s gall.The effort she’d put into defrauding the bank was amazing, the business case had been full of fine details and promised an excellent return, but little help would that do them now.

Unless….

Ben stared around the sitting room; generations of Redbourns had sat in here. Men who’d fought at Blenheim, Waterloo, and El Alamein —they would never have given in and surrendered Crofton Hall in the face of adversity. And it wasn’t about to happen while Ben was Earl of Crofton either. As much as he wanted to rail against it, their only hope was to
convince the bank they were following through with the idea of opening the house to the public.

“We can probably sell the London apartment. That’ll raise around two million. Our trust funds are protected, so we can’t release the equity from those. If we’ve any hope of holding on to her, Crofton Hall is going have to earn her keep.”

SCHBadgeTour Date/Stops:

November 17: Amanda C. Stone, Hearts on Fire
November 18: My Fiction Nook, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Multitasking Mommas
November 19: Inked Rainbow Reads, Velvet Panic, Fallen Angel Reviews
November 20: 3 Chicks After Dark, Cathy Brockman Romances
November 21: Prism Book Alliance, Love Bytes
November 24: MM Good Book Reviews, Cate Ashwood
November 25: Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, Michael Mandrake
November 26: Nephylim, BFD Book Blog
November 27: The Novel Approach, Queer Town Abbey
November 28: Parker Williams, Full Moon Dreaming , Crystal’s Many Reviewers

Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-book of Saving Crofton Hall. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Use the
Rafflecopter Code below for the entry form and for all additional contest details:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Forever Hold His Peace (The Crofton Chronicles #3) by Rebecca Cohen

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up to 5)

Forever Hold His Peace coverAnthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton,and Sebastian Hewell have found happiness and love with each other during the perilous era of Queen Elizabeth.  A marriage born out of politics and deception, Sebastian has to play the role of his twin sister, Bronwyn, as the wife of the  Earl in order for them to be together.   Just as they had adjusted to their married state and become a family than another threat arrives at Crofton Hall.  Someone has started to spread rumors that Lady “Bronwyn” is a witch who used her powers to ensnare her rich husband.  As the rumors gather momentum, small herbs and items used in witchcraft are planted to make sure that Bronwyn/Sebastian is investigated by the Sheriff.  Such an accusation would ensure that Anthony and Sebastian’s deception would be uncovered when the Sheriff arrives to take “Bronwyn” off to jail, destroying them both.

While Anthony and Sebastian try to figure out who is behind the plot against them, they decide that they have no other course but to “lay Bronwyn to rest” sooner than they had anticipated.  But first they have to delay the Sheriff’s investigation while beginning their own, and all the while planning Bronwyn’s final illness and funeral.  With so much at stake, including their heads, will they be able to find a way to stay together long after “Lady Bronwyn” has been laid to rest?

The first two stories in the Crofton Chronicles were wonderful, somewhat frothy fare that I throughly enjoyed.  Rebecca Cohen put her two main characters through a romantic romp while staying true to the period and the perilous politics found at Queen Elizabeth’s court. In The Actor and the Earl and  Duty to the Crown, we have gotten to know and love actor Sebastian Hewell and the Earl of Crofton, Anthony Redbourne. First as their planned marriage was designed by court politics and Sebastian’s uncle. Sebastian’s decision to impersonate his identical twin sister, Bronwyn, was born out of desperation when she decided to elope with her blacksmith love.  Astonishingly, Sebastian’s deception was met with delight by Anthony whose proclivities for men had to remain hidden.  Their subsequent marriage and love surprised them both with its happiness and success while delighting us with all the obstacles and adjustments that had to be made by both men and the few staff in on the switch.  From the wigs and corsets that plagued Sebastian to the gossips and maneuverings at court, all the details Cohen included just added depth and authenticity that was remarkable as it was subtle.

