Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London.
Erotic sketches, a blackmail letter, a closeted aristocrat, his ambitious lover, and a sacrificial murder. Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency London. George Rowlands, an aspiring young painter meets the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace who invites him to draw his sculpture collection and his handsome valet Gregorio Franchese. Patronised by Wallace to study at the Royal Academy, George is befriended by the aloof John McCarther, assistant to the eccentric Gothic painter, Henry Fuseli. Meanwhile, Lady Arabella Wallace becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband’s enthusiasm for his new protégé. When a male brothel, the White Swan, is exposed, Henry Wallace receives a letter of extortion in George’s handwriting. After Gregorio Franchese is found murdered, George is suspected when erotic drawings of Gregorio are discovered in his possession. Will he face the gallows? Or will self-sacrifice and truth save his fate?
Review by Gerry Burnie
The era is Regency England, 1810, and a young painter awaits his fate for the alleged murder of Gregorio Franchese, valet to aristocrat Sir Henry Wallace. Yes, The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher [Max Fincher, March 8, 2013], is chalk full of intrigue; the way a good Regency novel should be.
While he prepares for his demise, he reflects back on how it began: when, as a youth, he had been indulging in his favourite pastime of sketching, when he happened to capture the attention of the charismatic Sir Henry Wallace. How proud he had been when the nobleman invited him to sketch his sculptures, as well as his handsome valet, Franchese.
From there, Rowland is sent off to study at the Royal Academy about the same time as the relationship between him and Sir Henry bursts into a full and furtive affair – beyond the eyes of Lady Wallace, who, in spite of this, is becoming increasingly suspicious of its nature.
Things are brought to a head when Franchese is found dead, and a number of erotic drawings of him are found in Rowland’s possession. Rowland professes his innocence, of course, and quite legitimately, but to go beyond this would irrevocably compromise his lover’s reputation.
The resolution of this dilemma brings about the climax of the story in quite a satisfactory manner.
It is a captivating plot, and reasonably well written – if you overlook the editing issues. It doesn’t bode well for a story when there is a spelling error within the first three or four pages. However, these are to an extent offset by some beautifully descriptive passages of the grotty and quaint sides of Regency England, as well as the manners and mannerisms that prevailed. Three and one-half bees.
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