Tuesday, June 13, 2023

It Takes Two to Tumble (Seducing the Sedgwicks #1) by Cat Sebastian(author), Joel Leslie (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780062967190, August 2019

Ben Sedgwick, after an unconventional upbringing, is a country vicar in Regency England. He doesn't find this dull; he finds it comfortable and reassuring, allowing him to bring some order into the lives of the villagers he serves. Providing both spiritual comfort, and practical assistance and guidance when needed, gives a stability and a sense of usefulness to his life that life in his father's home didn't provide. He's also betrothed to his very good friend, Alice, who is lively, interesting, kind, helpful, and, since a bout of scarlet fever in the spring, unable to walk. This is a concern.

It does somewhat disrupt the peace and order of his life when the latest tutor of the three Dacre children does what so many have before over the last two years--abruptly leaves because he can't stand it anymore. The children have been hellions since their mother died two years ago. Captain Phillip Dacre, their father, will be back in England, for two months ashore while his ship is being refitted. Ben is recruited to stand in as the children's tutor till the captain's return.

Phillip Dacre is not at all happy about being back in England. Life on his ship is very, very orderly, because that's how he runs things. He's a good officer, a good teacher of young midshipmen. He was very fond of his wife, Caroline, and she was very good at running and orderly household. He hasn't been back home since her death, and he barely knows his children. He has no idea what to expect, or what to do about it.

Dacre and Sedgwick's first meeting doesn't go well, because Ben's approach to keeping the children from causing chaos in the community (something they have been very good at the last two years) has not been to keep them locked up in the schoolroom. That never worked for the other tutors, so he takes a more relaxed, and tricky, approach to education. They're outside a lot, and learning happens somewhat organically. Ben and the three children--Ned, the oldest, and Jamie and Peg, the twins--are up in a tree when he finds them. Phillip is shocked.

It's not long before Sedgwick and Dacre, both of whom have had discreet relationships with men in the past, discover that their attraction to each other is beyond casual. Each is alarmed, and determine to keep the other from noticing.

We all know how that's going to work out; this is a Regency romance, if a slightly atypical one.

While the two men are getting acquainted with each other, Ben is also encouraging Phillip to actually get to know his children. There's also the problem of figuring out why they've been running off every tutor they've had.

Without giving too much away, there are two characters in this book who are dyslexic, though of course that word isn't used. Two of the children are protecting the third from being discovered as absolutely unable to read, even though he's very good with math.

Meanwhile, as Ben realizes how attracted he is to Phillip, he also realizes he can't marry Alice. But he can't call it off, either, because her parents are unable to leave her enough to live on for the remainder of her life.

The local baronet, whose father left him barely enough to keep the family home physically intact, is very hostile to the Sedgwick family (which, other than Ben and his lawyer brother, is fairly scandalous), and has been unearthing evidence from his father's papers that would at the very least cause enough scandal regarding the family that Ben's career in the church would be ended. Even a country vicarage would no longer be possible.

Ben's father is, if you don't look at him from Ben's viewpoint, a delight. A scandal, but a delight, and much kinder and thoughtful than Ben realizes. Phillip's shipboard friends have their own good traits, and Alice has her own surprises. I'm not even mentioning the cooks in the vicarage and the Dacre home, or the groundskeeper, or others around the village.

And yes, the author pulls a happy ending out of this, as happy as possible in this time and place, and very nicely done.

It's a fun book, and I bought it.

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