The Vicar and the Rake (Society of Beasts #1)

The Vicar and the Rake (Society of Beasts #1) 
Author: Annabelle Greene 
Publisher: Carina Press 
Release Date: October 12, 2020 
Genre(s): M/M Regency Romance 
Page Count: 274 
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 

This is author Annabelle Greene's debut novel and it is a well-written Regency-style M/M romance, which is completely in my wheelhouse.  And from page one, I was hopelessly drawn in: 

Gabriel hadn't planned on dying young, especially on such a fine April evening. He also hadn't planned on dying outdoors - but as he lifted his hand to his forehead, finding it slick with sweat, a violent dizziness overcame him.

Death was coming, apparently on a very fast horse, to the opulent grounds of Hardcote House. Right to this particular flowerbed swimming in front of his eyes.

Lord Edward Stanhope - nicknamed "Scandal" by the ton - and Sir Gabriel Winters - chaste, hardworking vicar - were boyhood friends but haven't seen each other in over 10 years.  

A life of sin had been good to Edward. The skinny, fine-boned adolescent he remembered had grown into a tall, lithely muscled man who whispered dangerous elegance from head to foot.

After a huge scandal in London - a hangable offense involving being caught in flagrante delicto in a stable with the Duke of Sussex's eldest son -  Edward and his brother Maurice have returned to Hardcote to figure out their next move.  The Duke of Sussex cannot be bribed and is determined to run Edward aground and kill him.  Gabriel's sister Caroline, Edward's man Bryce, along with Edward's friends gather to protect Edward and plan a way out of this untenable situation.

The author has a gift for beautifully fleshing out characters and crafting their internal dialogues and we get Edward and Gabriel's POV throughout.  Their love story is incredibly steamy, very poignant as Edward comes to terms with his childhood, and ultimately pretty wonderful. 

The middle of the book lagged just a bit, and the final resolution seemed a bit too tidy and the timeline was wonky, but overall, I loved this book, the sizzling love story between Edward and Gabriel, the unlikely relationship developing between Maurice and Caroline, and the promise of getting the fascinating backgrounds of Captain Benjamin Frakes (featured in "Soldier and the Spy" the next book in the series) as well as Hartley.  

Annabelle Greene is one great writer and I can't wait to read more of her Society of Beasts series!  4.5 stars. 

I received an ARC from the Publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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