Review: It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian (2017)

Seducing the Sedgwicks, Book 1

Heat Factor: Sexyness builds slowly, but it’s definitely there

Character Chemistry: Very sweet

Plot: Sea captain with unruly children gets childcare help from local vicar

Overall: Thumbs up. Especially recommended for people who love Governess stories with a twist.

It Takes Two to Tumble is, in essence, a Governess story. There are a lot of very specific beats that these stories follow, and this one checks pretty much all the boxes.

The Father:

  • Cares about his children in a vague way, but is emotionally and frequently physically distant from them
  • Wants to get his children to fall in line so that he can continue with his separate life
  • Has complex feelings about his relationship with his children’s dead mother
  • Is a stern disciplinarian, who, with the help of the Governess, learns to let go and show his children his love
  • This particular father is also a naval captain, with dark hair and blue eyes, and can therefore be imagined as Captain von Trapp from here on in:

The Governess:

  • Has unconventional methods to get the children to behave and also actually learn
  • Is less interested in discipline than in fostering love and connection between the Father and his children
  • Is quirky and lovable – in this case, the Governess is all about baby animals – but it takes a while for the Father to realize that this is lovable and not annoying
  • Grew up in an unconventional household
  • Is not sexually experienced (one could say, virginal), but initiates sexual contact with the Father so that we don’t have to worry so much about those pesky power imbalances

The Children:

  • Hellions who terrorize the house and neighborhood, and have run off a score of other governesses and tutors, not to mention servants
  • Includes a set of twins
  • Have quirky skills (math genius) and quirky failings (dyslexia)
  • Provide occasional comic relief and help move the plot forward, but are not necessarily full-blown characters

But Cat Sebastian does something interesting with this standard Regency trope, because in this case, the Governess in question is actually the local vicar, and is therefore decidedly male. This means that we see the familiar beats of the story, but the conflict is less about the employer / employee dynamic (Ben the Governess-Vicar is technically not even employed by Phillip the Captain, but rather helping out as part of his ministerial duties) and more about how to negotiate a relationship that must remain secret – forever.

Ben wants a traditional family life: he wants stability and children and a home, and in order to have that, he has to get married. But how can he get married to his fiancée if he doesn’t feel passion for her and never will, or worse, feels passion for someone else, or even worse, acts on that passion for someone else. On the other hand, Phillip cannot really offer stability. Not only must their relationship remain clandestine, but Phillip plans on returning to sea as soon as his children are settled.

Along the way, Ben and Phillip develop a relationship that I found quite touching, as they navigate not only the fraught dynamic of finding love as a gay man in the Regency period, but also differing perspectives on issues as divergent as parenting and the Church of England. And in between their debates about whether or not it’s right to be a part of an institution that denounces their love as dirty and vile, the men slowly build up their emotional and physical connection. The way they slowly cross physical boundaries as their relationship deepens was particularly effective, and meant that each subsequent sex scene wasn’t just played for prurience or higher stakes, but also mapped on to the emotional ties between the men.

Sebastian skillfully straddles the line between writing a successful love story and staying true to the challenges faced by the characters, especially given that they live in a small village. The ending may bring about what we modern readers think these men deserve, but it is still undoubtedly a happily ever after.

Buy Now: Amazon

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