spindizzy: Sherlock Holmes as played by Jeremy Brett, laughing with a hand covering his face. (You do make me laugh)
[personal profile] spindizzy posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Cover of Band Sinister; a painting of two men escorting a woman in Regency dress.

Sir Philip Rookwood is the disgrace of the county. He’s a rake and an atheist, and the rumours about his hellfire club, the Murder, can only be spoken in whispers. (Orgies. It’s orgies.)

Guy Frisby and his sister Amanda live in rural seclusion after a family scandal. But when Amanda breaks her leg in a riding accident, she’s forced to recuperate at Rookwood Hall, where Sir Philip is hosting the Murder.

Guy rushes to protect her, but the Murder aren’t what he expects. They’re educated, fascinating people, and the notorious Sir Philip turns out to be charming, kind—and dangerously attractive.

In this private space where anything goes, the longings Guy has stifled all his life are impossible to resist...and so is Philip. But all too soon the rural rumour mill threatens both Guy and Amanda. The innocent country gentleman has lost his heart to the bastard baronet—but does he dare lose his reputation too?

Band Sinister is a new Regency romance from KJ Charles, which I saw described alternately as her most Heyer-esque romance, and the only one of her books that doesn't have a body count. I can't speak to the Heyer bit (I know, I know, I like Regency romances and haven't read Heyer!), but look! All of the problems in the book are solved by people actually talking about them!

Guy Frisby's problems are numerous: he and his sister Amanda are permanently exiled to the countryside due to family scandals, Amanda has written a Gothic novel that is very blatantly based on their scandalous neighbour and his Hellfire club – oh, and of course, Amanda's just been in a terrible accident that means that she's got to recuperate in their neighbour's house, where no one will go to chaperone her recovery except Guy. ... And also their neighbour is handsome and charming AS WELL as being scandalous. This is definitely a problem too.

I'm a little sad that I can't talk about this book in proper dialogue with Heyer's work, seeing as that's the comparison I've seen the most, but what I can say from my reading is that it's a very kind, gentle romance that I think is about giving people agency and acknowledging their choices as their own. It's very tropey – there are dissolute rakes, country virgins, country-house parties (that are definitely not orgies), scandalous inter-family drama, and aunts – but hi, we like tropes around here! I think part of the reason the tropes work so well is that the characters in Band Sinister solve their problems by actually having the conversations they need to have. It's so strange and delightful! Problems that I would expect to linger for half the book while I roll my eyes and grumble that they could be solved with a five minute chat are solved with a five minute chat in a reasonable timeframe! (Characters actually raise their reasonable concerns instead of ignoring them, like negotiating power imbalances, how to juggle their relationship, the social repercussions of their actions, and the social repercussions of actions that were nothing to do with them!) And for the most part everyone is kind and doing their best!

(This even goes for the confrontation with Aunt Beatrice that is foreshadowed through the entire book; the fact that everyone does their best to resolve the problem in a sensible way is delightful to me.)

This kindness and trying is a consistent theme through the book – Phillip Rookwood, the other protagonist, is trying his best to behave in a responsible, ethical way in both his business dealings and his relationships, and the members of his Hellfire Club (PLEASE come back to me when you get to the puns, because I need someone to groan with!) are mostly kind and welcoming! Once again, KJ Charles writes a story where people find a community of people who are finding a place for them to belong! And part of this kindness is that the characters are expanding their worldviews and learning from each other! Having a Regency-era novel where people talk about archaeology and fossils and atheism and trying to protest the slave trade through the sugar boycott is great because I don't see that very often!

Speaking of things that I don't see often: I like that Band Sinister has a range of sexual and romantic orientations, classes, and backgrounds in its cast! There's a character who's allosexual but mostly-explicitly aromantic; polyamorous characters who have to actually talk about the shape their relationship will take in the future (which wasn't exactly resolved by the end of the book, but in what felt like a plausible way? It was very much a "this is provisionally agreed to, with exact details to follow," which seemed reasonable); two men who are legally married through one of the characters being trans; at least one couple that is openly kink;, and the fact that people are just! Explicitly trying their best to do right by one another!

