Saturday, 3 May 2014

Enticing the Earl: A Surprisingly Enticing Romance Novel

A Review By: Amelia
Don’t hate/judge me for this but, yes, this is a review for a romance novel. And yes, I know, I know, romance novels are far from the best literature available, but sometimes one just needs a light read that can just be picked up and breezed through in a few days, and for me, a random romance novel fits that niche. Sometimes the books only just pass as being readable, but other times (wonderful, magical, and completely unexpected times) I find a romance novel that’s good! Shocked? You should be–because I, myself, always am!

The romance novel that managed to capture my attention is Enticing the Earl by Nicole Byrd. The premise of this book is one that’s been done many times before: a beautiful, childless widow forms a romantic attachment with an aristocrat that has a scandalous background for the purpose of redeeming a lost family heirloom. In the last year alone there have probably been a hundred romance novels with this exact plot, but Enticing the Earl also throws in a rousing mystery concerning a sunken ship, possible family betrayals, and the dangers of the opium trade.

Nicole Byrd is a prominent historical romance fiction writer who has studied English history for many years. She’s written two historical romance series: The Sinclair Family Saga and The Applegate Sisters (Enticing the Earl is the final book of The Applegate Sisters series). She’s also written magazine articles, children’s books, and has published a few young adult novels under the pseudonym of Jennifer Cole.

There are two main characters of the piece (makes sense since it’s a romance novel). Marcus Sutton is the male lead and is a rather scandalous Earl who is very intelligent, albeit a little cold and intimidating, and is rumoured to spend his time with less than reputable women. Lauryn Harris is the female lead and a grieving widow who selflessly offers herself as the Earl’s mistress in order to retrieve the deed to her father-in-laws estate (which he, of course, lost while gambling with the Earl). The two of them start from rather low and stereotypical beginnings but they actually manage to grow into well-rounded characters that you cheer for. Sure their relationship starts on nothing more than sex but it quickly develops into a mutual and respectful relationship: surprising or what?

Even the secondary characters all fit in very nicely with their surroundings. There’s an ex-lover of Marcus’ that hopes to get him back but (surprisingly) doesn’t sink to any cruel or unusual tricks in order to do it and actually ends up becoming something of a friend to Lauryn. Then there’s Marcus’ younger brother Carter who slacks off and blows all his money on gambling and drinks, but he’s a sincere man and does try (even if he fails most of the time) to impress his older brother. They’re sweet, genuine characters and add life and texture to a novel that so easily could have been so flat and boring.

Like all good historical romance novels, Enticing the Earl takes place in England in the 19th century. Alright, alright, I’m sure there’s lots of other places where a good historical romance can take place, but a vast majority of them (and you have to agree with me here) take place in England in the 18th–19th century. I guess that’s just where all the sexy times happen, right? Will all the tiny buttons to undo, corsets to unweave, horse drawn carriages, country manors, and social constructs/female modesty/family honour etc etc, I guess sexy times in the 1800s are just better.

Of all the romance novels I’ve ever casually picked up Enticing the Earl is in the top five. It’s a clever book–a book that’s more than the sum of its parts: its parts being sex, 1800s England, and more sex. Of course, the sex becomes something like a second thought as Marcus and Lauryn become fuller, more satisfyingly human characters and the mysteries surrounding Marcus’ sunken ship lead to some dangerous situations and possible family drama. All in all, what’s not to like?   

My final thoughts on Enticing the Earl are that it’s a good romance novel. The history was solid, as were the plot and characters. Honestly, I think what makes this book so good is that it’s a romance novel where the romance is a second thought to the plot. The sex scenes felt like they were just tacked in afterwards and I really liked how that made it more than your regular trashy/light/fluffy (whatever adjective you want to insert there) romance novel. I can’t speak for the rest of the books in The Applegate Sisters series, but Enticing the Earl is a solid novel whether you like romance or not.       

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