THE EARL DOTH PROTEST . . .
For businessman Heath Hextall, inheriting an earldom has been a damnable nuisance. The answer: find a well-bred, biddable woman to keep his life in order and observe the required social niceties. But it’s always been clear that Lady Josephine Somerhall is not that woman. Once a shy slip of a girl, Joss is now brilliant, beautiful chaos in a ball gown.
. . . BUT THE LADY KNOWS BEST
In her heart, Joss has always loved Heath, the one person she’s always been able to count on. That doesn’t mean she wants to marry him though. Without a husband, Joss can do as she pleases—and now, it pleases her to solve the mystery of an encoded file given to Heath by a dying man. It’s put Heath in peril once, and Joss won’t let that happen again. She’ll do what she must to ensure the earl’s safety. And to remind him that what she lacks in convention, she makes up for in passion.
Having enjoyed Kelly Bowen’s last book – A Good Rogue is Hard to Find – I’d marked her down as a new author to watch and was keen to read more from her. In You’re the Earl That I Want (and would somebody PLEASE STOP with the stupid, cutesy titles that aren’t cute so much as they are irritating!), she concludes her Lords of Worth trilogy with another deftly-written, fast-paced, fun story featuring a couple of attractive protagonists, lively dialogue and slightly improbable plot.
Heath Hextall is a wealthy, self-made businessman with a finger in many different pies; shipping, textiles, manufacturing – but having recently and unexpectedly inherited an impoverished earldom, he now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being neither fish nor fowl (pun unintentional!). As the Earl of Boden, he is firmly a member of the ton, but as a man who has made his wealth in trade, he is also someone the high sticklers of society look down upon. In the years since he inherited, Heath has worked hard to set the earldom to rights financially, and has now decided that it’s time he found himself a wife to look after his domestic concerns while he continues to oversee his business interests and run his estates. Given his background in trade and the scandals that have dogged his family, Heath knows exactly the sort of woman he wants to marry; “a pleasant, even-tempered soul who will accept my protection and the comforts I can provide her, and in exchange will expertly manage my household.”
His friend, the Duke of Worth – to whom Heath makes this momentous pronouncement – can’t help but be amused by this statement, even though a few days later, he comes up with the perfect candidate in Lady Rebecca Dalton. In her third season, Lady Rebecca is intelligent, capable and courteous, and is, in Worth’s opinion, exactly what Heath is looking for.
Worth’s sister, Lady Josephine (Joss) Somerhall has recently returned from her travels abroad and Heath is immediately struck by her beauty, her vivacity and her lively mind. He remembers the little girl who dogged his footsteps and whom he used to tease during the summers he spent with the Sommerhalls, and who was sent away from home to relatives in Europe when she was just six years old. Joss is infuriating and entrancing – but, as Heath keeps having to remind himself – not for him. She’s a force of nature, a whirlwind in human form and not at all the restful, useful woman he has envisaged taking to wife.
Joss loved Heath when she was a girl, and fully expects that youthful infatuation to have died a death in the years of her absence, but her first sight of him – tall, blond and handsome – brings all those old feelings back in force and she has to admit to herself that she loves him still. She does, however, wonder where the fun-loving, teasing Heath Hextall has disappeared to, and where this slightly care-worn, serious man who has taken his place has come from.
I rather like the childhood-friends-to-lovers trope, and Ms Bowen does a good job with the way she has both Joss and Heath reassessing each other as grown-ups and realising that their childhood attachment has never really gone away. She gets away with having Joss being independent and unconventional because of the fact that she has lived most of her life away from the strictures of English society, and thankfully steers well clear of TSTL territory; Joss is intelligent and determined, but not stupid and her cleverness is demonstrated throughout the book rather than being something that is talked about but not borne out by her actions.
The rest of the story is given over to a rather implausible plot about some long-lost treasure and the revolutionary fanatics who would do anything to get their hands on it – but it’s fun and moves along at a good pace. The action sequences are well-written and the whole thing is adroitly handled and never allowed to get in the way of the love-story, which is tender and funny. Heath and Joss are well-matched and complement each other; his dependability counters her impulsiveness and her liveliness gives him back some of his youthful spirit of adventure.
The only false note struck in the book is that the obstacles stuck into the path of the romance are so contrived. Heath wants a boring wife; Joss likes her freedom so therefore they can’t be together. And that’s it. I understand that the path of true love needs a few bumps along the way, but that’s not even a bump worthy of the name!
I enjoyed meeting the redoubtable Lady Eleanor again, and the reminder about the audacious plans she carries out in order to help abused women add a more serious note to the book and serve to illustrate the severe inequalities that existed in the society of the time.
Overall, though, You’re the Earl That I Want is a light-hearted romp that strikes the right balance between the romance and adventure plot, and I enjoyed it very much. If you’re in the mood for an upbeat, lively read this summer, then I reckon this will fit the bill.