Sir Philip Rookwood is the disgrace of the county. He’s a rake and an atheist, and the rumours about his hellfire club, the Murder, can only be spoken in whispers. (Orgies. It’s orgies.)
Guy Frisby and his sister Amanda live in rural seclusion after a family scandal. But when Amanda breaks her leg in a riding accident, she’s forced to recuperate at Rookwood Hall, where Sir Philip is hosting the Murder.
Guy rushes to protect her, but the Murder aren’t what he expects. They’re educated, fascinating people, and the notorious Sir Philip turns out to be charming, kind—and dangerously attractive.
In this private space where anything goes, the longings Guy has stifled all his life are impossible to resist…and so is Philip. But all too soon the rural rumour mill threatens both Guy and Amanda. The innocent country gentleman has lost his heart to the bastard baronet—but does he dare lose his reputation too?
Band Sinister is set for publication on October 11. Pre-order the novel here.
Thank you very much to KJ Charles for providing a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.
“‘To everything there is a season; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.’ Ecclesiastes.”
“‘The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose’,” Guy said. “Shakespeare.”
When characters start debating Latin conjugations in bed, that’s when you know you’re reading a good book, and KJ Charles’ newest romance features plenty of discussions about ancient grammar. That’s just one of the many reasons why you should read this book, but if you need more convincing, read on.
Band Sinister features a soft country virgin named Guy, who cares for (and tries to rein in) his exuberant and unmarried sister, Amanda. Guy is a worrisome fellow, mainly because his sister is infatuated with their next-door neighbour, the enigmatic Sir Philip Rookwood and his mysterious “Hellfire Club”, whom Amanda has based her gothic novel upon. Band Sinister is a romp of a novel, a real fluffy romance — well, as fluffy as Charles can possibly be — with NO dead bodies and NO blackmail attempts. I know, I’m shocked too — is this really a KJ Charles novel? Well, it also includes a careful exploration of class, religion, race, gender equality and sexuality, with a side of geology, by a free-thinking group of (mostly) aristocrats, so … yes. Oh, and there’s orgies.
The novel’s hero, Guy, is a gentle soul, but when it comes to his sister, he’s willing to do anything … including move into the home of his family’s nemesis. Once there, Guy is out of his depths: he is just a little bit intimidated by Rookwood Hall’s master, but curious about the so called Murder, Philip’s group of friends led by the wicked Viscount Corvin, who may or may have not killed a man. Guy has led a life where he is all but invisible to the world, sequestered away in a small country town, and he is not used to the attention he begins receiving from Philip and his friends. But Philip, while a debauched rake, is tender with Guy: he is open to Guy about his feelings, and never pressures the younger man. In fact, he is completely frank about consent between them, and it’s so lovely to read a historical romance novel that continually reinforces the need for consent at every stage.
“Not to state the obvious,” Corvin remarked, “but I can’t help noticing you haven’t got that little Frisby into bed yet.”
“Thank you for your restraint. I should have hated it if you stated the obvious,” Philip said, somewhat testily.
While this is a romance novel, I love that the main characters, Guy and Philip, are not completely consumed by their romance. By that I mean they still have cares outside of their relationship. For Guy, his immediate concern is his sister. Amanda is a strong, independent young woman, far ahead of her time, but the world is cruel to women like this, and so Guy protects her at every turn. Even when establishing his relationship with Philip, Guy puts his sister first. And the same goes for Philip. Philip is in a polyamorous relationship with his closest friends, John and Corvin, and while he comes to love Guy and wants to move forward with the man, he is anxious about Guy’s reaction to his relationship with the men. I absolutely adored the relationship between Philip, John and Corvin. Best friends since childhood, the triad is made up of a former slave, an unloved and illegitimate bastard, and a supremely wealthy (and potentially aromantic, but I’m not 100% sure) aristocrat. It’s a very loving and respectful relationship, and do you reckon I could bribe Charles into writing a story about these three discovering their relationship? Maybe?
While I’m trying to bribe the author (👀), can I also ask for a backstory to Sheridan and Harry’s romance, a whole novel about Isabella, a standalone about Corvin’s myserteous past, and maybe just chuck in a book about the amazing John too?? Is that ok? I just really love these characters. And if you want more characters to love, I highly suggest you read Charles’ other standalones that (sort-of) lead up to this book: Wanted, a Gentleman; Wanted, an Author (a 5000-word short story); and Unfit to Print.
A last note to this scattered review: I really admire how Charles incorporates so much of the matters of the time into her romance novels. This may be the fluffiest book in her bibliography, but Charles doesn’t shy away from important topics, and in Band Sinister that is the British relying on the deplorable sugar plantations that were worked by slaves, and how some Britons — in this novel, it’s Corvin — were working towards producing sugar from beets instead. Not matter what time period her novels are set in, Charles constantly reminds the reader of important issues that still, in some way, affect us today.
This, then, was a hellfire club: a debating society for alarming ideas.
Band Sinister is perhaps KJ Charles’ cutest novel yet. The plot is fun and exciting, and the loveable characters will have you wishing for a Murder to call your own. Plus, it’s got orgies, and you can never have too many orgies.