033 - Band Sinister
In the small town of Yarlcote, the bad blood between the Rookwoods and the Frisbys is everyone's favorite kind of gossip. And that says nothing of Sir Phillip Rookwood's black reputation itself - with such rumors about what he gets up to, the Frisby siblings must stay clear. So what happens when fate intervenes forcing Guy and Amanda to reside at Rookwood Hall with not only Sir Phillip but also his friends who are in a club called The Murder!? Well, it turns out Phillip is actually a thoughtful person, and Guy has his sheltered mind blown after stumbling across a tryst between Phillip and Lord Corvin! Yet, despite the legal and moral ambiguities, Guy finds himself thinking more and more about it. Plus, because Phillip is all about transparency, he offers Guy a chance to explore a connection he did not even think it possible to have. Can the Frisbys and the Rookwoods make up at long last? There is no fighting attraction in Band Sinister by KJ Charles! **Let’s be frank. Spoilers**
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0:00 - 02:50: Intro
02:50 - 05:53: Author Facts/Tropes
5:53 - 35:59: Synopsis
35:59 - 39:37: Parlour
39:37 - 1:19:01: General Book Discussion
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We are now including our synopses as a semi-transcription of the episode in our blog posts. You can learn more about how we compose these by reading this article. As a reminder though, our synopses are FULL of spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk :)
Band Sinister Synopsis:
We open to a gruesome scene - under the cover of darkness Lord Darkdown is engaging in some pagan ceremony in his gardens, complete with flames and mystery. The torchlight flickers over the party of evil-doers who can barely contain their glee, as a young lady clad in only her shift, bosom heaving, lays at the center of their villainous circle….
But this is not the setting for our book - this in fact, is a passage from our hero’s sister Amanda’s new Gothic novel, which has been published and he’s only now gotten to read. Guy is quite horrified at the subject matter, but even more horrified at how easily her muses could be recognized.
For Amanda has named her characters Sir Peter Falconwood, who she describes as fair-haired, scientifically minded, and Lord Darkdown, both members of a hellfire club…..and their neighbor is Sir Philip Rookwood, who is a quote “fair haired, scientifically minded libertine in a hellfire club with the notorious rake Lord Corvin” and quote “might possibly object to his caricature as a murdering devil-worshipper?”
But Amanda isn’t worried - of course they will never read it - so Guy shouldn’t worry about any sort of sueing happening. Plus Amanda is publishing under a pseudonym so they are protected.
Guy isn’t so assured - after all, there’s been very bad blood between the Rookwoods and Frisby’s for years (Montague and Capulet sort of rivalry) but there’s not much he can do about it now. The book is published, and while he doesn’t find it respectable, he certainly can’t argue that it’s a ripping good story.
Plus, Guy is immensely proud of Amanda for her work, and they are both excatic about the 7 pounds she got for the publishing. But now, she’s thinking of the sequel, and reaaaaally wonders what actually goes on at Sir Philip’s parties….couldn’t they pay a call to their neighbor? After all, she reasons, quote “what happened really wasn’t his fault any more than it was ours.”
But Guy is adamant that Amanda never set foot near the house. It doesn’t matter that his brother was the one who ruined things - as it stands now, Rookwood and his parties are scandalous, and she mustn’t be seen near them.
Sir Philip himself is the black sheep of the town of Yarlcote. He rarely comes to town, and when he does, he keeps to himself and his parties in his manor. His club - which he and Corvin had coined the Murder - was the kind of thing that everyone whispered with loud speculation about. But honestly, what can a club called the Murder by it’s own hosts be about.
Orgies, they all speculate. For all the guests are radicals and have scandalous reputations. What else could it be!
Two days after their conversation though, Amanda doesn’t come home from her ride, but her horse does...Guy is quite worried and trying to find her when a footman arrives at his home to inform him that she had a nasty fall on Sir Philip’s property and she is being treated currently at the manor for a broken leg.
Guy stared at the words. “Broken leg,” he repeated. His voice sounded odd.