From the beginning of the Crofton Chronicles, Rebecca Cohen crafted a lively, entertaining romance that spread across two years. And while she was entertaining us with their lusty antics, jealous stages, and finally love, she was also educating, however gently, about the reign of  Queen Elizabeth the First and the politics of that era.  Court intrigue was only as far away as a pot of vermilion or ceruse, face paint favored by the Queen and demanded at court.   The court and social intrigue seen was due to Anthony’s title and status as a Queen favorite.  But the reader is also steeped in stage  and plays of William Shakespeare as well as the construction of the Globe Theatre because of Sebastian’s profession as an actor.  We are lucky to get both of their worlds and everything in between.  It brought these stories to life just as assuredly it did Cohen’s characters.  I loved all the minutiae and atmosphere as much as I did the characters.  It never felt overdone. Instead it came across as an intelligent, marvelous bit of staging.

But unlike the first two novels, Forever Hold His Peace concerns the dissolution of a marriage through a “death” instead of two men in love adjusting to their union and deception.  The first two were fun, and while danger was never far away, the romance and happiness were at the center.  Not so here.  Forever Hold His Peace is a much darker, sadder story.  As it has to be.  Sebastian and Anthony’s deception was never expected to last and always present was the idea that “Bronwyn” came with a time limitation.  So their happiness was always a fragile thing.  Now, someone has maneuvered Sebastian and Anthony into killing off Bronwyn sooner then they had anticipated.  The plot that forces their hand is a ruthless and potentially deadly one.   Rebecca Cohen’s knowledge of that era is displayed in the references to the herbal plants and roots that also have “witchcraft” overtones, like the mandrake.  The very idea of witchcraft was taken seriously and the end result for the person identified as a witch was horrific.

There are so many plot threads at work here.  The plan to force Anthony and Sebastian to get rid of Bronwyn, their investigation, and Bronwyn’s death.  And finally Anthony’s revenge on the person behind it all.  And overlaying it all, is the sadness and uncertainty of Sebastian and Anthony at their changing relationship and new status.  I was surprised by how much this upset me even though I knew it was coming.  From Sebastian’s maid/substitute mother Miriam saying goodbye to the idea of young William losing one more mother, I admit to weeping more than a few tears.  But what really put me over the edge was the Epilogue.

Epilogues tend to be hit or miss with me.  Either they miss the point of an epilogue entirely or they go too far.  I am still trying to decide about the epilogue here.  Part of me wants to think it went too far into the future giving me more than I wanted to know and another side of me is content to see how it all played out.  I’m still thinking about it so I guess it did its job and then some.

Some elements here felt a tad long, such as intricacies of Anthony’s revenge plot and its resolution. It managed to reveal the opposition to Queen Elizabeth and the plots against her  while discussing some of the issues that came from having a “virgin” Queen. I’m not sure it needed all that but enjoyed the information anyway. Still, Forever Hold His Peace is my favorite story of the series, for all its sadness and weight or maybe because of it.   The characterizations felt deeper and more layered, perhaps because of the seriousness of the issues they were dealing with.  Even Sebastian’s real sister Bronwyn came across more fully realized than ever before.  The threat of death will do that.   There is room to add to the Crofton Chronicles here as a new heir apparent appears at the end with all of Anthony’s appreciation of men intact.  I would love to see Rebecca Cohen continue with the Croftons to see where it may take them, perhaps to the New World and beyond.

Whether that happens or not, I absolutely recommend The Crofton Chronicles to all lovers of m/m romance and m/m historical fiction.  Read all the books in the order that they were written to see the romance begin, mature, and perhaps even end in a way.  I loved these stories and think you will too.  I’m still thinking about them, Anthony and Sebastian.  So what does that tell you?  They are a most memorable couple.  Make your introduction to them today.

 Book Details:

book, 200 pages
Published June 16th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 15th 2014)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5090&cPath=55_462
seriesThe Crofton Chronicles #3

Cover art by Anne Cain.  My favorite cover of the three stories, love the models and the emotion conveyed. Lovely.

