TW: Homophobia, grief, discussions of sexual abuse
Overall rating: 5 books out of 5
- Full on Hufflepuff/Slytherin style romance
- Historical m/m relationship
- Enthusiastic consent
- A religious worldview that does not consider LGBT+ existence a sin
- Discussions of Dyslexia
The vicar seemed to have his own personal ray of sunshine following him about, casting light in his path and drawing people to him, while Phillip was ever under a storm cloud.
Turns out one of my favourite romance tropes is when one person is grumpy, and the other is utterly delightful, and they FALL IN LOVE. Cat Sebastian managed throughout It Takes Two To Tumble to both satisfy this trope craving and also to create a genuinely lovely same-sex historical romance. Benjamin Sedgewick is a vicar content with his cosy, small-town existence. He tends his flock, visits his fiancee and enjoys the safety of his position in the community. That is, until he gets roped into helping look after Captain Phillip Dacre’s rogue children. Motherless and with their father away at sea, the children merrily wreak havoc on the village until Ben intervenes. Then, of course, the Captain has to return home and shatter the peace once again.
Phillip could hardly stand it. He wanted to swat the birds away so he and the vicar could have some semblance of a normal conversation. He couldn’t be serious and stern with a man who had ducklings in his hair, or who talked to baby birds like they were guests at a tea party, or who seemed to dearly want Phillip to smile.
On Cat Sebastian’s website, this book is described as ‘basically a gay, regency Sound of Music, with far fewer children and no musical numbers’ and I can vouch for the accuracy of this. I mean they were literally in trees when the Captain came home:
The plain fact of the matter was that children did not belong in trees, at least not when they ought to be in the hall awaiting their father’s return. Nor did vicars belong in trees at any time whatsoever.
Honestly the narrative voice of this story was wonderful. It switches between Ben and Phillip intermittently and is a wonderful mix of serious and incredibly funny especially with regard to Phillip’s children. Now, ask anyone who knows me and you will find out that I’m not really the maternal sort – except when it comes to animals, I’d walk through fire for our dog – so children in fiction can be hit or miss for me. Phillip’s children are adorable, fully rounded characters each with their own personalities and struggles. One of his sons, Jamie, is clearly dyslexic and as such struggles to read in a time when illiteracy in the children of the well-to-do was shameful, and there is a lovely scene where Ben encourages his strengths in mathematics and logical thinking – over cake of all things – instead of emphasising his ‘weakness’.
Men such as he married for many reasons. They wanted families; they wanted companionship; they needed a shield against suspicious minds. And Ben didn’t fault them. Couldn’t fault them. But now, for the first time he thought that his conscience might not let him go through with it.
While it is utterly delightful, this story also deals with some pretty serious subject matter. The subject of same-sex relationships was handled in an incredibly sensitive and realistic manner but what got to me the most was the utter voicelessness of queer grief. LGBT+ people throughout history have often kept their identities and relationships secret in acts of self-preservation, their love they could at least share with one another but their grief? How can you grieve the loss of a relationship you could never give name to, or acknowledge to those around you? While it does not take up the majority of the story, the grief of a man for his lover following his death was a poignant and well-handled element of the plot that I deeply appreciated. There’s also discussion of polyamory, with the utter scandal of a man, his wife and the woman they lived with and loved serving to emphasise that heterosexual monogamy may seemingly be the historical default, but other identities and relationships have existed all the while.
“Friendship and love,” Ben went on. “Vows and covenants. It’s the only kind of miracle most of us will experience, whatever shape it comes in.”
I adored this book, it was funny and romantic and sexy and sad and happy and all sorts of things, and Cat Sebastian is a wonderful writer. I highly recommend it to fans of historical romance, especially if you happen to enjoy historical gentleman in uniforms because there’s a vicar and a sailor so you get two for the price of one, and they make out a lot. And it’s great.