The Captain and the Theatrical, Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Historical Gay Romance
Length: 214 Pages
Book three in the Captivating Captains series
When Captain Pendleton needs an emergency fiancée, who better to turn to than his male best friend? After all, for Amadeo Orsini, life’s one long, happy drag!
Captain Ambrose “Pen” Pendleton might have distinguished himself on the battlefield at Waterloo but since he’s come home to civvy street, he’s struggled to make his mark.
Pen dreams of becoming a playwright but his ambitious father has other ideas, including a trophy wife and a new job in America. If he’s to stand a hope of staying in England and pursuing his dream, Pen needs to find a fiancée fast.
Amadeo Orsini never made it as a leading man, but as a leading lady he’s the toast of the continental stage. Now Cosima is about to face her most challenging role yet, that of Captain Pendleton’s secret amour.
With the help of a talking theatrical parrot who never forgets his lines, Orsini throws on his best frock, slaps on the rouge and sets out to save Pen from the clutches of Miss Harriet Tarbottom and her scheming parents.
As friendship turns into love, will the captain be able to write a happy ending for himself and Orsini before the curtain falls?
The Captain and the Theatrical is set in the summer of 1817, two years post Captain Ambrose “Pen” Pendleton at the Battle of Waterloo. While Pen was in the Army he met an Italian who left an indelible impression on him- Amadeo Orsini. There was never anything much in depth about their time together in Italy, but there was enough to know they both had the same thoughts about one another only neither knew how the other felt.
This time around when Pen meets Orsini in London, Orsini is Cosima a creation of Pen’s from a play he wrote and left with Orsini, Fleet Fortune. Pen dreams of being a playwright but he doesn’t think he has what it takes. His father wants him back at Derbyshire and Pendleton Hall, their family estate, to meet then marry Harriet Tarbottom from Philadelphia. Pen’s father is not a nobleman but a self-made man of industry and the Tarbottoms are a family of industry as well, their blended family will create more wealth and prestige for the Pendleton name. It will create a captain of industry of Ambrose. It doesn’t matter than Pen doesn’t want to marry Harriet, that he doesn’t want to be a man of industry, his father wants it.
Amadeo Orsisi is such an intriguing man – an 1817 drag queen. On the stage Orsini is the gorgeous La Cosima, bedecked in beautiful gowns and wearing makeup. While his fashionably long hair is in a queue as a male, it is long and out or coiffed in different ways as a woman. Cosima plays out the part written in Pen’s play to delighted crowds and packed venues. Orsini is a pretty man but as a woman she is stunning. Cosima also has a larger than life parrot, Pagolo, who takes part in her performance and is definitely a secondary character in the book. Cosima has such a hype about her – Viscount’s and Kings have courted the beautiful actress and many others long for her affections. Orsini says it best when he tells Pen that five nights a week he’s Cosima and two he’s Amadeo, that Cosima has given him the ability to make a living that Amadeo doesn’t have.
“Amadeo Orsini was simply one more pretty young actor in a sea of pretty young actors.” Cosima pouted softly. “Cosima was merely intended as a party piece and yet her star soon eclipsed mine, and I could never hold back a beautiful young lady!”
In London the two men get reacquainted and Pen doesn’t want to leave. Orsini lets Pen know that whilst he said he wouldn’t show the play to anyone, he couldn’t help but show it to well know theatrical producer Viscount Hartington. Orsini also tells Pen that his play has been seen by other theatrical heavyweights and they all want to meet the playwright and produce Fleet Fortune – and Pen has even more plays that no one has seen. He wants to believe this is the truth, that he can be his own man and write for a living, but he can’t. Pen also has the added problem of not being able to say no to his father. The season in London is drawing to an end and he’ll have to go home and face his responsibilities. Orsini, along with Pen, comes up with a creative and theatrical solution – Cosima will be an Italian noblewoman who met the dashing Captain Pendleton and was compromised by him during his downtime in Italy. That she has never been able to forget the unbridled passion they shared, quite scandalous, and his father will have no recourse bar put a halt to the wedding and allow Cosima and Pen to marry instead. Pen loves the idea, he’s written the play, he can create the ending he wants, can’t he?
“And I, Pen, amore mio, I have never wanted another. When you left me, when our Italian summer ended, I wept until I had no tears left in me.” He caressed Ambrose’s face with his fingertips and dropped his voice to a whisper. “Let us hope some gossip reaches your pappa, of your liaison in the pleasure gardens?”
Ambrose moved his chair closer to Orsini’s until they were side by side. He ventured to put his arm around Orsini’s waist and rested his chin on his friend’s shoulder. “There. Is that not fodder for scandal?”
When push comes to shove though, Pen leaves with a note to tell Orsini that he’s gone home, that this plan of theirs will never see the light of day let alone be successful. However, La Cosima is a force of nature, and by that I mean Amadeo as well. He does not want his friend, really the man he loves – the reader knows this – to be unhappy and in a loveless marriage.
Cosima makes it to Pendleton Hall in spite of Pen trying to be noble and do what his father wants, leaving his desires for Orsini and theatricals behind. What happens after Cosima arrives is fun and games and a mystery all in one. Something Pendleton Hall needs. Pen’s mother has not been so taken with the Tarbottoms, Harriet and her mother and father are all in residence at Pendleton Hall when Pen arrives home, and Amadeo is not fond of them either once Cosima turns up. Pen’s mum, however, immediately has a liking for the shiny, vivacious whirlwind that is La Cosima, and especially her cheeky parrot, Pagolo. No more plot from here.
Bits and Pieces:
Starting with a niggle: My only gripe with this book is the Americanised words used within a British historical romance written by two British authors. Seriously, it just shouldn’t happen.
The whole book was a play within a book about a play that was being acted out with real people, and everything was, well, kind of over the top and fabulous. It was delightful and it made the plot move along at a good clip.
Pen is a lovely character, quite the gentleman. He has strength of character with a sweet soul. Pen was in need of (much deserved) unconditional love and affection.
Orsini is a star whether as a male or female. Such a big heart filled with kindness, passion and amore.
Pagolo the parrot was outrageously portrayed but this really suits the story and the play within.
The secondary characters are well developed – you can love those you should, and you can boo-hiss those you don’t.
The romance was a slow burn and while there isn’t an overabundance of sex, and I was glad of that, it really was just right for the book… and very, very sensual.
There is a mystery to be solved and Pen and Orsini take this task on with gusto.
One other thing, I appreciated how Pen was written with some fallout from having been in battle. His hands would shake on occasion. He was affected but this is easy reading so nothing grand is made of it, just a slight gesture or behaviour here or there which portrayed a lot with so little.
Fun, fabulous and flirtatious, The Captain and the Theatrical was delightfully light-hearted romance reading. This pair of Curzon and Harkstead have an in-sync flow to their writing, complete with lovable and well-drawn characters. All in all, this book was a highly enjoyable reading experience. 4.5 Stars!