The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books, #1)

 The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books #1)
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Sourcebook Casablanca
Release Date: March 7, 2023
Genre(s): M/M Historical Romance, Mystery/Suspense
Page Count: Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

With the exception of  Band Sinister, I have shamelessly adored every K.J. Charles book. And this book? Ooh, it's so good. After a thought-provoking quote by Adam Smith about smuggling ...
The smuggler; a person who, though no doubt highly blameable for violating the laws of his country, is frequently incapable of violating those of natural justice, and would have been, in every respect, an excellent citizen, had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so.
... we meet the MCs at the Three Ducks a week into a passionate connection after seeing each other across a crowded molly house room (isn't that how the song does?) But when Kent (an alias because of his Kentish heritage) tells London that he is going back home, with promises to return on a regular basis, London nastily shuts him down. 

But never fear, Kent and London meet again on Romney Marsh, located in Kent and with its proximity to the English Channel, a hotbed of smugglers since the 1600's. London's (Gareth) father unexpectedly dies, making him a baronet, Sir Gareth Inglis, master of Tench House. And eventually, Sir Gareth encounters Kent again - who possibly has the greatest name ever - Josiah Doomsday, the crown prince of the Dymchurch Doomsdays, a family of smugglers .... er, Free Traders, with a rich history in the Marsh. 

What ensues is an absolutely engrossing story of the life on the Marsh, how the Doomsday family takes care of those in need, how the ethics of smuggling are muddled at best, and how Josh and Gareth get past their minor problems ("Because you're a smuggler and I'm a baronet, You're Josh Doomsday and I'm outmarsh. I informed against your sister and you blackmailed me in public!) and become everything to each other. 

It's equal parts wildly romantic and terrifying, as various nefarious characters start attacking Gareth and his family, claiming they are owed something - something unnamed but they clearly believe Gareth knows what. The suspense ratchets up, the family intrigue continues, and everything resolves in a helluva dramatic ending, and I would gladly read another few hundred pages about Josh and Gareth.

So, I was overjoyed to learn that the second book in this series, A Nobleman's Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel is in the works. 5 stars and I simply cannot wait to read more about Romney Marsh and its families and characters! 

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

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