A Dark and Brooding Gentleman is the second book in Margaret McPhee's "Gentlemen of Disrepute"series, although it is a wholly stand-alone novel.
Readers met Sebastian in the previous book as the best friend of that hero. We don't know much about Sebastian from that book, only that he is a hellion, spending all his time in London drinking and gambling, with some womanizing thrown in for good measure. When A Dark and Brooding Gentleman opens, Sebastian is at his estate in Scotland and he is much changed. Gone is the carefree man and in his place is one who is lost.
It has been nine months since his father's death, and Sebastian blames himself for his father's demise—as does his mother. Mrs. Hunter can barely stand to be in the same room with Sebastian, so imagine his surprise when his mother moves into Blacklock Hall with her companion Phoebe. Mrs. Hunter gives the excuse that her house is being redecorated but, she is afraid because her home has been broken into, and searched, twice.
Phoebe's father is in gaol for a debt he is unable to repay and Phoebe has been offered the means to get her father out of prison and settle somewhere safe—all she has to do is steal something from Sebastian. At first Phoebe refuses, until the threats against her father take shape in the form of his bruised and bloodied face.
A Dark and Brooding Gentleman is part gothic, part mystery, and all romance. We don't find out what it is that Phoebe has been tasked to steal until the middle of the book and I won't reveal it as the mystery of it goes back to the beginning of the Hunter family history. Ms. McPhee beautifully weaves together all the parts of the story—the blackmail part, the mystery of Sebastian's family, their misconceptions and mistrust of each other, the slow building of trust and love between Phoebe and Sebastian, and the reunion of mother and son—giving her characters life, and bringing her readers a story that drew me in and hooked me.
The characters of Sebastian and Phoebe, and in fact, of all the characters were so well drawn that one could imagine one's self in the story with them. Sebastian had a lot weighing on his soul, and on his father's deathbed promise Sebastian exiles himself to Scotland where he drinks and broods, with never a change to his days…until his mother and Phoebe arrive to shake him out of his darkness.
Phoebe was a strong heroine, more than a match for Sebastian's brooding nature. She doesn't shirk her duties as companion nor does she waste time in searching Blacklock Hall. She is caught a couple of times and each time manages to lie her way out of it, and while Sebastian doesn't trust her, he still doesn't know what she is searching for, so he accepts her lies.
A Dark and Brooding Gentleman is a definite keeper for me as are all of the Margaret McPhee books I have read. See if this gothic-esque story works as well for you.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero