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Literature / Mr Warren's Profession

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When two big nerds fall in love...
"Lindsey Althorp, the only son of a wealthy baronet, has never worked a day in his life. Aubrey Warren was born in a workhouse and hasnít stopped working since."

A Queer Romance by Sebastian Nothwell. Set in Victorian London (and Manchester!), 1892.

This book provides examples of:

  • Blackmail: Bound to come up in a story about two men in a romantic relationship in Victorian England.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Clarence definitely ends up the worse off for his attempts to blackmail the leads.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: The scene in the portrait hall of Lindsey's country house allows for this between him and Aubrey, in addition to providing Aubrey the opportunity for internal angst about being a mysterious orphan with no real family ties.
  • Bookworm: Lindsey for fiction, Aubrey for non-fiction. Justified in that books were the major source of information and entertainment in the Victorian age.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Try as he might, Aubrey can't say "I love you" to Lindsey... at least not until the end of the novel.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: Aubrey and Lindsey, for obvious reasons. And several of their friends, as it turns out.
  • Cool Big Sis: Rowena, who ruthlessly rules the social hierarchy with effortless poise. And takes care of her little brother Lindsey besides.
  • Cute Bookworm: Both leads consider each other to be this.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Aubrey to Lindsey, during the fight that sparks the latter's Anguished Declaration of Love.
    Aubrey: Youíll find I appreciate your pity even less than I desire your disdain.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The entire plot only happens because of Aubrey's career, past and present. And the book ends with his "profession" of love for Lindsey.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Lindsey and Aubrey do get a Happily Ever After... eventually. After the death of Lindsey's father. And the boiler explosion that burns off half of Aubrey's face. And the blackmail.
  • Everyone Can See It: ...which is a dangerous thing in England post-Labouchere Amendment.
  • Fancy Dinner: One of these sparks conflict in the mid-point of the novel.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Clarence Rook isn't a very good best friend to Lindsey.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Lindsey being foolish and Rowena being responsible.
  • Foreshadowing: The menu for the fancy dinner party is the same menu as the dinner service on the Titanic.
  • Formal Full Array of Cutlery: Appears at the fancy dinner party and throws Aubrey for a loop. (He figures it out by watching the other guests and mimicking them.)
  • The Gay '90s: In every sense of the phrase.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Lindsey takes Aubrey to see the Electrical Exhibition at the Crystal Palace... and then arranges a private tour of the dynamos under the Palace that power the whole exhibition. Aubrey is thrilled.
  • Happily Ever After: A prerequisite of the genre, which is fulfilled. Eventually.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Lindsey is the male variety. Blond, blue-eyed, repeatedly described as sunshine in the form of a person, and far more concerned with the feelings and well-being of others than most men of his position. He fits the Chaste Hero part of the description, as well—until he meets Aubrey.
  • Hereditary Homosexuality: Lindsey is far from the only "invert" in the Althorp family. His sister Rowena is a lesbian, and their uncle was executed by the British Royal Navy for sodomy.
  • Iron Woobie: Aubrey.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Lord Cyril Graves, in the course of explaining why he openly insulted Aubrey throughout the Fancy Dinner, also calls out Lindsey's failure to prepare Aubrey for the dinner and what it would entail.
    Graves: You think me cruel. If I am cruel, then you put de Sade to shame. After all, Warren is a perfect stranger to me. A snide comment from my lips means nothing to him. You, however, to whom he looks for guidance, abandoned him to wolves such as myself. The poor wretch hardly knew his left from his right, much less which fork to use. And you left him to starve in the wilderness without so much as a hinting cough.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Mrs Warrens Profession by George Bernard Shaw is about a woman who traces her financial success back to her youthful stint as a sex worker. Mr Warren's Profession is about a man who used to be a sex worker.
  • Love at First Sight: Lindsey has this for Aubrey. Aubrey takes more convincing.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Lindsey and Emmeline.
  • Married to the Job: Aubrey.
  • Mysterious Past: Aubrey.
  • Nobody Thinks It Will Work: Made abundantly clear by Lindsey's sister and friends in the three Shovel Talks they give to Aubrey. They're wrong.
  • Oblivious Younger Sibling: Lindsey.
  • Office Romance: Aubrey's a clerk, and Lindsey owns the business.
  • Queer Romance: Or "same-sex romance," as the author sometimes puts it.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Lindsey's friends and family conspire to shield him not only from the outside world but from his own sexuality.
  • Shout-Out: Both lead characters are bookworms, as is almost everyone in Lindsey's social circle. They name drop a lot of titles, all of which are real. An abbreviated list:
  • Shovel Talk: Deconstructed. There are three shovel talks in total, from Lindsey's sister and friends, to Aubrey. Rather than implying that Lindsey's friends and family love and care about him, the shovel talks show that Lindsey is surrounded by meddlers, some less well-intentioned than others.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: The central conceit of the novel, as the only reason Lindsey and Aubrey meet in the first place is because Lindsey wins the mill where Aubrey works. Smith suspects this is how Aubrey got the job in the first place, by sleeping with Mr Jennings.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Lindsey's reading habits lead to this.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Two of 'em!
  • Unexpected Virgin: Lindsey, much to Aubrey's initial bewilderment.
  • Uptown Girl: Lindsey, being a baronet with more money than sense, is the male variety.
  • Victorian London: A major location, along with Victorian Manchester.
  • Woobie: Aubrey is an orphan and a child sex abuse survivor raised in poverty and living in squalid conditions, who then gets fired and blackmailed and loses half his face to a steam boiler explosion. Chapters and chapters of hurt/comfort ensue.
  • Workaholic: Aubrey. Not even burning half his face off will stop him from trying to work. Much to Lindsey's confusion.