Erryn, Wendy, and Dana review ‘The Innocent Auction’ (Innocent Book One) by Victoria Sue. The ebook was self-published December 27, 2015, 278 pages. The audiobook was released June 20, 2017. It is narrated by Joel Leslie and is 6h and 44min.
To read the ebook review of Innocent Auction click here.
Why I chose this book (Erryn) – I adore Joel Leslie, love Victoria Sue, and am always up for a historical romance.
Why I chose this book (Wendy) – I read and reviewed the e-book some time ago. I always like to compare an e-book to the audio version when able.
Why I chose this book (Dana) – This book had been on my wishlist, because I like m/m historical romance. I jumped at the chance to get a review copy.
Their love was a death sentence.
Deacon, Viscount Carlisle, was aware of the slums and gin-lanes of London. Just as he was aware of the underground traffic that furnished the brothels and bath houses with human innocents. He was also aware that the so-called justice system would hang the accused without much of an attempt at a defense, unless the unfortunate had deep pockets to pay for it.
He just hadn’t expected to be directly involved in any of it.
It started with a plea for help and ended with forbidden love, the love between a Viscount and a stable-boy. An impossible love and a guarantee of the hangman’s noose.
Will Deacon fight for Tom? Will he risk the death sentence and take that fight from the stately halls of his English mansion to the horrors of Newgate Prison and the slums of London?
Or will he realize that if he doesn’t, death will be a welcome end to the loneliness of the sentence he is already living?
I’m always hesitant to read gay romances set in the past. I mean, present day couples face enough challenges, but past ones? When being gay was at best banishment to a penal colony or, at worst, death? There are some authors who walk this tightrope brilliantly and I can now add Victoria Sue as one of them. For the entire book she made it clear there would be no happy ending for Tom and Deacon.
And I believed her. Each chapter, each word, brought me closer to what I believed was an inevitable ending that would be tragic. I kept telling myself this was a romance, but I didn’t believe she could pull it off.
When Deacon rescues Tom from The Innocent Auction, he can never have predicted the turn their lives would take. Deacon smuggles Tom from London to the family’s bucolic country estate, and he barely gives the boy another thought until the moment Deacon’s father dies and he inherits the estate. He returns to find a mature Tom and an estate in disrepair. Although he has personal funds, Deacon does not have enough to do all the repairs necessary to bring the estate up to any kind of running order and the entailment ensures he cannot sell the property. Stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place Deacon seeks out the only remedy available to him – marriage to a wealthy young woman.
The attraction between Tom and Deacon is clear, and as much as Deacon recognizes their difference in station, he cannot help how he feels about the young man in his charge. The young man who has reached adulthood, and has grown into a striking man with a big heart. Their coming together is inevitable, their parting likely. Broken heart, anyone?
To layer on the story, Deacon has a cousin who is arrested for the very crime he is committing. Man, talk about a brutal storyline. With visits to Newgate and the eventual trial, my heart was in my throat. I wanted things to end well, but I was also keenly aware of the societal expectations as well as the judicial system made that unlikely.
This book seized me from the beginning and held me in its grasps until the end. The ending that I loved. Of course I have to give a shout out to the incomparable Joel Leslie. He always gives a tremendous performance and this one was no exception. His accent always works, but it’s also the nuance he brings to each character that makes his performances so memorable. Needless to say, I suggest everyone listen to this wonderful story.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
I’ll start with narration. Joel Leslie has a very distinct style and voice that was well suited to this story. He does a great job with accents and dialect (love his Scottish brogue) and I was easily able to envision myself in the time period.
My thoughts on the story changed slightly from when I read it to listening. I found myself quite broken up with the angst that went on in both Deacon and Tom’s lives. I still love these characters and was happy to follow along on their journey as Deacon struggles to save his estate and continue to care and provide for the tenants and servants that live there while fighting to have their own HEA. I still was struck with horror over the lengths that people will go in order to obtain their desires regardless of the cost to others. It still saddened me to know that there was even less compassion for the plight of humanity than there is now. It hurts me to know that love was a crime (and still is in some cases) and that people feel the need to hate (again, still happening although I see more acceptance this last few decades) because of who the heart loves is different than what some think it should be. What changed for me listening vs. reading was that I couldn’t skim over Deacon’s cousin Beau because I knew it was going to hurt. His story was pivotal to the entire book and it was more apparent to me listening than reading. He really broke me.
No one can write angst, heartbreak and drama quite like Victoria Sue!
9.5/10 Pots of Gold (95% Recommended) – Compares to 4.75/5 Stars
As this book begins, we meet Deacon who is informed his cousin might be in trouble and he rushes to save the day. Deacon and his cousin Beau were once as close as brothers, and even though they have had distance between them recently, Deacon hasn’t forgotten how much they meant to each other. So Deacon goes to an Innocent Auction, where young men will be sold off to men with those forbidden tastes. Men like Beau. Men like Deacon. Deacon warns his cousin of the imminent raid and gets him out of there, and he also rescues a young man named Tom from being sold. He gives the auction master money to get himself and Tom out of there just in the nick of time.
Fast forward 4.5 years and Tom has been working at Deacon’s family’s estate. When Deacon’s father dies, he returns home to see the state of the manor and horses and to take over his duties. Deacon and his father were estranged, and he had no idea his father had let their title and manor fall to ruin but all that remain at the property are a handful of servants, some who aren’t even being paid. Tom was just happy to have a safe place to live so he wasn’t complaining. Together again with no one in immediate danger, Tom and Deacon recognize their attraction to each other and give into their desires.
Now I’ve read quite a few historical m/m romances and while I love them, there is always the depressing fact that homosexuality wasn’t just “not accepted” back then by a few intolerant bigots. It was illegal and punishment varied through the times from being put into an asylum, imprisoned, or even being hung for the crime. No two men could live an out and proud life together and while romances tend to have a happy ending, there is something bittersweet about the way the couples have to hide their love from the rest of the world. In this book, more than others, I feel like the dangers of being caught in a same sex relationship were extremely dire. It is the reason that Deacon rescued Beau in the beginning of the book. And years later when Beau is caught red-handed, the way he is punished is cruel and heartbreaking.
Back to Deacon and Tom. Their attraction and lust turn to love soon enough but Deacon needs to wed in order to bring his family home back up to its former standing. He would give the title to a cousin if he could, but sadly none of them are financially able to take over. I think a lot of Deacon, his treatment of servants and his desire to do the right thing is a great trait. It’s no-win situation for all that he has to consider marrying a woman or means. Though parting will be painful, Tom is a sweet soul, who knows he can’t continue the affair once Deacon gets married. But before any proposals are officially made, things happen, and Tom and Deacon find themselves in a strange moment of deja vu.
In the end, the solutions to the Deacon’s problems of needing an heir and money to restore his family’s legacy fall into place a little too easily. However, I’m not complaining if it means these two characters get to stay together in the end. I feel the author did a great job at providing a happy ending in a time where it was nearly impossible. The narration by Joel Leslie was really great in this book. He has a wide range of accents and tones to differentiate different characters and he emotes so well. I definitely would recommend this book, the author, and the narrator.
9.0/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but when she ran out of library books she decided to write her own. Loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—especially with a paranormal twist—but always with a happy ending. Is an English northern lass currently serving twenty to life in Florida—unfortunately, she spends more time chained to her computer than on a beach.
Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.