“I fear so, sir,” the servant said. “Sir Philip and Mr. Raven found Miss Frisby in a field, I understand.” “But-is she all right?” “No, sir. Her leg is broken.”
The break is so bad that the servant informs Guy that the doctor attending her insists she cannot be moved. Guy can’t accept that information, because any contact with the manor will ruin his sister. He begs their housekeeper to come for propriaty, but she refuses to go there. Guy knows he has to find a way to get Amanda home and he races to her side.
When Guy arrives, he is met by Sir Philip and a black man - the first he’s ever seen not in a photograph, who says to Sir Philip. “Here you go, Phil. Outraged brother. Have fun.”
Sir Philip immediately inquires if Guy has brought a woman to attend her and when he answers in the negative he starts railing. As there isn’t a single female in the household Guy shall have to take her home tonight if they cannot find a suitable chaperone. Guy is quite amenable to this so they go to chat with the doctor.
But it seems the bone was broken extremely badly, a compound fracture quite near to her artery, Dr. Martelo tells them. Moving her at all could kill her, in fact, disturbing her at all so that she moves too much could kill her. Can they find a skilled nurse to help him in this small town? He requests that Frisby summon the town’s doctor to see about and sets about giving other orders for the night.
But both Philip and Guy protest - they want to move Amanda now - but the doctor is incredulous. Perhaps in a fortnight at the earliest, for any time before that and they might surely kill her. He makes it clear that if it’s her reputation or her life they should choose her life, and come on, get a woman in her and you can save her reputation.
Guy and Philip are both equally unhappy about this predicament - neither one wants to be in the others presence let alone stuck in the same house for at least a fortnight - and they sling sarcastic barbs back and forth a bit while they try to figure out another solution.
“Can you send for her maid?” “She wouldn’t set foot in this house,” Guy said. It was a statement of fact, not intended as an insult, but when he saw Rookwood’s brownish brows shoot up he realized how it had sounded. He opened his mouth to stammer out an apology but Rookwood got in first. “I do beg your pardon, Mr. Frisby. Had I known Miss Frisby intended to trespass on my land and then colonise my house for an infirmary, I should have conducted myself differently.” “Had my father known your brother’s intent to - to trespass on his land, I dare say we should all have conducted ourselves differently for the last few years,” Guy said furiously. “But we all have to live with the consequences of his actions, don’t we?”
The other houseguests are also not particularly pleased with the arrival of the interlopers, because they come here for privacy - to have a space where they can be themselves. Quote
They were here for comfort and safety, to think and talk without constraint, to touch as they chose, or sleep in the same bed without worrying about it. That was what the Murder offered, it was a rare priviliage for some of them - for all of them really except Corvin who could afford safety - and Philip was furious that the Frisby’s had arrived to ruin it.
He also fits the last piece of the puzzle into place for his friends - the full story of the family rivalry. His brother had run away with their mother - so Amanda being her, the daughter, has extreme implications. The gossip would run rampant saying that the brother has ruined the daughter.
But while the guests are a bit disappointed, the house is big enough, and they all wish to stay. We have John Raven, an artist, David Martelo, the doctor, Lord Corvin, a viscount, Harry and Sheridan, a couple of geologists, and George, a composer, and Ned a violinist.
Eventually, the town doctor arrives, and gets into a huge row with Dr. Martelo. Dr. Martelo has some radical thoughts about medicine, but more than that, he looks ethnic (in fact, he is a Jew), and the town doctor insists that Amanda must be moved tonight, for propriety.
Philip can see that Guy is torn, and finally, jumps in the fray.
“Mr. Frisby,” Philip said, cursing himself with every word. “You will do as you wish, but let me say three things to you. First, Dr. Martelo is an excellent and highly experienced man; if I had a sister I would put her in his hands without hesitation. Second, I quite understand your reluctance to accept my hospitality, but I give you my word as a gentleman that your sister will be treated with the utmost care and respect by me, my friends, and my staff as she remains here. “That’s two things,” Frisby said. His voice was cracked. “Yes. The third is that I hope you will not allow the idle words of” -he flicked a glance at the doctor- “petty, malicious busybodies and spiteful gossips to influence your decision. Miss Frisby has suffered a severe injury, and Dr, Martelo advises she should be moved as little as possible. You might well consider any other concerns to be trivial until she has made a recovery.”
