Title: The Actor and the Earl
Author: Rebecca Cohen
Genre: Historical fiction, adult, slash, Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Elizabethan actor Sebastian Hewel takes his bow at the proscenium only
to embark on the role of a lifetime. When his twin sister, Bronwyn,
reneges on the arrangement to marry Earl Anthony Crofton, Sebastian
reluctantly takes her place. At nineteen, Sebastian knows his days as a
leading lady are numbered, but with this last performance, he hopes to
restore his family’s name and pay off his late father’s debts. Never
mind the danger of losing his head should he be discovered.
He didn’t expect Anthony to be so charming and alluring—not to
mention shrewd. While he applauds Sebastian’s plan, Anthony offers a
mutually beneficial arrangement instead. Sebastian will need every drop
of talent he has to survive with both his head and his heart intact,
because this is the best part he’s ever had.
This is a gay fiction book and contains homosexual content. Recommended for mature readers.
This was just a good read. When I first read the synopsis, I thought that Sebastian was going to be a traditional cross-dresser and possibly a caricature more than a character. I was completely wrong and very glad to be. Sebastian is a man who loves to act but was the sort of build that usually played women, so while he doesn't take particular issue with having to cross-dress, he doesn't actively enjoy it. It's a relatively minor, but important distinction that grounded him and just made him come alive to me.
The most compelling part of this book was the characters. Although the setting is fun--Shakespearean England--it is the characters who grounded it and allowed you to enjoy the setting. Sebastian was, in my opinion, exquisitely executed, and it is through him that the story is told. The heart of this book are the characters and that falls right into my preferred wheelhouse. They're believable, multifaceted and well-developed. Their interactions are amusing and heart-wrenching appropriately.
There were two minor things that kept this from being a 5-star review. The first was a strange pacing lull in the middle, where I just walked away for a couple of days. The second was that while I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, I wasn't blown away. There are some somewhat-lengthy Shakespearean quotes that didn't quite work for me (but I don't always enjoy Shakespeare). But on the whole, it is a very enjoyable book.