Erryn reviews ‘The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple (Gay Historical Romance)’ by K. A. Merikan. Published by Acerbi & Villani ltd on February 7, 2017, 344 pgs. The audiobook was released March 13, 2020, is narrated by James Reily and is 15hrs and 6min. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I’m always game for a gay historical romance.
“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”
Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.
Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.
No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.
When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.
Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.
But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.
Themes: highwayman, abduction, ransom, forbidden love, self-discovery, danger, crime, Cornwal, Britain, England, Georgian
WARNING: Steamy content. Contains violence, distressing scenes, abuse, offensive language, and morally ambiguous protagonists.
I’m of two minds about this book. Through the first half, I kept checking the time remaining and wondering if I was ever going to make it. Although I can’t speed up the audio, I did lament not having that functionality. Then I hit the second half of the book and that lament became an inner wail because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I wanted to know RIGHT NOW. I don’t read a lot of suspense, but this book would be up there on my list. Every time I breathed a sigh of relief thinking ‘yeah, okay, they made it’, another obstacle would be thrown in their way. Another road block. Another dastardly secondary character. I mean, I knew there would be a happy ending, but I doubted so many times.
That is the mark of a good storyteller.
I took a writing class last year and the teacher said ‘imagine the worst thing that can happen to your protagonist’. He paused. ‘Then make it happen.’ He paused again. ‘What’s the next worst thing that can happen? Go ahead, make that happen as well.’ I’m too soft on my characters, I know that. K.A. Merikan are brutal on theirs.
The book comes with warnings, but after having read Wrong Way Home, this book felt tame in comparison. Yes, there’s dubcon. Yes, there are morally ambiguous characters. But I always understood their motives. I empathized with the characters. I grieved with them. I felt their pain.
Julian Reece is a wastrel. He sometimes writes, often carouses, and loves his drink. His father wants to marry him off because he’s obviously incapable of holding down an honorable profession. The Black Sheep. Sir Evan Penhart is the opposite. Left destitute by a reckless brother, he tries to hold together the family estate, all the while knowing it’s a fruitless gesture. He’s forced to turn to a life of crime to save the servants he considers family. The Rotten Apple.
The two men are an unlikely pair – especially since Julian is definitely straight. But there’s something about Evan that calls to him. Perhaps their coupling was inevitable. It was definitely interesting. Also, as a historical, there is always the threat of discovery and of the gallows. Another layer of danger.
In case you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed the book. Could the first half have been shorter? Probably. Was the last half worth the price of admission? Oh hell yes. James Reily is a new narrator to me and I have to say I liked him. I settled quickly into his appropriately British accent and the rest was magic. So, I would definitely say check this one out.
9/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity.
They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.
To keep up to date with their new releases (and get a free book in the process!) sign up to their newsletter: http://kamerikan.com/newsletter
More information about ongoing projects, works in progress and publishing at:
K.A. Merikan’s author page: http://kamerikan.com
– We are Polish,
– We’re neither sisters nor a couple,
– Kat’s an artist, and Agnes is a psychologist but neither works in her field,
– Kat’s fingers are two times longer than Agnes’s.