But that isn’t the end of it quote
“I beg your pardon,” Dr. Bewdly said, swelling. “Miss Frisby’s reputation is not ‘trivial.’ Reputation is a woman’s crowning jewel., her greatest possession, and I will not stand by to see it tarnished.” “I think her life is a greater possession than her reputation.” Frisby’s voice shook slightly.
And finally, Frisby gets the town doctor to admit that there is a risk in moving her - and he decides to keep her at Rookwood hall for the time being. Dr. Bewdly is so petty that he refuses to send a nurse to attend her.
Amanda descends into fever the first night and is in a bad way. Dr. Bewdly is called back out because Guy doesn’t know what to do, but this descends into a furious argument about bloodletting, and Philip has to intervene and kick them out of the sickroom to fight it out. He insists that Guy eat something and get some rest once he’s decided what doctor he can trust and that he’ll see that Amanda is cared for. So Guy eventually decides to go with Martelo, and the servants have secured a woman to come attend Amanda by that afternoon.
He finally gets some sleep, and Amanda’s fever continues to rage for days. Things get Very Dire for a while, and this casts a bit of a pall over the houseguests, even though they are not visiting Amanda nor partaking in her care. However, eventually she pulls through, and once she’s cognizant enough she is delighted to discover where she is. She is also delighted to discover that her copy of Darkdown has arrived!
And once Guy realizes that Amanda is out of the woods for now, he finally gets some real, decent rest. He awakens from a long, deep slumber late in the day, dresses, walks out of his room, and promptly gets lost, quote
“It wasn’t entirely his fault. THe old Jacobean house was a maze; getting from his remote bedroom to the main stair involved four turnings and he had no recollection of the last few days beyond the constant blurring hum of panic. Nevertheless he’d been up and down to and from this room multiple times. He ought to have known the way, but he hadn’t actually paid attention to his feet in the glow of relief. He’d somehow taken the wrong dark, narrow corridor, and now he had no idea where he was.
Luckily, this is a house, not a seedy London neighborhood, so Guy isn’t worried. In fact, soon he hears voices and heads towards that to ask for help. But what he finds when he pokes his head into the room is nothing like he’s ever seen before.
He has stumbled into a tryst - between Philip and Lord Corvin. They’re exchanging bawdy talk, kisses, teasing, adoring words, and before they go further Guy backs away and tries to process what he saw.
He wasn’t entirely ignorant - afterall, he is a scholar of Latin and Greek - but he had just reconciled that the Murder’s reputation was nonesense! But this was depravity, wasn’t it? Except, they had seemed so tender? Hadn’t Corvin said quote
“My lovely, I adore you?”
Guy wanted to leave the house. He wanted to wipe it all from his mind. He wanted not to be aware of the uncomfortable, squirmy feeling in his gut and the heat in his face and the fact that he hadn’t walked away at once, or raised the roof in moral outrage. The fact that he’d been momentarily transfixed.
He finally makes his way downstairs to find Amanda reading from Darkdown to one of the geologists. He goes from shock to shock again - because what if Philip and Corvin hear of this book - but Mr. Street is transfixed and must know what comes next! Amanda ends up loaning him the book. And that’s how the Murder learns of Darkdown.
Philip himself soon runs into Guy and immediately notices something is amiss when Guy can’t look him in the eye. He corners him into a walk and the two take off as Guy can’t find a way out.
To break the ice, Philip talks more about his brother and his own family history. Turns out that he is a bastard, never knew his brother, and never had been to Rookwood Hall before his brother died. His father had hated him and he’d never truly been accepted in society because of it. Which is why he didn’t care what the ton thought. He also felt that Rookwood hall and everything in it really wasn’t his. They also discuss what it was like for Guy and Amanda to lose their Mother, and their father’s decline afterwards. Guy confesses that it hadn’t been wonderful before she left - that all he could remember was fighting. So perhaps it wouldn’t have been better if she had stayed.
