The third Sedgwick brother, Will, has his story told in Two Rogues Make a Right (and look at that lovely cover!), the latest instalment in Cat Sebastian’s Seducing the Sedgwicks series. It’s a charming, funny, friends-to-lovers romance that had me sighing happily, melting inwardly and thinking ‘awwww’ on several occasions as I read, one of those books that’s like a warm hug you just can’t help sinking into. It’s not essential to have read the two preceding books in order to enjoy this one, but I’d recommend doing so as they contain background information that will be helpful in understanding the central characters and their relationship; please note that there are spoilers in this review.
Will Sedgwick and Martin Easterbrook were childhood friends who found companionship, comfort and a refuge from their difficult family lives in each other. Will’s family was unusual and chaotic; his father had both wife and mistress living in the same house, and was far more concerned with the philosophical and esoteric than the basic necessities, while Martin’s father was dismissive of his only son because of his ‘delicate’ health, and thought him useless. The two boys were inseparable, until the morning Martin’s father found them in bed together – completely innocently – and promptly arranged for Will to join the Navy. Through the years of separation, they kept up a correspondence which continued after Will returned home – until without explanation, Martin stopped answering Will’s letters. Will is worried – Martin would never not respond to him – and fears his friend may be seriously ill or worse, but Martin has disappeared and nobody has a clue where he is.
Martin Easterbrook was presented as something of a villain in the first book (It Takes Two to Tumble), where he was intent on squeezing every last penny out of his already impoverished tenants, and later, he started the vicious rumours about Hartley Sedgwick (A Gentleman Never Keeps Score) which saw Hartley shunned by the society of which he’d previously been a part. But while most view Martin as selfish, stand-offish and arrogant, Will knows that’s not all he is, and that there’s a witty, warm and inviting man beneath the grouchy exterior. He also knows that while Martin has certainly been acting like a total git, there are reasons which, while they don’t excuse his behaviour, do at least explain it.
When we caught up with Martin at the end of the previous book, he was suffering an attack of the consumption that had begun to affect him a couple of years earlier, and was in a pretty bad way. Wanting, for once in his life, to make his own choices, he was secretly living in the attic of the London townhouse his father had left to Hartley before giving in to the inevitable and going to live on the charity of his aunt, something Martin has been desperately trying to avoid. With Hartley’s help, Will bundles the almost insensible man into a carriage and takes him to a cottage on one of Martin’s smaller properties in Sussex, hoping that a change of air will help, but secretly fearing he has taken him there to die. Will refuses to give up on him, and we suffer with both of them at the beginning of the book, Will watching fearfully over Martin night and day, Martin burning up with fever and struggling to catch his breath. But miraculously, after a week or so of getting weaker and showing no improvement, Martin’s fever finally breaks and slowly, he starts to recover. Will knows he feels better when he starts to sound more like his normal self; waspish, annoying and ill-tempered.
Still, over the next few weeks, Martin gradually regains his strength and realises, that for the first time in his life, he’s happy. He and Will are making their small, gamekeeper’s cottage into a home – and finally, their proximity forces them to confront the real nature of their feelings for one another. Martin has known he’s in love with Will for years, but has forced those feelings away for many reasons; his father was a disgusting lecher (he basically ‘bought’ Hartley when he was just sixteen) which made Martin determined not to even think about anything related to sex or attraction, and Martin is also reluctant to saddle Will with a useless invalid. Consumption wasn’t always fatal, but there’s no cure for it and it’s likely that Martin will continue to suffer relapses and bouts of ill health for the rest of his life. Add that to the fact that he’s broke and has no idea how to go about supporting himself… Martin refuses to be a millstone around Will’s neck. He’s already uncomfortably aware that Will has given up his life in London in order to care for him – he doesn’t want a future in which Will isn’t able to live the life he deserves.
Will, of course, thinks this is all ridiculous. Martin is his oldest and dearest friend and could never be a burden – he’s important to Will and he can’t imagine his life without him in it. He’s never thought too much about the nature of his feelings for Martin, believing them to be friendship and nothing more, and it takes these months of closeness for him to begin to understand that he’s loved Martin for probably the same length of time as Martin has loved him.
I loved watching these two loveable idiots orbiting each other in ever decreasing circles. The author writes their friendship so beautifully that I could almost have been content had the story been simply Will and Martin Live in a Cottage in the Country; they talk and squabble and tease with such warmth and affection that there’s no question they know each other inside out and are perfect for one another. Will is a natural caregiver, tactile and given to casual endearments that Martin knows are just his way, but which he treasures nonetheless. And Martin is prickly and grumpy and cantankerous, but usually that’s a front to hide embarrassment or insecurity – and when it comes to Will, he’s a pile of mush. He goes from being practically alone in the world to acquiring a family as the book progresses, which was lovely to watch; I loved that he and Will read each other bedtime stories, and I was pleased when that Martin’s aunt proved to be not at all the gorgon he had expected her to be; instead, she’s a woman of good sense who just wants Martin to be happy – and is intuitive enough to realise where – or rather with whom – that happiness lies.
There were only a couple of things I didn’t like about this book; one was the use of the ‘I’m-leaving-you-for-your-own-good’ trope, and the second was a choice Will makes near the end which didn’t make a lot of sense. Otherwise however, Two Rogues Make a Right is simply lovely, a sensual, sweet and tender romance that doesn’t sugar coat the problems involved in loving someone with chronic illness, and which ends with an epilogue that will melt your heart as it provides an optimistic glance into Will and Martin’s future.
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