DNF Review: The Unwanted Earl by Ruth J. Hartman


Firstly, my thoughts on DNF reviews. There is always some controversy or other raging across the internet about the validity of book reviews, about the “rights” of reviewers versus the “rights” of authors, and I have read many blog posts and comments and articles about both, some of which are well reasoned and thought-out and some of which are not. Only the other week, author Cecilia Grant was explaining her own reasons for not reading reviews or interacting with reviewers, and quite frankly, having seen the ways in which some authors and reviewers have been attacked for their views, I don’t blame her. I do my best to steer clear of the arguments and in my own little corner of the internet, write my reviews about which books I liked and which ones I didn’t, and try carefully to say why without being rude. A friend of mine on GoodReads recently commented that my version of “snark” was usually hideously polite (!) – and most of the time, I try to be, even when I’m poking something with a sharp stick.

The DNF is always a tricky animal though. On the one hand, I hear those people who ask how I dare to presume to pass judgement on a book I haven’t even read? And on the other, I’m entitled to say WHY I didn’t finish the book – what was it about it that made it so hard to continue to read it? I’m not someone who leaves a book unfinished very often. Even with some of those to which I’ve given “D” reviews, I’ve persevered right to the bitter end. But sometimes, you can just tell if a book isn’t going to be for you, and this was one of those times. And if one takes into account the reasons people like me write reviews – yes, it’s a hobby and I enjoy both the writing and the act of analysing the book and characters’ motivations – but I like to think that someone, somewhere has either saved their hard earned cash by not buying something that wasn’t worth their time or money, OR that they’ve been induced to purchase something which has brought them a lot of enjoyment as a result of something I’ve written here, at Goodreads, All About Romance, Romantic Historical Reviews or AudioGals.

So yes, I will continue to write the very occasional DNF review. And here it is. I read 25% of the book, and feel that I had given it enough of a chance to engage me, and it just didn’t.

Amelia Talbot has been issued a death sentence. At least it feels that way. The thought of marrying a man old enough to be her grandfather sends her into a panic. So much so that she sets off on a desperate search to find another man to marry her—quickly.

Conrad Croome, the Fifth Earl of Lofton, knows all too well that blackmail isn’t the way to form a marriage. How ironic that one Amelia Talbot uses a Croome family secret he’d thought long buried to force him to marry her.

Is Conrad doomed to a life of marriage based on an exposed secret, or could Amelia learn to love an unwanted earl?

Rating: Did Not Finish

I hate not finishing books, but there are times one can tell that something is not going to get any better and has to admit defeat – and this was one of those times. I had chosen to review this book for Romantic Historical Reviews, but we only publish reviews of 3 stars and above, and it was clear to me, from the 25% I read that The Unwanted Earl wasn’t going to make the grade.

Without going into huge detail, I had issues with the plot, the writing and the characterisation, which is basically everything!

The hero is an earl, but at the beginning of the story, he and his overbearing, obnoxious mother are overheard talking about the fact that he is not legitimate. The eavesdropper is a young woman who is desperately in need of a husband and who decides she will blackmail the earl into marrying her, and if he won’t, she will expose his secret.

BUT. His mother was married to his ‘father’ at the time of his birth, and he acknowledged him as his son, so he’s legitimate, regardless of who supplied the sperm (!), as anyone who reads HR on a regular basis would know.

So – no secret, no scandal, no cause for blackmail, so the plot is dead before it starts.

The writing is lifeless, the hero is a wimp (although I accept this may change further into the story, I really didn’t have either the time or the inclination to find out), and the story is based on a premise which is completely incorrect. Although I do like a certain degree of historical accuracy in the books I read, I can also appreciate a piece of well-written romantic fluff which perhaps takes more liberties with the historical mores and conventions of the time. But the hero’s legitimacy or otherwise is not mere convention, it’s legal fact, and therefore something I find rather more difficult to dismiss as an appropriate piece of “artistic license”.


4 thoughts on “DNF Review: The Unwanted Earl by Ruth J. Hartman

  1. Caz, one of my closest friends had the same issues as yourself about this book. I so appreciate honest reviews from people, like yourself, whose views on a book I respect. As a retiree, on a restricted income, it has saved me from wasting my money.

    1. Thanks, Carol. Both for your kind comments and letting me know that I’ve saved you some cash! I think most of us who do this do it because we enjoy reading and discussing what we’ve read, and if, along the way, someone discovers a new author or decides against something, that’s a nice bonus. I hope you’ve found something more enjoyable (and well-written!) to spend your money on 🙂

  2. Caz., I’ve just read Lady Wild, a novella by Maire Claremont. The last time I was so moved by a book was when I read Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson. It was so beautifully written, so heart-breaking but so inspiring. It simply moved me to tears. Maire’s books have become an auto-buys for me since reading her Mad Passions series.

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