However, with this deep conversation and with Guy’s frayed nerves, eventually one comment unnerves him and he shouts as Philip and storms off.
It doesn’t take him long to cool and realize that he was in the wrong for exploding like that, quote
And Rookwood had let Guy and Amanda ruin his part, and he'd apologized for his brother and even offered to pay the bills that had been nibbling at the edges of Guy’s tenuous calm. And in return Guy had taken the first opportunity to shout at him for no reason except that his nerves were red raw and he couldn’t stop picturing Corvin on the couch, and Rookwood smiling down at him.
Eventually though, Philip appears and insists on apologizing himself for rattling Guy and insists he join them for dinner. Guy can’t say no - but his nerves continue to fry more because he worries that somehow Philip will know that Guy saw him and Corvin.
The dinner ends up being fascinating as he really gets to know what the Murder is about and all the other guests. Conversation is heated and challenging and wide ranging, The geologists insist the earth is older than the bible and show him fossils as evidence. All of this challenges his knowledge, but he can’t refute it completely and becomes pensive. The fossil had been quite overwhelming. Also they’re atheists and Guy doesn’t even KNOW what to think about that. And they all believe in women’s rights. In fact, dinner can adequately be summed up by Guy’s thoughts quote
Guy’s jaw dropped. He wasn’t quite sure if atheism was legal; it certainly wasn’t acceptable in decent company. He’d never met a self-confessed atheist in his life until this bizarre sojourn. He’d also never met a black man, a Jew, or a geologist. Or a viscount, come to that. He wasn’t sure exactly how his quiet rural existence had brought him to this point, but Amanda would be wringing every detail out of him for months.
By the end of the dinner he has become quite pensive, sipping wine and thinking quote
It was beyond argument, for Guy: he couldn’t begin to formulate answers to questions he’d never even considered asking.
He also stares a lot at Philip throughout the meal, and Philip notices.
Corvin notices the gazing and offers Philip advice - not to go after unknowns. And here’s where things get more interesting - we learn that Corvin and Raven and Philip have been friends and lovers since childhood. They entertain each other, but there is no romantic love between them, but there is a very strong bond.
The next day, Darkdown has circulated and The Murder has realized the inspriation for the characters. While they all are filled with glee, Guy, once he realizes, is filled with dread. Corvin is making threats (but those who know him know that he is absolutely delighted with being the inspiration for the villain in the book), but all Guy can absorb is that they are going to use Corvin’s connections to find out the author. He is shook.
And while he’s in that state, Philip invites him to watch John Raven paint his portrait - and it turns out to be in the same parlor where he had seen Philip and Corvin. So Guy tries not to have a total meltdown while Philip is seated, and the pair stare at each other and finally when Guy can’t stop staring at the couch, Philip puts all the pieces of the puzzle together and knows that Guy knows.
So later, he insists they talk and walk. And he doesn’t mince words.
“Right. Not to put too fine a point upon it, Frisby, I take it you saw something you didn’t intend to. That’s not a complaint,” he added. “Entirely my fault. I’m not used to bothering with discretion here. But since you did, I feel we should both know where we stand.”
And while it’s a very difficult conversation, on their walk Philip coaxes Guy to talk about it. They discuss laws, and morality, and their families infidelities. Guy has a hard time wrapping his head around things at first, but Philip is gently firm.
“Well, then, there’s right and wrong!” “Yes, there is. In my view, what’s right is that one’s partner should be willing. If people freely choose to take their pleasure together, where is the wrong?”
“Society would fall apart!” “Instead of being mortared with misery, adultery, and hypocrisy. People already act precisely as they please, Guy. The only question is whether we all have to keep up the pretense they don’t.”
But they also talk of lighter things - and there’s some light flirting….but one interesting fact is that Philip admits that the name for the Murder comes not from nefarious deeds, but from……...birds. You see, Philip Rookwood, John Raven, and Lord Corvin, from corvus or crow. And rooks, ravens, and crows are from the same family…..They’re a murder of crows. And while a lot has been said, a lot remains unsaid…..for Guy has had enough and finally has to take his leave.
