“Together in our house, in the firelight, we are the world made small.” ― Jennifer Donnelly
Everett Gerard is not what anyone might describe as paternal. In fact, the words used to describe Gerard run more along the lines of libertine, gadabout, and then, of course, there’s always his unnatural appetites he must keep secreted away from London society.
Gerard has made a life out of travelling the continent and appeasing those appetites with various like-minded men. He’s not at all interested in the quiet, gentrified country life to which he was born, even though his familial estate is still there, slowly falling into a state of disrepair from his negligence. The abbey is not a place to which Gerard plans to return. Ever. It’s a place that holds too many horrific memories, ones Gerard has spent his lifetime trying to run from, so why ever would he want to go back?
Well, it turns out there’s one very compelling thing that could lure Gerard back to his ancestral home, and that would be a letter from his bailiff, Miles Kenway, informing Gerard that his bastard child has just shown up looking for his father after his mother’s death.
Miles isn’t particularly fond of the abbey’s master. He’s heard the rumors and the outright truths about Gerard’s exploits, not to mention experiencing firsthand Gerard’s apathy toward anything that even remotely resembles the estate’s business and upkeep. His opinion of Gerard couldn’t be much lower, and Miles doesn’t hesitate to let his master know where he’s lacking, in spite of the fact it may cost him his position. For Miles, what’s most important is to get Gerard to the abbey to take over the managing of not only the estate but his son as well.
Young Ipsial Gerard is little more than a feral child who’s been forced to live hand-to-mouth his entire life, caring for his mother in whatever way he could, which usually involved a lot of thievery and very little in the way of mothering. A firm hand and a father’s guidance is what the boy needs, and Miles means to ensure Gerard upholds his end of the bargain.
The Gentleman’s Keeper is a Victorian era romance constructed around the building of a family, both in those to whom you want to belong and those you want so much to belong to you. As Miles and Gerard work together to pull Ipsial into some semblance of civility, one bribe at a time, they also grow to love each other despite some of their misperceptions of each other in the beginning.
There are a few things to like about this book—the storytelling is briskly paced and the language is spot-on, immersing the reader into the thick of the historical setting. I grew to like Gerard and Miles and loved the way they found a common bond beyond their attraction to each other, wrapped up in a boy who they both cared very much for.
There was, of course, an antagonist in the story, as well, one who felt a little underutilized and too easily overcome, but he served his purpose in helping the story move toward its happy ending. The one thing, however, that kept me from truly loving this book, even with its strengths, was the development of the relationships between Gerard and Miles, Gerard and Ispial, and Miles and Ispial. I try not to dwell so much on the show vs. tell argument, but there are times that it’s just critical to the building of believable relationships for me, and I felt there was some show-me missing from this story that, in the end, made it a pleasant read, a very heartwarming tale, but didn’t set me over the edge into a place where I was emotionally invested in the relationship between Gerard and Miles as much as I was glad that Ipsial had finally found a home.
Reviewed by: Lisa