Recommended Read, Review

Review: The Viscount without Virtue by Katherine Grant (2021)

The Prestons, Book #1

Heat Factor: Sometimes you just gotta bone in a shed

Character Chemistry: “We have fundamentally different values but we are still very attracted to each other.”

Plot: Max goes undercover to an estate that actually pays its workers to uncover wrongdoing in an attempt to get his dad to love him.

Overall: An interesting take on the “divided by politics” romance

Normally, I wouldn’t touch a “we’re on different sides of the political spectrum” romance with a ten-foot pole, because they tend to be all about heroines learning that feminism is stupid, but I figured I’d give this historical take on the trope a try. It does do a little bit of the both-sides things, but luckily, the more conservative Max is the one who undergoes a fundamental shift in values (ie: learns that working-class people are also people and deserving of fair treatment). Ellen’s values are not brought into question, but rather, she is forced to reckon with her family living those values imperfectly. After all, it’s all good to say that you’ll never sell the goods you make at a higher price than the average worker can afford—but what will you actually do when your products *could* demand a premium in a luxury market and you have bills to pay? (Don’t worry, that’s all the economics I’ll be talking about here.)

The basic premise is that Ellen’s father is a radical Whig / abolitionist / champion of the working man. He’s set up his estate so that, instead of tenant farming and paying rents, workers are hired, given room and board, and share in the profits. Also the estate is as self-sufficient as possible (no importing of things produced by slave labor). It’s kind of like a commune, except Ellen and her family are definitely at a higher rung than everyone else, with servants and not having to report to work at the crack of dawn and the ability to go to London whenever they want.

Max’s father, on the other hand, is a staunch Tory who is all about expansion and empire and “why are we worrying about slaves, we should be worrying about Napoleon!” He hates Ellen’s dad, and wants to see him publicly humiliated. He also thinks Max is a feckless idiot. In an attempt to prove himself worthy, Max agrees to go to the worker’s paradise estate and dig around for some dirt. 

Unfortunately for Max, he is not a convincing carpenter, and it doesn’t take long for Ellen to figure out what he’s up to. However, she agrees to show Max around the estate for two reasons. First, so that she can prove that everything is above-board. Second, to delay his report to the papers so that her father has more time to garner support for a bill abolishing slavery in Britain. (This book takes place in 1811, so the slave trade has been abolished, but owning slaves is still legal in the British colonies.) And third—because, oops, there are actually three reasons—because Max is a stone-cold hottie and she wants to keep spending time with him. 

Because of the set up, there are ample opportunities for Max and Ellen to discuss their views of the world. These discussions, and the facts about the world that they are both forced to confront, lead to character growth in interesting ways. 

I admit that I wasn’t swooning over the romance, but I wasn’t mad about it either. Max and Ellen do seem to genuinely like each other, despite feeling like they shouldn’t, and I found the resolution of their conflict satisfactory. I would definitely read another book by this author.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

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