Meet the Earl at Midnight
You know what I love? I love romances, especially historicals, where the woman owns her sexuality and desires. I love romances where not being a virgin or inexperienced is not a bad thing. I love the utter lack of shaming for having desire. What makes Meet the Earl at Midnight so fascinating is that not only is our heroine in possession of desire, she is also a commoner and an artist, all to fill in the trappings of a fairy tale. (I also happen to love retold fairy tales.)
When Lydia Montgomery was dragged out of bed by her stepfather in the middle of the night to save her brother, she figured they would be paying off his debts. Perhaps getting him released from custody. She did not expect to meet Edward, Lord Sanford, “the Phantom of London”. She really did not expect her stepfather to hand her over as a paid bride in exchange for the money he and his son stole from the Earl.
That doesn’t stop Edward from packing her up and bringing her home like a stray puppy. He’s a practical, methodical kind of guy, and there is a deadline for him to get married. He’s always been a bit of a recluse, but since he was scarred badly while at sea, he’s been even more a hermit. He interacts with the scientific community (he’s a botanist), but that’s about it. And now, he is in need of a wife.
Lydia is not so sure, though, that this is what she wants. For the past few years, she’s been working on her art, looking to move towards selling her creations, and she’s always thought that she would have to put that aside if she married. But maybe Edward is different – with his dedication to and obsession with science, maybe he will understand and support her. And it’s not like she has much of a choice….
Luckily for Lydia, though, she and Edward get along fairly well. Edward has been on his own for a long time, though, and has trouble adjusting to Lydia’s presence in his home and his life. Lydia’s a wonderful match for him, though – she’s mature, patient without being a pushover, and understands his dedication to his work, as she is dedicated to hers. I absolutely adored Lydia. However, she does make some rather questionable choices about and for Edward that don’t seem to fit into her character from the beginning. It was a little jarring, and a lot disappointing.
Edward shows a great combination of confidence and insecurity. His past experiences with women have been tainted by his scarring, after a previous rather disastrous engagement. He is shocked that Lydia actually seems interested in him, and finds it hard to believe that she isn’t like his ex. Additionally, Lydia is not an innocent, so his time limit is further challenged by a month-long waiting period (he wants to ensure that any child will definitely be his.) I was frustrated by his attempts to keep his life exactly the same – it can’t be, and it takes him a while to realize that.
But oh, the chemistry between the two. Even before the two become intimate, the air ignites between them. It’s the best kind of delayed gratification. Edward and Lydia are trying their best to wait that extra month, and they both find it increasingly difficult. Which was increasingly satisfying for the reader.
Overall, this book is a combination of Beauty and the Beast with some hints of the Phantom of the Opera (without the murderous impulses.) The characters were interesting (and interestingly flawed,) but made some choices that didn’t sit right within the story. The plot definitely made me happy – I’m a sucker for the whole marriage of convenience romance trope – and the fairy tale is woven in as inspiration, rather than as a complete retelling. I definitely enjoyed it, and as it is the first in a new series, will have to keep an eye out for future installments.