A Fashionable Indulgence

A Fashionable Indulgence - K.J. Charles "If you can't be happy, then be something else. Be useful, that would be good. Decorative, if you like. Selfish, if you must. But don't whine about it."

I have always adored historical romances. My love for them started when I was 17 and I found a box of Mills & Boon historicals in our attic, which no one in my house laid claim to (these were in fact my mother’s but she denies it to this day). I found them the week I finished my final exams and spent the next two weeks avoiding humans and devouring each volume of these ownerless classics. Please don’t judge me. These were the first non-educational books that I’d had the pleasure to read in a long time. After that, naïve young ladies in billowing gowns fainting at the feet of rakes became a staple of my reading diet.

Then I discovered M/M.

Then I discovered historical M/M.

Then I discovered KJ Charles.

And now I’ll never be free.

That feeling of hurtling back in time and experiencing an era long gone, convincing yourself that it was all so romantic and how wonderful it would be to have lived back then.

Historical romances don’t often show you the very harsh realities of those times and of course when you are imagining yourself in that era you are unlikely to pop yourself into the correct social class.

Every time I find myself in Merrion Square Park in Dublin I like to wax lyrical about what it must have been like to be a wealthy lady in the early 19th Century who would take herself and her parasol to the park for a stroll. Queue people pouring cold harsh reality all over my daydreams…

- ‘Ah, wealthy? You’d be lucky if you were a maid and tasked with chaperoning said wealthy lady, but even that is unlikely.’
- ‘A woman? Are you on drugs? Who in their right mind would want to be a woman back then? Wealthy or not.’
- ‘Doubtful you’d have been let past the gate to be honest.’

Granted they are all correct, but can’t a girl dream?

Obviously historicals by their nature contain historical facts, either by imparting on us how people lived or touching on significant events that occurred during that period, but some, such as ‘A Fashionable Indulgence’ are far more educational than others.

A million years ago (it’s actually 13 but it feels a lot more) I was a tour guide in the village where I’m from. There is a fort there that was built and occupied by English forces from the 1500s until 1919. Between that and my general love of history I did like to think that I was doing okay with my history knowledge but as is often the case I was wrong. The bulk of my knowledge is obviously Irish and as most will know, that history, for better or worse, is strongly tied to England. While learning about our history we were taught that the ‘English’ were the enemy who stole our land and beat down our people and as such, they were often vilified as a whole. We didn’t get to see the common man of England in our history books. We learned about the consequences of the Acts of Union and the Famine, both of which took place in the 19th Century. I remember on more than one occasion being absolutely baffled that English people on tours had no idea about the atrocities that occurred in Ireland during the Famine. But thinking on it, why should they? England has its own very vast history. While I was learning about our lack of freedom, it honestly never dawned on me to think about people in the same social classes in England. And now I’m baffled by my own ignorance because the political radicalism that took place in England in the 1800s and most importantly the Peterloo Massacre is brand new information. I’ve spent far too much time on Wikipedia as a result and the things I don’t know still vastly outweigh the things I do. Again reminding me why I love to read.

"The wicked have drawn out the sword, they have cast down the poor and needy and such as be of upright conversation."

Reverse of the Peterloo medal (Psalm 37:14)

Peterloo and the radicals provide the backdrop to this book and Waterloo, much like Wold War I in ‘The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal’ feels like a spectre interwoven throughout.

"I didn't take a single wound in the battle, you know, just cuts and bruises. But I'm as crippled as any veteran."

Both Harry and Julius are flawed individuals. Harry’s life was set on course by the choices his parents made. He does not see himself as a radical and has spent much of his life running and hiding from the ramifications of his parents deeds. When he is given the opportunity to escape this life, he gladly takes the way out. This leads Harry to meet Julius. Fashionable Julius, who is tasked with turning Harry into a gentleman in time for the London Little Season. Julius comes across as frivolous and cold. The cut of a waistcoat far more important than the well-being of the lower classes and for a time this suits Harry well. He is enamoured by Julius and the Ton. He takes great delight in how he dresses and very quickly learns to shed the skin of Harry Gordon and become Harry Vane but after the events of Peterloo, Harry finds it much harder to leave the beliefs engrained upon him behind.

"Pygmalion had an easier task than I. His Galatea was carved from stone. She had no memories, and no past to be cut away."

As Harry begins to realise that he can’t forget every part of his past, Julius too begins a transformation. As I was reading this I thought it was Harry who was changing the most but as the story progressed it became clear that it was Julius. Harry became a gentleman but in the end and with some guidance, he hung on to the things that were important. Julius was so jaded and often times cold. He lived a life of wealth and saw much but yet he experienced little. Julius was broken, he lost a part of himself and once that happened he seemed to just stop living, content with being frivolous and just coasting through life.

Their journey isn’t an easy one but it is a lovely one and an exciting one. Two men who are a little lost and very alone come together and by doing so discover who they really are.

"I find myself whole again because of you. Because you showed me what it was to be happy, when you had reason enough to be as lost in self-pity as I. Because you love me when there was little enough to love. Because you're joyful."

I’m really excited about his series, men from very different social classes in an era that didn’t understand or accept it, finding love together. I see fangirling in my future, I’m pretty sure I’ve already become a KJ Charles fangirl but I think I’m also going to become a ‘Richardian’ one. I envisage t-shirts. The thought of waiting for the next two books is making me twitchy.

Reviewed for Boys in Our Books.

A copy provided for an honest review.