Review: My Brown-Eyed Earl

cover-brown-eyed earlTitle: My Brown-Eyed Earl
Author: Anna Bennett
Series: Wilting Wallflowers #1
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: Novel
Available: 4th Oct

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NEVER SEND A DEBUTANTE

William Ryder, Earl of Castleton, is at the end of his noble rope. Not only has he broken ties with his longtime mistress, his mother has publicly announced her wish for him to marry a suitable young lady―if only to help him raise the twins left in his care. Hiring a governess should solve some of Will’s problems…but when he meets the candidate in question, he finds himself in an entirely new predicament.

TO DO A WALLFLOWER’S JOB

Miss Margaret Lacey is brainy, beautiful, and, once upon a time, Will’s betrothed. But she bowed out of the engagement―and, since then, has never been the same. A tragic accident robbed her of everything, and now, at age twenty-three, her marital prospects are slim to none. Penniless but not without pride, Meg convinces the vexingly handsome Will to hire her for the job. What neither of them could have expected from this arrangement, however, is an attraction that burns stronger than ever. Are these two lost souls finally ready to be schooled in the art of love?


Source: ARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

I’m an absolute sucker for song-pun-titled historicals. I can’t help it – they grab my attention every time. This was no different, aided by a blurb that had me fully intrigued. Things started so well – then my historical manners meter went off, and well, after that it was hard to enjoy this all that much.

The idea that an unmarried young woman could move into a bachelor’s house to take care of twin girls is fine if she is an actual governess, maybe one born into a gentile family but with no real social prospects. However, Meg is a known debutante and the niece of a viscount. Lowering herself to a servant position would have caused a measure of gossip – probably mean-spirited – but the idea of her moving into Will’s house would have ruined her. It would have been scandalous. There is no way she would have been permitted back into polite society afterwards. The idea that she doesn’t want to get caught in bed with Will because it will cause a scandal that might ruin her sisters’ prospects is ridiculous. It doesn’t matter if she’s sleeping with Will or not, the fact that she’s living with him without a chaperone means most people would assume so anyway. (I also severely doubt they could hide it from the other servants, they’re not exactly discrete – especially Will with his lingerie buying and sending it directly to Meg by name.)

Then there are the girls. Lovely though they are, they’re illegitimate. Some think they might even be Will’s, so the way they’re accepted so easily by everyone is rather peculiar. Children were often ignored anyway, let alone ones borne by mistresses. And what’s with all the mistresses with rather grandiose expectations of marriage? These women tended to be more practically-minded than that.

There were also a few confusing continuity issues, mostly regarding Meg and Will as children. Did they actually know each other before Will proposed? Some comments seem to suggest they did, but they don’t act like they knew each other at all. Then there’s the bathing incident. I couldn’t work out when that actually happened – just before the proposal, or earlier? Will was twenty when he proposed, but with the bathing thing he mentions not wanting to remember much of anything he did between 13 and 18. If he was 18 meant that Meg was 13, and, well… don’t want to to go there, thanks. As for why Meg turned him down – first it’s because he didn’t look like he wanted to be there, then it’s because she has feminist principles and she hated that she had no power in that moment. The whole thing was a tangled mess.

Which is a shame, because the rest of the time this is a pleasant enough read. Meg and Will move into a physical relationship really quickly, which left the conflict feeling a bit contrived, but the twins were cute. I did expect the sinister plot to be a bit more interesting than it eventually was, but it worked well enough.

In all this is okay, as long as you’re not looking for historical accuracy or sense, especially regarding social rules. The romance has a decent amount of heat and the characters are engaging, I just wish their joint history had been more coherent and I’d been able to focus on what was actually happening rather than figuring out what went on before. There’s plenty of scope for more from her sisters for those who like it enough to want more – as well as Charlotte the governess, who apparently gets invited everywhere and obviously has something going on with her boss, without any impact on her reputation either… Sorry, I just can’t turn my brain off. I don’t think I’ll be able to read any more from this series.


My Brown-Eyed Earl is out October 4th.
Visit Anna Bennett for more details.

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