Title: Unmasked by the Marquess
Author: Cat Sebastian
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Lenght: 384 pages
Genre: Romance, Historical
There is something utterly charming and cozy about the way Cat Sebastian writes that makes me come back time and time again. Her particular brand of grumpy assholes who are horrible at love is my personal catnip, and you can’t even imagine my boundless joy when I found out her next book will have a non-binary protagonist.
As always, the book’s greatest strength are the characters. Alistair de Lacey is an utter sod, a bit of an asshole, horrible at being charming and yet I adore him. He tries so, so hard to be an asshole who doesn’t care about anyone or anything, but it is only after he lets love into his heart that he finally achieves his final form as a menacing cartoon supervillain, complete with high-backed chairs and stroking kittens. I don’t understand why I don’t find him a grating alphahole. In characters not written with such care I would. Be it bestowing names on people, grumpily threatening to send them to Canada or calling them scamps, I could only laugh at his antics, completely charmed.
Charity Church, aka Robert Selby, or as I prefer to call her, Robin, was absolutely magnificent. I kept whispering “oh god I love you so much” as I read. Robin is highly driven, selfless and kind, but also sarcastic with to plans on taking anyone’s shit (we’re looking at you, Alistair); someone on the crossroads of her life, trying to figure out what to do next with her life. She can’t continue living as Robert, but can’t go to being Charity, because that’s not an identity that fits anymore. She doesn’t want to hide away from society to live as her preferred gender identity, but also can’t stay in London that she craves. Can you live while denying a huge part of your own identity? Robin doesn’t want to find out.
It was wonderful seeing a non-binary character whose gender was so tied to their presentation. Robin’s fight for her own gender identity touched me in ways many things haven’t, and the fact that Alistair, so baffled and so steepled in propriety and traditions, learned to accept and support her warmed my soul.
There is a beautiful scene, where Alistair compared Robin to a changeling from the folk tales and it felt so profound, I had to put the book down to give myself a breathing space just to be able to absorb such beauty. The legends of changelings have fascinated me for years, but to have the connection made between them and queer people, and non-binary people in general, resonated with me in a way I still have troubles putting into words.
This book is hilarious, and snarky, and touching; it is filled to the brim with loyalty and love in all kinds of possible forms. I love everything about it and can’t wait for the next to squeeze my heart too.