Meanwhile, Amanda is recovering and enjoying her time with the houseguests immensely, they are delightful and thrilling and she is absorbing it all with gusto.
The conversation isn’t put on hold for long though, because the next day Philip corners Guy into another walk. And on their way to a famous town tree up on a hill, some heartfelt conversation occurs.
Guy admits that Amanda is his world, and that she’s number one forever as he’s all she has. She was ruined in her one and only season, and now they’re beholden to the Aunt who pays for their livelihood. And one of her conditions of continued payment is that they stay in Yarlcote, as her own three daughters were coming out and couldn’t be tainted by Amanda.
And then they discuss what Guy saw. Really discuss it. All the moral and legal and philosophical ambiguities surrounding it - the types of relationship that he has with John and Corvin - physical, not emotional. And then Philip goes for it when the conversation opens the way.
“Let me be frank. I find you intriguing, and extremely appealing, and delightful company, and very much a man who deserves more pleasure in his life. If you’d like to take that pleasure with me, I’d be honored. If you aren’t so minded, don’t take offence at the offer, and I shant at the refusal. And if you decide you’d prefer Corvin, for example, I shall bow out like a gentleman, although I shall probably kick him in the shins at some point from pure envy.” Guy’s eyes were huge, catching the green of the lush lands around them. Philip smiled into them. “You are entirely lovely and I’d like to prove that to you, but only if you wish. And now we are going to walk on, and you can tell me what you think when you’ve found out what it is.”
Guy has to wrestle with his morals and his feelings and all these liberal beliefs that he’s only recently discovered. They reach the tree, and they discuss it more. And he thinks more, quote
It might prove calamitous; he could imagine a thousand ways in which it would. But he’d say and listened to the Murder speak as they chose for hours, and it had felt as though he’d been in a box without even knowing it, and someone had taken a crowbar and pried off the top. Guy had blinked at first, and shied away from the light as too painful. Now he felt the urge to stretch.
But at the end of their conversation, he nods his ascension, and something has begun.
When they return to the estate, Guy is a ball of nerves. But Philip is patient and gentle and assures him that they won’t do anything he isn’t comfortable with. All he has to do is say stop, and Philip will stop. This calms Guy enough to get them into the house and up to a sitting room.
And there they have a lesson in consent, pleasure, and passion that starts with a kiss and continues to hand stuff where both parties get to pleasure the other for our first encounter. But, with the pleasure of youth and perhaps the loss of his virginity, Guy is ready again and gets to learn what Philips' mouth feels like on him as well.
Life continues quite merrily after this first encounter, where Guy finally feels like part of the party and relaxes into company. Amanda is still having a lovely time with all the guests when they come to visit her. The only darkness is Darkdown, as Corvin continues to shout about slander and libel, which Guy takes quite seriously not realizing that this kind of notoriety is exactly what Corvin revels in.
And with the kind of day that Guy has had - he is on edge and terrified for Amanda, and terrified that he holds the truth of the author. So he realizes he has one recourse - he can take the blame and say that he is the author. Amanda and he get into a ROW about it, because it is her book and she wants to take the CREDIT for it.
But, as Amanda is bedridden, Guy is able to apologize for “writing” Darkdown to Philip before she can stop him - but only JUST before she can stop him, because she threatens to pull herself out of bed and the doctor insists that Philip and Guy join them NOW in the sickroom, where Amanda takes the credit she is due. And finally everything can be explained and ironed out, and the Frisbys learn that Corvin is actually absolutely delighted with the book and that Philip is also totally fine with it.
And with that, Philip drags Guy up the stairs for a discussion and a kiss. And they part with a greater understanding of the other.
