15 March 2016

The Actor and the Earl by Rebecca Cohen

Hey everyone,

I’d been eyeing up The Actor and The Earl by Rebecca Cohen on Amazon and Goodreads for quite a while and finally brought it last weekend. I was intrigued by an M/M novel where the two heroes are married in Elizabethan times.

The book:
Elizabethan actor Sebastian Hewel takes his bow at the proscenium only to embark on the role of a lifetime. When his twin sister, Bronwyn, reneges on the arrangement to marry Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, Sebastian reluctantly takes her place. At nineteen, Sebastian knows his days as a leading lady are numbered, but with this last performance, he hopes to restore his family’s name and pay off his late father’s debts. Never mind the danger of losing his head should he be discovered.

He didn’t expect Anthony to be so charming and alluring—not to mention shrewd. While he applauds Sebastian’s plan, Anthony offers a mutually beneficial arrangement instead. Sebastian will need every drop of talent he has to survive with both his head and his heart intact, because this is the best part he’s ever had.

My thoughts:

Before beginning this review I would like to repeat what Dreamspinner have already about the Timeless Dreams range: 'these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma'. Because of this I will not be judging The Actor and the Earl on its historical accuracy. This M/M romance tells the story of Sebastian and Anthony, who meet when Sebastian’s twin sister elopes with someone else while engaged to Anthony.

Your errant twin sister has reneged on an agreement she made with my father and has run off to Kent with Jeremiah, the blacksmith’s son.

Despite Sebastian’s acting career, where he mainly played female parts, Anthony notices straight away that his intended bride is actually an intended groom. Luckily for both of them having a groom who can pass as bride might just be the perfect situation. The whole reason Anthony wanted to get married is because he needed to quell certain rumours about his sexual preference. Similarly Sebastian, despite having very little experience, has always favoured his own sex, so agrees to Anthony’s proposal. They agree to have a 'true' marriage for a year and then Bronwyn will unfortunately die of some disease.

Your greatest performance, Mr. Hewel. Fool the court and polite society in an extravagant wedding, then retire to my country housee to be my beloved wife for perhaps a year or two.

Yet soon Sebastian is falling for his husband. His husband who famously sleeps around and never falls for anyone. Surely its hopeless? After all Sebastian is nowhere near as worldly, handsome or as experienced as Anthony. Also Anthony’s closest friend hates him. Sebastian’s self-doubt and Anthony’s reluctance to commit fully to their relationship becomes the main obsactles for Anthony’s and Sebastian’s HEA. Well that and the constant lying and sneaking around so that no suspects that Bronwyn isn’t actually who she claims to be.

What I don’t understand is, if you wanted to marry a woman, why didn’t you just marry the ever-so-willing Lady Eleanor instead of dragging my family into your games?

Although I enjoyed The Actor and the Earl it just didn’t live up to my expectations. Everything felt a little superficial and rushed. I struggled to see the connection between Sebastian and Anthony until the very end of the novel; which is a HFN ending as this is the first in a trilogy. I felt like Rebecca Cohen told the reader about Sebastian and Anthony’s relationship rather than letting the reader discover and learn about it themselves. From what I saw they were either fighting or having sex. They never actually connected in my opinion.

I will speak plainly, Mr. Hewel. I find it despicable that a man should engage his brother-in-law in carnal acts, additionally so when his sister is taken ill.

Overall I enjoyed reading The Actor and the Earl and have awarded it three stars, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the trilogy. I just didn’t become invested in the characters or the relationship. Perhaps I would have liked The Actor and the Earl more if it had focused on the development of the characters and their relationship. instead it felt like the focus of the novel was on Sebastian’s true entity not being discovered.

My rating:
Happy reading and see you next time!