Title: A Private Gentleman (Second Edition)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Genre(s): M/M Historical Romance
Page Count: 388 pages
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Read book blurb here
The blurb for A Private Gentleman checked off so many items on my book wish list. M/M historical? Why, of course. A tortured hero? Another check mark. A prostitute with a dark past? Yes, please! Issues to overcome, such as an opium addiction and a heavy stammer? Don't mind if I do!
In 1844 London, Lord Westin (Wes) has a very heavy stammer and spends his time nurturing his gardens and working with the Botanical Society. Wes needs "a dangerous amount of Doctor Jacob’s wicked little pills mixed in with his usual laudanum" just to get out the door, and in society he's treated like an idiot because of his speech, so being gay as well is just the icing on a not-so-tasty tea cake.
Michael had the best schools his courtesan mother could afford, and dreamed of being a scholar of books, or more practically a lawyer, but due to a devastating loss of innocence, became a whore. After meeting Wes at a society ball and following a sizzling sexual encounter, Michael reverts back to the terror he experienced when he was a child and has issues similar to PTSD.
The majority of the book focuses on these two men as they heal, and as they create the foundation of a life together. At close to 400 pages, the pace of Michael and Wes' relationship was so protracted that I lost interest at times. Yet other matters that would have benefited from a bit more detail (Wes' withdrawal from opium) were rushed over. In addition,
that Wes' father was Michael's sadistic rapist seemed way too coincidental in the grand scheme of things, and while I liked that Michael and Wes had a HEA, it didn't seem to fit the time period to have them happily living together with "a small cache of servants who wouldn’t blink at two men sharing a bed together." Given that homosexuality was punishable by death or deportation at the time, this seemed a bit too ... cavalier with reality.
While the slow pace of the book drove me batty, I liked the premise of the story very much and gave it 3 stars (1.5 stars for pace, and an average of 4 stars otherwise.) YMMV.