They move into encounter number two later that day which is a continued education of all the things that they could do to each other….one day when Guy feels comfortable about it, but for now, he has to learn to voice what he wants and likes. Which is hard for him, as he’s only just allowed himself to want. Quote
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just, I’ve spent my whole life not saying anything to anyone, barely to myself in my own head, and now you want me to say it all out loud, and I can’t.” Philip cocked his head. Guy had a sudden fear he would reveal irritation or impatience when he spoke, but he sounded as calm as ever. “Actually, dear heart, you just have. I asked you for something, and you’ve told me you don’t want to do it. That’s every bit as important as what you do want to do.”
The next week passes like a dream. Amanda improves and is transferred to a chair, and Guy and Philip continue their affair blissfully. There is some description of their continued affair...so perhaps we can call this encounter 2.5? However, the planned time at Rookwood hall is coming to an end, which will force some decisions and conversations. Philip will remain until Amanda can leave, but the other guests begin to leave as needed. Philip though is realizing that it will be hard to leave and go back to london and continue life without Guy. There is something very different and special about their relationship. And he’s not sure what to do about it. Oh, also, Dr. Martelo is kind of in love with Amanda and is also not sure what to do about it.
Philip decides to tell Guy that he’s fallen in love with him, and could Guy possibly come to London with him? Guy is stunned and wishful, but there’s amanda...and their aunt…..and so many complications….namely the lack of funds. So for now, visits to Rookwood Hall would be what they have.
The next week is blissful, and encounter number 3 is even more adventurous than the first two.
However, then there is a twist!
While Philip and Guy are in the midst of encounter number 4, a carriage arrives. Somehow, their Aunt has heard that they’re at Rookwood, and she and her husband have come to extricate them. They simply won’t take no for an answer- anyone learning that the Frisby’s were even HERE, my word, that could risk the family’s reputation!
And as they are financially tied to her, they do return to their home, much to everyone’s dismay except their aunt, who stays with them for a while to ‘solve things.’ Her solution is to marry Amanda to a curate who is dismal, and Amanda is horrified.
However, she imagines that she can get a 10 pound advance for book 2 of Darkdown, plus the money she has for the first! So with that money, perhaps they could move, and pay their own way for a year while Guy finds work?
It’s also important to note that they’re both lovesick - Amanda over Martelo and Guy over Philip - and they do discuss the amours with each other, and both are understanding of the other.
After they tell their Aunt that they won’t follow her orders and will be striking out on their own, visitors arrive! It’s Philip - and he has an important letter for Miss Frisby. However, once he hears of the curate and the proposal, he hurries back outside to bring in Dr. Martelo.
The letter turns out to be a better offer for her book (40 pounds, Raven had helped negotiate for her but sends word she should hold out for 60), oh and Dr. Martelo also has an important question for her….would she like to marry him?
Oh, yes, Amanda would. And while he sees to her Aunt, who is having palpitations over the whole evening, Philip and Guy are able to slip out to the garden to discuss their future.
With Amanda settled with Martelo, that leaves Guy more free than before. And would he like to be Philip's man of business? That way they can travel together and be together?
Well, Guy has no idea if he’ll be good at it, but he’s excited to try. And they exchange I love you’s in the garden and have a moment together before heading back inside. Quote
“Philip shut his eyes, something in his face relaxing. “Thank you, beloved. Thank you.” “Am I still imagining you kneeling down.” “I could be very well kneeling.” “Could we imagine that you stood up and kissed me?” “Thoroughly,” Philip said, “and passionately, with one hand on your wonderful arse and the other in your hair, bending you backwards and ravishing your mouth until you have no choice at all but to say ‘Yes, please, Philip’. I hope.” “Yes,” Guy said. “Yes, please Philip. I’d love to be with you. And I’d like to imagine I’m kissing you back as hard as you’ve ever kissed me.” “I truly am. Good. Good. Might I get back on my imaginary knees? I have work to do there.” They were simply standing in a vegetable garden, not even touching, looking at one another, and Guy could feel Philip’s touch all over his skin.”
And that evening, their Aunt leaves, and the two happy couples have a night together, and Philip and Guy have a passionate encounter number 5.
And so starts their happy ending!
To hear what we thought about Band Sinister, tune into the episode!