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press         Amazon              ARe

Books in The Crofton Chronicles:

The Actor and the Earl (The Actor and the Earl #1)
Duty to the Crown (The Actor and the Earl #2)
Forever Hold His Peace  (The Crofton Chronicles #3)

Review: Duty to the Crown (The Crofton Chronicles #2) by Rebecca Cohen

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Duty to the Crown coverAnthony Redbourne and Sebastian Hewel, in the role of Lady Bronwyn, wife of the Earl of Crofton, are still new to their marriage and arrangement of deceit.  Madly in love with one another, Sebastian and Anthony are still adjusting to married life while making sure that their deception is kept carefully hidden or both will loose their heads. They would prefer to stay at Anthony’s country estate but orders from the Queen cannot be ignored as Queen Elizabeth requires Anthony’s assistance with a threat to the Crown.

The Queen wants Anthony to seduce Marie Valois, the beautiful daughter of a French noble who is wanted by the King of France as well as Queen Elizabeth.  Just the idea of Anthony courting and perhaps even bedding another breaks Sebastian’s heart.  Most perplexing of all, Anthony doesn’t seem to understand just how painful it would be for Sebastian to watch Anthony flirt and  wait on another.  However, Fate has someting else in store for all.  When Marie’s brother, the hot headed and handsome Nicholas, arrives at Crofton Hall, to protect his sister from the scandalous advances of Lord Redbourne, it’s Anthony who’s upset when Nicholas starts to court  Lady “Bronwyn” under his very nose.

As the plans and games shift,  Anthony soon realizes that his old ways could cost him everything he loves.  As the danger of exposure mounts, something worse lurks at the edges of court politics and family pride, especially when Sebastian’s uncle returns to the scene with his own demands.  Will Anthony and Sebastian keep their marriage and deception safe or will duty to the crown bring everything tumbling down around them.

A sequel to The Actor and The Earl, Duty to the Crown continues the mad historical romp and romance between Lord Anthony Redbourne. Earl of Crofton and Sebastian Hewell, now married to the Earl as Lady Bronwyn while still pretending to be her twin brother Sebastian as well.  Newly wed, Anthony and Sebastian are juggling their new status while trying to keep their deception a secret from the Queen and court.  Rebecca Cohen manages to combine historical accuracy and an imaginary duplicitous romance in an entertaining and totally enjoyable tale of royalty and love.

As with the first story in the series, Cohen brings the facts of life in Queen Elizabeth era to life in all its malodorous, intrigue centric, white faced glory.  From the odors of a sweltering London in the summer to the high politics and intrigue of Queen Elizabeth’s court, Cohen’s characters and settings are so vividly described that one almost flinches at the thought of walking in these character’s shoes during that time period.  With faces covered in white (ceruse) and topped off with vermilion, the sea of chalky faces, high odor, and lacy garments must have been quite a sight and smell to behold.  No heads could said to be safely sitting on their shoulders, as the Tower and the Queen’s whim were a deadly combination.  The court itself was a gossipy, envious sea of people jockeying for position and favor, where the wealthy tread carefully while sniping at each other.  Cohen does a beautiful job here with her locations and settings as all come across as authentic and believable.

Into this maelstrom of gamesmanship and politics, Cohen plops poor Sebastian, now Lady Bronwyn, who is unequipped and new to the court’s intrigue and gossip, especially where it concerns his husband’s past ways and his own “plain” appearance.  Cohen quickly builds on Sebastian’s insecurities and fear as the snide comments and glares get to Sebastian while at court.  From the scenes and dialog, the ease and safety that Anthony and Sebastian find being cocooned at Crofton Hall is dispensed with once they head to London with all its peril and dangers.  The contrast between the country and the city are remarkable just as it must have been at that time.

The romance and love affair that started in The Actor and the Earl is deepening here.  Cohen brings Anthony’s young son into the relationship with heartwarming accuracy to the times.  The interaction between “Lady Bronwyn”, Anthony, and William is a delight and it makes this family unit even more precious and endearing.   And fragile.   Because despite all the wonderful, loving scenes between Sebastian and Anthony, and his son, the reader has the knowledge in the back of their mind that all this could be taken away instantly with one terrible discovery.  The tenuousness of the arrangement and the danger inherent in the deception is a constant factor throughout the story, made more so by demands from Sebastian’s uncle and a determined suitor from France.

