A man eager to make his fortune . . .
A godfather who initiates a dangerous psychological game . . .
An extraordinary proposition, one of discovery, pleasure–and pain.
When Richard Fenwick, a young man without family or means, returns to London from a Grand Tour of Europe in 1761, his godfather, James Gilbert, has an unexpected proposition. Gilbert has led a sedate life in the country, but now, in his advancing years, he feels the urge to experience, if vicariously, the extremes of human feeling—love and passion, in particular—along with something much more sinister. He asks Richard to serve as his proxy and to write to him of his city adventures, and his ward believes he has no option but to accept.
It quickly becomes clear that Gilbert desires correspondence of a titillating nature—tales of carousal, seduction, and excess—and so Richard begins to write of London's more salacious side. For here is an invitation to hedonism and Richard, eager to taste all that a privileged life has to offer, rises to the challenge.
But Gilbert's elaborate and manipulative "experiments" into the most intimate workings of human behavior soon drag Richard into a vortex of betrayal, where lives may be ruined and tragedy is only a step away. And when Richard does the unthinkable and falls in love, the stakes are raised and he must make a defining choice. But what sort of man has he by now become?
A chilling and deliciously dark tale of manipulation, sex, and seduction, The Skull and the Nightingale combines the intoxication of Perfume, the sensuality of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and the exquisite detail of The Crimson Petal and the White. This entrancing novel seduces the senses, bringing vividly to life the heady swirl of eighteenth-century London while exploring the darkest passions and instincts that animate us all.
"If you like a dark and racy story with intrigue, seduction, manipulation and more, set in the 18th century, this book is for you. I didn't think it was for me at first--I'm not much for historical fiction, especially English historical fiction. But Irwin really creates a vivid stage for his book, and I found myself falling into its spell pretty quickly. It's a book of dark passions and carnal needs in a time of great propriety, with a young man made a kind of puppet to his benefactor's titillating whims. This book isn't for everyone, but for some (like me), it will be very difficult to put down."