Desert Isle Keeper
A Match for the Rebellious Earl
Lara Temple’s A Match for the Rebellious Earl is a beautifully written love story featuring a reluctant Earl and a young woman who is so intent on making sure that those she loves are happy that she’s neglected to do the same for herself. It’s a passionate, gorgeously romantic story about two people at crossroads in their lives; the leads are so well-written and fully-rounded that they simply leap off the page, the chemistry between them sizzles, and Ms. Temple’s talent for writing sparkling, witty dialogue shines once again.
Genevieve – Genny – Maitland and her sister Serena spent a year following the drum with their beloved grandfather, a general in Wellington’s army. Whilst in Spain, Serena met and fell in love with Charles Carrington, heir to the Earl of Westford, and that’s also where Genny first met Captain Christopher – Kit – Carrington, Charles’ cousin and the black sheep of the Carrington family. Serena and Charles married, but sadly, he died without leaving a son and heir to succeed him, which meant the title then passed to Kit, whose parentage – his mother and grandfather were actors – has long led to his being regarded as disreputable. Added to that, gossip would have it he’s a pirate, adventurer and womaniser, and society is very critical of the fact that he has not returned to England since becoming Lord Westford.
Following the death of her husband, Serena, together with Mary and Emily (Kit’s widowed step-mother and step-sister) and Genny live with the exacting and dictatorial dowager countess, Lady Westford, and Genny – whose skill at solving problems and managing everything (and everyone) quickly earned a reputation for good judgment and level-headedness – has assumed the reins of the household. Lady Westford is a termagant and needs careful handling; she brow-beats Serena and Mary, who are quiet and unassuming by nature, and Genny does her best to keep them out of the line of fire as often and as best she can. But it’s exhausting, and Genny is self-aware enough to know that the constant battles are in danger of eating her up inside.
After resigning his commission three years earlier, Kit has been sailing the world, but now that Emily is getting married, he’s coming back to London for the wedding. He has no intention of getting caught up in the social whirl and is focused on getting back to his ship as soon as possible – but he decides to attend the ball being held at Carrington House in Emily’s honour, where he finds Genny efficiently marshalling everyone and everything into position around her. He doesn’t like it (despite being reluctantly impressed), but allows himself to be inveigled into dancing with a number of suitable ladies for the rest of the evening while the gossip rages around him.
Kit’s return prompts Genny to put into action a plan she’s been considering for a while, namely to find husbands for Serena and Mary in order to get them away from the dowager’s constant barrage of blame and unpleasantness. She recruits Kit to this cause, explaining that his presence at a number of select entertainments will lend them a certain cachet – but what she doesn’t tell him is that she’s made a bargain with the dowager – who is desperate to secure the Westford title – that she will also do her best to see Kit or one of his cousins take a wife from among the current crop of eligible young ladies, in exchange for money to pay off all the debts that Serena was left with as well as settling a sum on her and Mary.
Kit and Genny don’t hit it off to start with; he won’t be managed and makes Genny aware of that in no uncertain terms. They’re both strong personalities and they clash often, but there’s always a sense that there’s a mutual admiration and growing understanding beneath their verbal sparring, and I loved those moments of insight when Kit really sees Genny, her passion, her strength, her intelligence and drive – and feels angry on her behalf because she’s being taken for granted and nobody truly appreciates her.
“All that force, and passion, and need – wasted on organising dinner parties, curbing his grandmother’s temper and now, finding husbands for the Carrington women.”
The chemistry between them is intense and their romance is exquisitely paced, a sensual, witty courtship dance in which their dawning awareness of each other physically is complemented by their growing intellectual understanding of one another. Kit is a gorgeous hero, charming, honourable and thoughtful, he cares deeply for his step-mother and sister, and he’s very much his own man; and Genny, while she at first seems to be one of those ‘managing females’ so mocked by the men who populate the pages of historical romance, is quickly revealed to be a young woman trying to make the best of circumstances and trying to do the best for those around her. The author shows clearly how frustrating it is for her to have to redirect her natural leadership skills into the domestic sphere simply on account of her gender, making a point about how few options were open to women of Genny’s status in a very subtle way. I liked the way she forces Kit to face up to his responsibilities, and how he encourages her to see that she deserves to have something for herself amid all her scheming for others.
The secondary cast is strongly characterised and there’s an interesting secondary plotline involving Kit’s cousin Julian, although quite honestly, the complex family issues Genny and Kit had to deal with are enough on their own and I couldn’t help thinking maybe it was just a bit de trop. The ending feels a little rushed and I’d have liked to have witnessed a conversation between the couple in which they discussed their future.
The romance is gorgeous, the dialogue sparkles and the characterisation is top-notch. In spite of my (small) reservations, A Match for the Rebellious Earl is a witty, sensual and heartfelt romance that is sure to delight fans of the genre and author alike. Highly recommended.