Anthony becomes a more accessible character here as he continues to grow and reflect on his past.  More changes are in store for the people we have met in the previous story as well.  If there is a drawback here in Duty to the Crown, it is that you must read the first story in order to understand all the events and circumstances that lead up to Sebastian and Anthony’s deception and marriage.  There is a lack of back history to this sequel that might confuse a first time reader.  That said, I feel that Duty to the Crown builds beautifully on The Actor and the Earl, deepening the relationship and romance between the main characters while adding more history and flavor to the time and setting.  I loved this story and am moving on to the third in the trilogy, Forever Hold His Peace (The Crofton Chronicles #3).

Need a new romance?  Love historical novels? Consider this story, Duty to the Crown, and The Actor and the Earl highly recommended.  Grab them both up now and start your adventure now.

Cover art: Anne Cain.  Lovely but I wish there was a bit more about the design that reflected the times and clothing.

Books in the Crofton Chronicles include:

The Actor and the Earl (The Actor and the Earl #1)
Duty to the Crown (The Actor and the Earl #2)
Forever Hold His Peace (The Actor and the Earl #3)

Buy Links: DSP    Amazon     ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published March 4th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623803691 (ISBN13: 9781623803698)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3637
seriesThe Crofton Chronicles #2

Review: The Actor and the Earl (The Crofton Chronicles #1) by Rebecca Cohen

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Actor and the Earl coverWhen Elizabethan actor Sebastian Hewel’s twin sister Bronwyn elopes unexpectedly, it leaves him and his uncle in a huge mess.  His uncle had accepted money from the Earl of Crofton for her hand in marriage.  That money was to pay off Sebastian’s father’s debt to his uncle.  Now with one shocking action, everything his uncle had arranged was in jeopardy and that was money that the poor actor had no way of paying back.  His cousin’s solution?  For Sebastian to take his sister’s place at meeting between the Earl and Bronwyn prior to the wedding to give them time to find Bronwyn and bring her back.

For Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, a marriage is just the thing he needs to quiet the voices at court about his “peculiarities” , sexual appetites that could cost him his head.  Queen Elizabeth will only approve of marriages to families whose loyalty to her is unquestionable.  The Hewels are just such a family and the marriage to Bronwyn is the perfect solution.

At the meeting between “Bronwyn” and Anthony nothing goes as planned.  Sebastian finds the Earl not only handsome but shrewdly intelligent as Anthony guesses at the real identity behind the skirts.  But instead of anger and outrage, the Earl applauds the deception and suggests an arrangement.  Sebastian will marry the Earl and play the part of his sister for a year.  And if the arrangement includes the benefits of a marriage bed for both, even better given their proclivities and the lethal consequences should they be found out.

Sebastian is warned by those in the know not to fall for the Earl because of his inability to remain satisfied by one partner.  But what happens when the heart isn’t listening and Sebastian finds himself falling in love for the first and only time in his life.

I always approach a historical fiction story with trepidation.  Why?  Because quite a few authors I have read forget the first rule of historical fiction is an accurate setting and an attention to detail. Historical fiction of any type is, in my opinion, one of the hardest genres to write.  Not only does the author have the usual elements to create and incorporate, such as plot, characters, and setting, but in addition the historical aspect of any work must include an authenticity of that era to make it believable.  To render a historical story authentic an author should pay particular attention to details such as the type of clothes worn, laws and societal norms, art, music, architecture, and yes, even dialog.  To get it right means research, research, and more research.   You would be amazed how often that doesn’t happen.   Alexander Bell’s invention of the telephone is put in the wrong year. Dates are mixed up along with royal families, scandals, and types of dress.  And when that happens and is spotted, then it almost always ruins the story as time is spent searching for more errors than is spent involved in the plot and characters with the reader thinking…”well, if they got that (fill in the blank) wrong, what else will I find…”

Why do I point all this out?  Because Rebecca Cohen gets it right in The Actor and the Earl.   And I can’t begin to tell you how much that increased my enjoyment of this already entertaining tale.  Some of the historically accurate highlights were the mention of premier pamphleteer  Thomas Nashe’s The Choice of Valentines and Philip Sydney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. The Globe is almost finished construction, and Queen Elizabeth holds court with a face painted white using ceruse and vermillion for the lips and cheeks. Cohen slides these facts into her story with a subtly I appreciated and in a manner that helps to set the time frame for her story.  I love it when authors get it right without making it seem like an information dump.  Great job.

