Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing A Rulebook for Restless Rogues by Jess Everlee. I enjoyed the first book in this series and was excited to get my hands on this follow up.
Jess Everlee follows up her sparkling debut The Gentleman’s Book of Vices with this charming queer historical romp, in which two lifelong best friends find romance as they join forces to save the one place where they can truly be themselves.
David Forester and Noah Clarke have been best friends since boarding school. All grown up now, clever, eccentric Noah is Savile Row’s most promising young tailor, while former socialite David runs an underground queer club, The Curious Fox.
Nothing makes David happier than to keep the incense lit, the pianist playing and all his people comfortable, happy and safe until they stumble out into the dawn. But when the unscrupulous baron who owns the Fox moves to close it, David’s world comes crashing down.
Noah’s never feared a little high-stakes gambling, but as he risks his own career in hopes of helping David, he realizes two things:
David has not been honest about how he ended up at The Curious Fox in the first place.
Noah’s feelings for David have become far more than friendly.
What future lies beyond those first furtive kisses? Noah and David can hardly wait to find out…if they can untangle David from his web of deception without losing everything Noah has worked for.
***Thank you to Carina Adores for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I enjoyed the first book from this author and was excited to see that this one would follow two of the supporting characters from that story. One of my favorite things about The Gentleman’s Book of Vices was the found family environment at the club, The Curious Fox. David and Noah were a huge part of that family, and I loved the idea of getting to see their romance blossom. I can confirm that I did, in fact, enjoy spending more time getting to know them and their history. However, there were some things about this book that made me love it less than the first one.
First off, I still loved all of the characters. David and Noah were fun to follow, and I liked how the story switched between their past and present to give the reader a clear picture of their journey. Their best friends to lovers romance was super angsty and full of years of mutual pining finally coming to a head. David had some abandonment and self worth issues that Noah helped him work through, and Noah had so many walls up that David needed a sledgehammer to slowly chip away at them. I understood David’s reticence to express his feelings because of the terrible things he’d experienced in the past, but Noah’s emotional constipation seemed a bit unfounded. It made sense that he wouldn’t want to lose his best friend if things didn’t work out, but the lengths he went to avoid his feelings just seemed over the top at times. It did make for good drama, though, and I can’t deny that I ate it up. lol.
The plot was where this book didn’t work as well for me. There wasn’t much build up of the two characters just being friends in the beginning, and the crisis at the club happened really, really fast. This kept the book from having as much of the found family feel as I expected. The story was also a bit lopsided and gave more weight to David’s struggles than Noah’s. In the beginning, the reader is led to believe Noah is super stressed about his workload and career, but then it got ignored for most of the book because the characters were focused on their romantic entanglements and the club being closed down. I enjoyed the parts of the story we got, but I really wanted to see more of Noah in his element. I think part of the problem was that all of these big things were crammed together over the course of a weekend, which didn’t give the story much room to breathe. The ending was also a bit lackluster. Everything got wrapped up in a couple of paragraphs, and it just felt way too simple and passive.
I also think it’s important to note that I don’t think this book works very well as a standalone. I enjoyed this follow-up because it added context to the pre-existing story and characters. However, people who haven’t read the first book will likely not appreciate it as much because the book didn’t take the time to set anything up. The club was shut down almost from the beginning, and none of the cameo characters get any real characterization. So, I definitely recommend reading The Gentleman’s Book of Vices first because a lot of my enjoyment was tied to how this book related to the previous one. I’d definitely classify this as more of a companion novel than a sequel, as well, since it adds context to the first story without really moving it forward in any way.
Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable MM historical romance with good writing. I liked the main characters and the angsty best friends to lovers story. However, I wish the story had been a bit more independent and worked better on its own to add something unique to this world. If you’ve read the first book, I do recommend picking this one up for the context on what happened at The Curious Fox. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.