Reviewed by Christine J.
TITLE: The Innocent Auction
SERIES: Innocents #1
AUTHOR: Victoria Sue
NARRATOR: Joel Leslie
LENGTH: 6 hours 44 minutes
RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017
Their love was a death sentence.
Deacon, Viscount Carlisle, was aware of the slums and gin-lanes of London. Just as he was aware of the underground traffic that furnished the brothels and bath houses with human innocents. He was also aware that the so-called justice system would hang the accused without much of an attempt at a defense, unless the unfortunate had deep pockets to pay for it.
He just hadn’t expected to be directly involved in any of it.
It started with a plea for help and ended with forbidden love, the love between a Viscount and a stable-boy. An impossible love and a guarantee of the hangman’s noose.
Will Deacon fight for Tom? Will he risk the death sentence and take that fight from the stately halls of his English mansion to the horrors of Newgate Prison and the slums of London?
Or will he realize that if he doesn’t, death will be a welcome end to the loneliness of the sentence he is already living?
I am not a big fan of historical romance. To me, they feel tedious, particularly when dealing with characters in the aristocracy. I picked this one up, however, mainly because it sounded intriguing and—hello—Joel Leslie was the narrator. I was pleasantly surprised as I found likable characters set amidst a beautifully represented Regency period London.
In general, historical romances involving the aristocracy can put me off. I feel it can be difficult to relate to the rich and their lifestyles and priorities. However, I truly appreciated the author’s keen balance between representing an authentic view of the period while maintaining the integrity and likability of Deacon and Tom. Though the romantic relationship between these two characters feels a bit underdeveloped, the characters themselves are appealing and sympathetic. Deacon could have come across as pompous and arrogant; however, despite his aristocratic position, he is painted with a lovely, relatively humble brush. His decency, compassion, and kindness to others despite their social standing or circumstances make him an admirable character who consistently tries to the right thing in extremely difficult situations. At times this feels a bit cumbersome, as he seems to be continually rushing to the aid of others and trying to rescue hapless souls. Though these events help to create a fuller sense of the perils of the period for upper and lower class alike, I feel that it detracts from much-needed relationship building between Deacon and Tom. Regarding Tom, he is created with depth and dimension, and his character appealed to me the most. He has an interesting and heartbreaking backstory, which I would have loved to see given more page time. His growth and pride, despite the difficulties he has faced, are satisfying to witness.
Most impressive here is the author’s ability to paint a portrait of the times. The glimpses of the seedy underworld of human trafficking and the severe penalties for homosexual activities are frightening and heartbreaking. The author provides clear, vivid accounts that are awash with scenes of humanity at its best and its worst. From the gritty slums of London, to the stately mansions of the aristocracy, to Deacon’s beloved stables and its inhabitants, the reader is treated to the sights, sounds, and smells of Regency period London. With carefully crafted and often gut-wrenching detail, the horrors, elegance, and injustices of the time are laid upon the page in equal measure. I found myself in tears more than once as societal realities played out and broke my heart.
Believable resolutions for gay romances of this period must be difficult to write. To create a realistic way for two characters to be together in an illegal relationship and still maintain a satisfying HEA has to be challenging. I would rather not give away the ending, so I will simply say that the reader must decide whether the resolution here is satisfying or not. Although it seemed a bit contrived to me, its purpose is understood, and it works fairly well in my opinion.
A word about the narrator, Joel Leslie: perfection. I usually hear his voice in my head for days after listening to one of his performances, and this was no exception. I always enjoy his emotional range, accent skills, and his character interpretations, but this particular book allowed his talents to truly shine. Brilliant, Mr. Leslie!
Overall, The Innocent Auction is a well-crafted novel. The richly drawn setting and the tension created by the sexual relationship between the two main characters—as well as between men in general–make this a compelling read. No, I am generally not a fan of historical romance; however, I will definitely be following this series by Victoria Sue.