So with her background and setting firmly in place, Rebecca Cohen then goes on to give the reader some wonderful characters to follow and root for.  First off is 20 year struggling actor Sebastian Hewell.  Sebastian rebelled against his uncle’s plans for him after his father perished and left him with debts.  Sebastian has worked for years as an actor but at his age, romantic roles (the female ones) are getting scarce.  I fell in love with Sebastian in the back dressing room of the theater where he was working.  He feels young, ruefully aware of his waning future and still determined to do it on his own.  Such vulnerability in Sebastian works to pull in the reader’s affections and keep us engaged throughout the story.

Another astonishing twist is his sister, Bronwyn.  In most stories, Bronwyn would be slender, gorgeous, and extremely feminine,  Not so here.  Bronwyn is plainfaced (as is Sebastian supposedly), straightforward, blunt, a true force of nature.  I loved her.  The scenes with her, Sebastian and Anthony were priceless, especially when she is putting the Earl in his place with a “fat assed pig” bit of name calling.  Did I want more of Bronwyn?  Why, yes I did!

Anthony Redbourn was a character that left more questions in my mind then I felt the story answered.  There were hints of a special role he played for Queen Elizabeth that never came forward.  Is Anthony a spy perhaps?  We don’t know, only that he is favored at court and on call for the Queen at her whim.  I loved the accurate picture Cohen paints of London at that time.  Smelly and rank, especially in the summer, people fled to their country estates to escape the heat and the odors that overpower you in the city.  It came across as just as unpleasant as it probably was, especially for the women who had to travel by coach.   The Earl’s estate is beautifully described along with the dinners served, which made me sort of queasy. Ah, the picky tastes of the modern person.  Still for all the authenticity framing the character, it was the character himself that was a little lacking.  A man in his 30’s, arrogant and confident, his switchover to impulsive and jealous felt surprising.

I wish we had more of a romance between Sebastian and Anthony, although the sex was plentiful.  I believed in them as a couple and just wished for a little more of a foundation to base their love on then the brief interludes we got.  There are also some elements here sure to upset those readers who like their pairings chaste and of the “cleaving only to each other” type.  Anthony is a “womanizer” and a flirt, that’s not going to change overnight and doesn’t.  There are some holes in the plot with questions about how gullible the upper classes would be with Bronwyn and Sebastian switching in and out of their role. But those were my only quibbles and my enjoyment in this lighthearted historical romp didn’t falter because of them.

There are already three stories in this series to date.  I have listed all below.  I am already on to the next one to see how Sebastian and Anthony are faring and will let you know how that works out.  In the meantime, if you want a pleasurable, accurate historical romance, then The Actor and the Earl just might be the story for you.  Don’t expect a lot of drama or mystery, perhaps that’s coming next.  This is the beginning of a romance….let’s see where Rebecca Cohen will take us next.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  Cain’s cover is a wonderful representation of the story.  Sebastian’s looking pretty good in both genders.

Buy Link:  Dreamspinner Press     ARe         Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 206 pages
Published November 30th 2012 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 2012)
original titleThe Actor and the Earl
ISBN 1623801516 (ISBN13: 9781623801519)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3429
seriesThe Crofton Chronicles #1

Books in The Crofton Chronicles Series are in the order they were written and should be read:

The Actor and the Earl (The Actor and the Earl #1)
Duty to the Crown (The Actor and the Earl #2)
Forever Hold His Peace (The Actor and the Earl #3)