Today, I’m reviewing Valentina C. Brin’s Rise of a Nobleman, book one in the Possession series, a dark, m/m historical romance.
Book Title: Rise of a Nobleman
Series: Possession, book #1
Author: Valentina C. Brin
Release Date: June 10, 2019
Genre/s: M/M historical, dark
Trope/s: Forbidden love, master and servant
Blurb: London, 1680. For the young Charles Rochester, Marquess of Bolton and heir to the Duke of Norfolk, desiring another man is unacceptable. His fierce attraction to the new scullery boy must be suffocated at all cost. But it’s not easy to silence your heart when the people who should understand you end up betraying you, and the only one loyal seems to be the one you’re desperately trying to avoid.
But Dorian Pratt knows he’s hopelessly lost the second he first lays eyes on his new master. As a lowly servant, he understands he can never have him, but he can’t stop his body—and heart—from reacting to the dark, handsome nobleman.
When dangerous secrets hidden within the walls of Norfolk Manor come to light, everything collapses. Charles has only one hope for hanging onto Dorian, but to make it work he must be prepared to sacrifice the most valuable gift God has bestowed upon him: his very humanity.
Sins will not be forgiven and there’s always a price to pay when blood is spilled.
Warning: Due to some raw content of a violent nature which some may find upsetting, as well as the depiction of graphic sex between men, Rise of a Nobleman is recommended only for consenting adults.
The blurb says it all, so I’m going to get straight to the review. First, this is a DARK romance. When I say dark, I mean dark. And second, because it’s so dark, and the main character is very dark, I can’t class it as a romance. You may class it as one, but I can’t. But it’s an AWESOME book. Also, quite disturbing. But I loved it anyway. Third, it ends on a cliff-hanger.
The best way to break down this review is in categories.
Characters: First, the two main characters are not heroes. There is nothing heroic about them. I prefer to think of them as the protagonist and the antagonist.
I’ll start with Dorian Pratt, a seventeen-year-old orphan who’s taken from the orphanage run by nuns, and he’s put to work at Bolton Manor, where the Duke of Norfolk, Jonathan Rochester, resides with his wife Constance, his son Charles, and his daughter Emily. Dorian is to serve as a scullery boy.
Upon first seeing Charles Rochester, it’s lust-at-first-sight for Dorian. He’s overwhelmed by his feelings, wrestling with the fact he may be gay (since this is a historical, the word gay isn’t used at the time). The majordomo takes Dorian under his wing, helping him with Dorian’s terrifying feelings for Charles.
Dorian is naïve, loyal, dedicated, clumsy, but very beautiful. He doesn’t wish to desire Charles, but it’s as if Dorian doesn’t have a choice. There is something pulling and drawing him to this very mysterious man, all against Dorian’s will.
Charles Rochester is confused, melancholy, and utterly devoted to his mother. Although he has friends among his peers, I can’t call them friends because Charles lets nobody inside of his head. And he befriends Landon, a duke and nephew of the king. Landon is a very bad influence, and while Charles’ fear of being gay consumes him, pushing him into complete darkness and denial, Landon is plain privileged and wicked.
In some ways Charles reminded me of Tony Montana from the movie Scarface, but a very tortured, lost version of him. He’s not hard like Tony, or ruthless.
Plot: It’s Charles’ denial that drives the plot, and his love for his mother. I won’t call him a “mama’s boy.” He’s not. He’s protective of Constance. His love for her is complete devotion since she is very fragile in mind, brought forth by a secret her husband Jonathan is hiding from her. The author sets this up well for Charles’ forthcoming fall from grace. Well done.
The author also sticks to the times of the church ruling with an iron fist, social place is of the utmost importance, and position is everything. As the heir to a dukedom, Charles must be brave, strong, and adhere to what his future-obligations expect of him. This is well done. Also well done is a servant’s place. There is no suspending disbelief, and I really loved how the author stuck to the time period and social stations.
Charles’ descent into darkness is brilliant, and at times even shocking. Disturbing. There was one moment in the book where I debated whether to continue reading, since it becomes THAT dark. But I pressed on because I promised Gay Book Promotions I’d read and review this book. And I’m glad I pressed on, even though the plot became even more sinister, as did Charles.
Romance: I can’t say there is a “romance” between Charles and Dorian. It’s an obsession, because what happens in the novel is not love, but the need to control and possess, and the desire to be controlled and possessed. This is also very dark, sensual, and even a bit depraved. This was executed wonderfully by the author.
Setting: The setting was worked in brilliantly by the author. She wove this time period and place with the actions, motivations, and eyes of the characters. Brilliant.
Other Characters: There were no cookie-cutter secondary characters in the novel. Each had a purpose and personality. Very impressive. And again, each secondary character drove the plot.
Writing: I loved the author’s style of writing. It was reminiscent of the old-skool romance with 21st century flare. Visceral responses were fresh. Descriptions were fresh. It was wonderful fresh writing.
Summary: All I can say is if you like extremely dark romance, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy at Amazon. You won’t be disappointed. But if dark romance, even a hint of it, makes you squeamish, this book is not for you. As I said, Charles does the unspeakable, and this may leave you disappointed, disgusted, or angry.
Will I read and review the next book? You betcha.
Have you read Rise of a Nobleman? If so, do you agree with my review? If you haven’t read the book yet, would you be willing to? Please remember to always keep comments respectful.