Book Reviews

The Actor and the Earl (Crofton Chronicles 1) by Rebecca Cohen at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Historical / 19th Century / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 26-July-2014

Book Blurb

Elizabethan actor Sebastian Hewel takes his bow at the proscenium only to embark on the role of a lifetime. When his twin sister, Bronwyn, reneges on the arrangement to marry Earl Anthony Crofton, Sebastian reluctantly takes her place. At nineteen, Sebastian knows his days as a leading lady are numbered, but with this last performance, he hopes to restore his family’s name and pay off his late father’s debts. Never mind the danger of losing his head should he be discovered.

He didn’t expect Anthony to be so charming and alluring—not to mention shrewd. While he applauds Sebastian’s plan, Anthony offers a mutually beneficial arrangement instead. Sebastian will need every drop of talent he has to survive with both his head and his heart intact, because this is the best part he’s ever had.



A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Book Review

Pretending to be someone else, as Sebastian does in 'The Actor and the Earl' by Rebecca Cohen, always comes with consequences. Even though he's very good at playing a woman, Sebastian doesn't want to be one. This is especially true when he meets his future husband. Anthony is rich, powerful, and shrewd. When he employs Sebastian to fill in for his twin sister, who eloped with another man, he expects things to go exactly as he plans. What he didn't count on is Sebastian's charm, wit, intelligence, and his indomitable spirit.

Sebastian has his reservations when his aunt propositions him about playing his sister. He knows that the consequences of being discovered could mean his death; but her promise to pay off all his father's debts if he agrees to the deal outweighs his concerns. Anthony's self-assurance and attention relieves some of Sebastian's fears but he still worries; after all, he's the one who has the most to lose. Sebastian is captivated by the earl's presence and accepts his offer to join him in bed. Being a virgin, Sebastian is overwhelmed with the possibility of a relationship with the earl, but he is enamored enough that he is willing to go along with the idea. Even though Anthony can be overbearing at times, there are some impressively romantic times to balance it out. In spite of himself, Sebastian falls in love with Anthony. The sex is great, but something vital is missing. He wants to believe Anthony feels the same way he does, but Anthony is so unpredictable that Sebastian can't always understand or appease him. After one nasty occurrence, Sebastian decides that no matter what, Anthony will never love him; he needs to salvage what little is left of his self-esteem. Anthony's attempts to apologize fall short of making up for his atrocious behavior; they become meaningless. Sebastian retreats to his aunt's house to mourn and heal resolving never to see Anthony again.

Anthony is a powerful man who is used to getting his way. As he gets to know Sebastian, he begins to fall in love with him, something which the earl never expected. Theirs is supposed to be a simple business arrangement and that is it. Anthony is furious at himself for losing control of the situation. The more involved Anthony becomes with Sebastian, the angrier he gets. He's not accustomed to being held accountable for his actions and when Sebastian challenges him, he doesn't quite know what to do. Anthony thinks he can go along with his life just as it was before, in charge of everyone and everything, including Sebastian. When Sebastian actually leaves, Anthony is beside himself. He begins to see how important Sebastian is to him and how much he misses him. He waits a while then goes after him, determined to set things straight and bring him back home. Sebastian sees through his veiled contriteness and throws him out. Now Sebastian is twice as upset. Anthony can't fathom why Sebastian won't fall right back in line with his command. Giving his feelings about Sebastian more time, Anthony is able to reconsider his behavior and eventually realize how unacceptable it is and that Sebastian is right; if he wants him back, he has to change.

Although it was difficult, I managed to feel bad for Anthony. He was, after all, a product of his environment, along with a healthy dose of stubbornness and huge sense of entitlement thrown in. I think that he loved Sebastian at such a deep and not previously experienced level that he had to fight his way through all the propaganda in his head in order to be able to feel what was important. Sebastian, on the other hand, was easy to love and identify with, which made it even more difficult to handle the abuse he suffered from Anthony. The story is well written, with some unexpected twists to spice it up. I enjoyed the cultural education which was well integrated into the theme. I recommend this book to lovers of historical romance, exquisite descriptions, well formed characters, and, of course a happy, although well earned, ending. Thanks, Rebecca, for introducing me to Anthony and Sebastian.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 216 pages/62941 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 30-November-2012
Price $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback, $14.99 bundle
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