Lady Agnes is a scandal, thanks to her sister’s marriage to a prizefighter.
Or rather, she should be, but as a charitable spinster-to-be, she remains firmly invisible, even to those she loves. Always dutiful, Lady Agnes should be the toast of her family, but only if she marries well. Finding the prospect of wedding a man unpalatable, Lady Agnes cannot be the social savior of her sister.
Suddenly, receiving attentions from the unpredictable and surprisingly resourceful Mr. Jack Townsend, Lady Agnes finds herself believing he might love her and not her dowry. After being overlooked for so long, can she believe he cares for her, or is she a means to an end as her family insists?
Jack About Town is London’s best Finder of Lost Things. What few realize is that Jack transcends the spheres of men and women, existing as both, or perhaps neither, sex. True, his most lucrative finds are pornographic artifacts for rich toffs. But now he has found Lady Agnes, a meticulous, generous, knock-down incredible lady who wears men’s boots. Best of all, Lady Agnes accepts him in his entirety—a jewel so rare that even Jack is surprised he could find it.
When Jack is commissioned to steal from Lady Agnes’s cousin, can Jack find a way to prove his love and still earn the money he needs to protect himself and his home?
CW: Homophobia, transphobia, deadnaming, mention of past child rape
Dear Ms. Cay,
I was looking forward to this book after reading “The Boxer and the Blacksmith.” In its own way, it was as challenging to read in terms of CW – actually I think this one was worse. But unfortunately, I didn’t care for this one as much. Perhaps this is because so much more of this book was tied to the past events and characters of the first book “A Lady’s Revenge.” This one can be read on its own, but barely.
Lady Agnes Somerset had planned to spend her life with her friend Miss Mary Franklin until Mary announces her engagement then drives the knife in a bit deeper by telling Agnes that Agnes lives a “small life.” To some extent that is true. Agnes’s older sister Lydia experienced a horrific trauma while only a child which has added a sharper edge to Lydia’s naturally caustic temperament. While the family was focusing on Lydia’s needs, Agnes grew up to be the quiet, dependable daughter.
Stunned at the change in her future, Agnes barely notices the errand boy who follows her from the Franklin home back to her own. But Jack About Town, the man who will – for a price – find things (as he did in “The Boxer and the Blacksmith”) has noticed Agnes for a long time. After a confusing amount of bizarre behaviors from many characters, Jack begins to dream that Agnes might be the rara avis he’s never thought to find – someone who will see and accept him for who he is.
But in order to earn enough money to help set himself up and also to protect the found family he has at the molly-house where Jack lives and works, he’s got to find something for a slimy man that might be in the possession of a relative of Agnes’s. The attempt to get the item and the fall out from what it is, could either make or break the future for Agnes and Jack.
The beginning of this book was quite confusing to me. And a few things annoyed me, too. In the sections from Jack’s POV, his thoughts are often presented as ‘Fact: She recognized him.’ Fact: Fact: Fact: this means of conveying Jack’s thoughts and feelings got old after the third time. Too bad it didn’t stop at that point.
Lady Agnes doesn’t fit in with Society and the Ton very well but as the daughter of an Earl, as her mother reminds her, they are of a certain social class and different from working/merchant classes. I can see Agnes joining with middle class women to do Good Works (their sewing and mending for a charity house) or taking on “Miss Townsend” as a project to get the “girl” a better marriage but socializing with them? Going to a Cit ball? Letting a merchant’s daughter claim friendship? I’m surprised that Agnes’s mother didn’t call a halt to this even if Agnes got bamboozled and swept along. Their family might have gone through some scandals but they’re still aristocracy.
A lot of what motivates as well as hinders Agnes, familiarly and socially, goes back to what happened to her sister which is the focus of the first book in the series which I haven’t read. Lydia was caustic to endure in book two with a hair-trigger temper and tendency to snort her disdain for what others might be saying or doing. Now she seems to be suffering from postpartum depression as well as some physical consequences of childbirth. Nod to Agnes for being determined to discover what is wrong with her usually fiery sister, even if Lydia does go off in a rage at the drop of a hat, and work to fix it.
There are a lot of consequences that still haunt the family because of what was done to Lydia. Lydia understandably still rages fifteen years on, their mother lives with the knowledge of what was done to her daughter, but Agnes has lived small to make up for Lydia needing so much attention and care from the rest of the family. I hated some of the things that are said to and about Agnes and often by her family. They’re the unthinking slights of familiarity and bully for Jack in calling some of these out and letting Agnes know he sees and loves her.
Jack is nonbinary but for the most part, his pronouns are male and he usually dresses in public as a man. I thought Agnes was a lesbian as it’s shown early on that she is sexually attracted to a female friend and states she has no interest in men at all. But then she starts showing interest in Jack in his male persona. Later Jack’s mother (who knows her child) confronts Jack with the fact that though Jack says he feels like both a man and a woman, or neither a man nor a woman, he has presented himself to Agnes’s family and society as a man and proposes to live as Agnes’s husband – thus not being true to how he’s said he wants to live.
This does spur Jack, along with Agnes and her family, to devise a way around this which … actually works for me. I can also see it working in reality given how imbalanced the male:female ratio was after 20+ years of Napoleonic wars.
For 2/3 of the book, it feels awkward. The scenes feel awkward to me, the things I mentioned above felt off to me and I struggled. I guess part of this is to show how uncomfortable queer people feel in a world that doesn’t know/acknowledge them as who they are. But the rest, the “class difference” things, remained off. After Agnes and Jack settle into their HEA that they’ve crafted, I have no problem believing that they will be happy and unbothered by society but yeah, quite a few of the scenes throughout the book were “off.”. I enjoyed reading another book showing a different view of Regency life than the standard Almacks but I didn’t like this one as much as the first book I read. C+