The Marquess of Gorsewall Manor
Book 1 of the series: After the Swan’s Nest
By Adella J. Harris
I want to preface this review by pointing out that a lot of the shit I say sounds critical when it’s meant to be high praise. I am impressed this author pulled off a lot of things many authors could not, in my humble opinion. That humble opinion of mine may further be discredited by the fact that I am not well versed in murder mysteries or slow burns. Please take my words with a grain of salt.
This book was a thoroughly enjoyable read nonetheless.
My Rating: 6.5/10
The Marquess of Gorsewall Manor isn’t the type of book I’d normally enjoy. I mean, it certainly gets points for genre. I am a historical queer romance fiend through and through, but it is slow. And I am nothing if not notoriously prone to yeeting anything off my reading list that doesn’t immediately grab me by the horns and continuously make me buck for hundreds of pages.
So why the fuck did I finish this book? Let’s talk about that, shall we? Beware very mild spoilers (Most of what I’ll reveal can be found on a summary somewhere.)
Thomas Brook is a dull man. I’m not being mean, I swear. One of the first things we learn about him is that he considers himself to be quite dull indeed. Now I happen to be a massive fan of narration fitting character, circumstance, and setting. Like reverse-method-acting, I guess? Is that a stretch? So, for the first time ever (slight exaggeration), I read what should have been a super exciting sequence of events, not feeling a whole lot of excitement, and I didn’t hate it.
In the beginning of the story, our protagonist Thomas Brook is caught in a Molly house in a rather non-hetero position. He’s tossed into prison, escapes that prison, and spends the next while prostituting himself to get by as he flees across the countryside. And we’re just talking about the character-development setup here — this is all before the real plot even begins. Adella J. Harris sets it up so well that the dampening of these thrills perfectly fits the character who’s telling it. Somehow his dullness has taken on a charm, and infused the semi-exciting, semi-dull first act with it so effectively.
Any other book, I would have DNFed the fuck out of it, but this one… Even though I wasn’t excited, I was enjoying it. The unpleasantness of it was depicted well enough that I empathized with him. I cared about Thomas Brook, I wanted him to win at escaping prison. I felt terrible for the friend he left behind. I felt all kinds of feelings, and even if they weren’t what I’d normally expect, I was hella immersed.
What follows that adventure is a pleasant tale of mystery and suspense. A murder mystery, to be precise. It seems the attractive, yet stoic lord of the manor, who ultimately takes the displaced Mr. Brook in, is the centre of quite a bit of gossip. One of those juicy parcels happens to be the disappearance of his fiancé. And one way or another our dear protagonist winds up invested enough to seek answers.
There’s nothing flashy about the story. Despite the unconventional first act, the rest of it is standard fare for murder mysteries, in a good way. Because hell yeah, we need more murder mysteries with queer main characters. There was a point where I was lowkey hoping it had paranormal elements, but alas, it does not.
Honestly, though, my biggest issue with this first book, is that there is a lot of over-explaining. Not enough to make me stop reading, and since this is such a slow burn, you can consider that a compliment coming from me. I’m not a slow-burn kinda gal. The over-explaining was, however, enough to render a good chunk of the climax and aftermath passive. Some of which can be excused by conventions of the genre, of course, but not all.
I enjoyed it regardless. It is, overall, a solid story with enough meat to keep me gnawing happily at its bones.
I have every intention of reading the second in the series. It’s already sitting in my kindle!
Other Book Reviews by Sam Clover
is an author of m/m speculative dark romances. When she’s not writing, reading, or whatever else you see her do on the interwebz, she spends her time managing a discord server for Erotica writers.