On that topic: I did appreciate the explicit enthusiastic consent! It is one of my favourite things when it shows up in romance novels, and the fact that Band Sinister is so thorough about it, and so good about having people talk about what they want from each other? I am here for it. (There is a whole entire thing where one of the characters finds it easier to talk about sex acts in Latin because he's too mortified to say them out loud in English, which gave me flashbacks to my Ancient History degree where I not only studied Catullus, but also learned how to conjugate Latin verbs for sex, so that was more hilarious to me than anything else.) I will say though that I felt like the characterisation seemed to wobble a little during the sex scenes, but the fact that I picked this up after a fortnight of binge-reading dubious ship fic could have skewed my calibrations.

Apart from that... Amanda was my favourite character in the book, because she was adventurous and determined and inquisitive, and I thought the loving and protective relationship she had with her brother Guy was so sweet! It wasn't the centre of the book – I would have loved it if it had been – but it was definitely a pillar of the book and carried it well. The siblings are both so opposite in temperament, but I have such a fondness for the way that they looked out for each other and made plans to protect each other from their family. I liked the romance that she gets, and her very practical responses to all of it! There were some of the side characters who were not as well developed as her, such as the two musicians who I couldn't tell you anything else about, or the archaeologists who felt like they were there to blow the Frisbys' mind and not get much a look in after that, but for the most part the characters are charming and interesting.

I also really liked the way that Guy's anxiety manifested throughout the book. It felt very familiar to me – he gives an entire speech at one point about how his fear of consequences from Philip and his friends was nothing to do with Philip, the Murder, or their characters in any way, it was about him and his fears, and what I wouldn't give to be able to explain that to the people in my life! It was well done, and the way that people treated him with respect and courtesy throughout and helped him to work around his anxiety was lovely.

In conclusion: this is very different from KJ Charles' usual! If I hadn't known it was hers, I'm not sure I would have been able to guess, to be honest; the humour and sense of community is there, but the tone and the voice it's written in felt very different. It was a very soothing read that appealed to me in the same way that Rose Lerner's romances do, where fundamentally decent people are trying to do their best by each other against a backdrop of social and political shenaniganry. If you want something with a funny, gentle romance where all problems are solvable through talking to each other like adults, this might be a good thing to check out!

[Caution warnings: neglect, abuse, and slavery mentioned in backstory. This review was based on an ARC from the author.]
Identity URL: 
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


If you are unable to use this captcha for any reason, please contact us by email at support@dreamwidth.org

Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of people who comment anonymously.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


Lady Business welcome badge

Pitch Us!
Review Policy
Comment Policy
Writers We Like!
Contact Us

tumblr icon twitter icon syndication icon

image asking viewer to support Lady Business on Patreon

Who We Are

Ira is an illustrator and gamer who decided that disagreeing with everyone would be a good way to spend their time on the internet. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon AO3 icon

By day Jodie is currently living the dream as a bookseller for a major British chain of book shops. She has no desire to go back to working in the real world. more? » tumblr icon last.fm icon

KJ KJ is an underemployed librarian, lifelong reader, and more recently an avid gamer. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon AO3 icon

Renay writes for Lady Business and co-hosts Fangirl Happy Hour, a pop culture media show that includes a lot yelling about the love lives of fictional characters. Enjoys puns. more? » twitter icon pinboard icon tumblr icon

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently over-flowing. more? » twitter icon pinboard icon AO3 icon


Book Review Index
Film Review Index
Television Review Index
Game Review Index
Non-Review Index
We Want It!
Fanwork Recs
all content by tags

Our Projects

hugo award recs

Criticism & Debate

Indeed, we do have a comment policy.

What's with your subtitle?

It's a riff off an extremely obscure meme only Tom Hardy and Myspace fans will appreciate.

hugo award winner
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios