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Fangirl Friday: The Crofton Chronicles, by Rebecca Cohen

This was one of the first ‘historical’ MM series that I read and I loved it right from the start. I was offered the bundle to review for Divine Magazine, and have never regretted it since then. I actually loved them so much that I went and bought the paperback copies and have re-read them since my first read. There’s something about the central characters, Sebastian and Anthony, and their chemistry with each other that really speaks to me.

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When his sister reneges on her engagement to Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, actor Sebastian Hewel must play his most difficult role yet: impersonating his sister in order to restore the family name and pay off his father’s debt, in The Actor and the Earl. But Anthony is shrewder than the siblings had guessed, and now Sebastian and Anthony have to decide how far they’re willing to play this part.

In Duty to the Crown, Sebastian is happily playing the part of his sister Bronwyn, wife to the Earl of Redbourn, when the Queen asks Anthony to seduce Marie Valois to find out information about her father. With Marie and her brother, Lord Nicholas, both interested in seducing Sebastian, Anthony and Sebastian both have delicate roles to play if they’re to keep their secret.

In Forever Hold His Peace, Sebastian’s role as “Bronwyn” becomes more precarious when she is accused of witchcraft with planted evidence. Together, Anthony and Sebastian must decide if it’s time for Bronwyn to retire her place to protect their love.

Over four centuries later, in Saving Crofton Hall, the current Earl of Crofton, Benjamin Redbourn, is not going to lose Crofton Hall without a fight. Ashley Niven is the perfect man to help make Crofton Hall pay for itself, if Benjamin and Ashley can get past their attraction to each other, and if the secrets that the house is hiding doesn’t destroy them first.

A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

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Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

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I’m a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, I have left London behind and now live with my husband and toddler son in Basel, Switzerland. I can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Feel free to drop in at my blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.com/blog/

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** Warnings: cross-dressing, light bondage, role play, kidnapping, attempted rape, homophobia**

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The Crofton Chronicles lead us through the story of Sebastian Hewel, an actor who is convinced to play the part of his sister, Bronwyn, after she absconds from an arranged marriage to Lord Crofton. However, after seeing Sebastian in a play, Anthony Crofton isn’t fooled by the switch and they come to an agreement. One that can be dangerous to their very lives but also their hearts. It ends with a contemporary story set 400 years later, showing Anthony’s descendants.

Now, I’ll admit that I’ve had this for review for a long time. Between work and life, I’ve always had to put it aside to do something else and it didn’t bother me so much because I hadn’t read the author before, I was intrigued by the plot but I’m not a historical reader, by nature, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m also a binge reader, so I wanted to be able to read all of the books in a row, without having to pause in between to read something else.

I should have read it sooner.

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OVERALL

Often when you have a series, the first book is fantastic and then the others slowly dwindle in interest or the first takes too long to introduce the characters, spending too much time letting us know them, and doesn’t have an interesting story while it takes either book two or three to pick up the reader’s interest. This series doesn’t do that. Right from page one of book one I knew I’d love it. And I was right to believe that, because it proved to be true.

There are slight editing issues throughout, but nothing that impeded my enjoyment of the story, so I chose not to let it impact my rating of the bundle or the individual stories. The main issue was a missing word here or there, that was usually so small that it wasn’t missed much and the meaning of the sentence was still clear, or an extra or repeated word.

I found it a little strange that William never spoke until book 3, by which time he spoke in perfect sentences. Yet, in book 2, he was grunting to get his point across, despite only being one year younger. There’s no explanation of him being incapable of speaking or just being lazy by not using his words, which is a little odd, but I figure it’s a small thing and I overlooked it, because William was such a minor character.

I particularly loved the way that Sebastian was treated by those socially engaged with Anthony, how some looked down on him because they thought him too plain for a wife of a philanderer, while some thought it a perfect match because Sebastian’s family are known for their loyalty to the Queen. Yet, at the same time, there was this constant feeling of Sebastian being judged, the worry that Anthony might find more interest elsewhere and the concern of being caught and the consequences, should that happen. There was never a moment where drama wasn’t present, but I loved that there were such varying degrees of drama and for all kinds of reasons. Even the worry that Anthony’s son might not take to him was really well written and handled.

The historical accuracy was incredible. Not only through the clothing, style and the social engagements required of someone close to the Court, but in the concern over a gay relationship, the slightly skeezy bars and gambling halls that kept a tight lip about whatever went on inside, even Sebastian being mistaken for a prostitute was so well handled and historically accurate. There wasn’t one single detail that wasn’t properly explored and thought through.

There were strong LGBT members throughout all stories; bisexual, gay, straight, lesbian, poly. They were all represented in both the historical novels and the modern, which was great to see.

There is one other thing I have to mention and it’s not a negative or a positive, so I didn’t let it influence my rating. I had a weird sense of deja-vu multiple times throughout the story, as the plot is quite similar in style and theme to two other books I’ve read. The prospect of a man pretending to be a woman was similar to one of the Chronicles of Tournai fantasy novels, by Antonia Aquilante. And the Edward incident, with the manor house and such, reminded me of Victoria Sue’s Innocent Auction. There was also a hint of Rowan McAllister’s Historical Greatest Hints Bundle, in places. HOWEVER, the similarities didn’t diminish my love of this book or the others, but if you loved this one, you’ll love the others and vice versa.

For me, the modern story at the end was the let down and the weakest of the bunch. If only it could have ended at book 3, with a separate bundle for the contemporary stories, it would have been perfect.

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