Title: Claiming Mister Kemp
Author: Emily Larkin
Series: Baleful Godmother #4
Genre: M/M Regency Romance
Length: Short novel
A forbidden love…
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…
Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.
But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.
He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…
Source: Review copy via NetGalley
On the one hand I found this to be a cute, easy Regency read with a lot of period-appropriate anxiety from Lucas about what would happen if they got caught. On the other, I very nearly didn’t make it past the first couple of chapters, and even though things did improve, there was a bland lack of intimacy when it came to sex.
I’m new to this series, so I don’t know how well known Lucas and Tom are before this, but we start off with Tom having come home from war, going to see his best friend who he has loved for years. He finds Lucas falling-down drunk, so helps put him to bed. And since Lucas’ body reacts to being undressed Tom takes advantage. Even though Lucas clearly says no.
Which is uncomfortable at best, rape at worst. I very nearly stopped reading.
Their next encounter isn’t much better, since it involves Lucas protesting as Tom shoves him up against a wall, steals a kiss and a repeat of the night before, while Lucas again says no. This is followed up with Lucas actually hitting Tom when he refuses to leave the house the next day.
So to say this book starts off on perilous ground is an understatement. At the very least, Tom is incredibly pushy when it comes to Lucas. And to be honest I couldn’t really see how this book could come back from that, so I read on to try and find out. Mostly it does so by having Lucas terrified of discovery, while Tom coaxes him into dark corners for a bit of fun.
If those first two encounters had just been kisses, I would have been a bit unhappy, but it would have made sense. Because Tom makes these encounters about Lucas’ pleasure more than his own (though he still forces his attention on him), and for the most part he’s the one who is emotionally hurt by Lucas’ fears. Yet Lucas is left feeling ashamed and guilty, which really isn’t anything you want in a romantic novel. Especially when everyone else seems so relaxed about their potential relationship. Which, to me, completely undercut Lucas’ (understandable) fears.
And this is a huge shame, because without those first two highly dubious encounters, this book would have been an enjoyable, easy read. Yes, Lucas’ thoughts do tend to repeat themselves, but I enjoyed their friendship when Lucas wasn’t scared, and I would have liked Tom quite a bit. The sex is pretty soulless for the most part, though, and I wish they’d been given more quiet time together and perhaps a little exploration that wasn’t just the same old, same old, mouth or hand, that they repeat over and over again.
Then there’s the maid plot. I really could have done without that. I’m pretty sure the same result could have been achieved in some other way.
So I’m torn, because I enjoyed the characters and the writing style and the period detail felt good, but that beginning… Yeah. I’d be interested in reading more from this author, but I might have to gloss over sections of this one in future.
Claiming Mister Kemp is Out Now.
Visit Emily Larkin for more details.