Attracted to the Earl
Attracted to the Earl begins with Guy Neville, a second son, finding out his older brother has just died, and he is now the Earl of Argyle. Guy is upset about this for two reasons; firstly, he loved his brother and secondly, Guy can’t read. How is he going to handle being an earl when he can’t read?
He closed his eyes against the burn of anger and shame. He could not even read his mother’s note. He would never be able to do what Reginald could. He couldn’t read, for God’s sake. He was stupid. An idiot.
Patrick Neville, Guy’s evil cousin, has always known Guy is keeping a secret, but he has never been able to figure it out. Now that only Guy stands between him and the earldom, Patrick is intent on discovering it and hopefully ousting Guy. But to find out what he needs to know, Patrick needs a spy. Enter Abigail Pinehurst, a regular miss with a big secret of her own – one Patrick knows and is now using to blackmail her. Abigail’s assignment – go to the Earl of Argyle’s estate and ferret out his secret. Luckily, Abigail already had plans to visit the estate, having been asked by the late earl to draw a rare orchid recently spotted there.
Abigail hates Patrick and she hates that she has to trick new earl. But, she has a younger sister, Dora, to protect from Patrick and she has no independent funds of her own. Her only hope to secure her future is to find the orchid, draw it and hopefully obtain a patron to support her and her work. If Patrick exposes her secret, her future will be bleak.
Abigail shows up at Guy’s estate and is cautiously welcomed by him and his batman/valet/man of business Kit Hunter. Kit has been with Guy since the war, Guy trusts him implicitly and is managing as the earl with Kit’s help. Kit reads Guy’s correspondence for him but Guy is no slacker, more than compensating for his lack of reading skills by being able to memorize numbers and whole passages of books. In fact, he used this skill to trick his father into believing he had finally learned to read – until his father figured out the ruse. .
Abigail and Guy are instantly attracted to one another. He realizes she is too far beneath him socially for him to consider marrying her, so instead he suggests they have affair while she is there. She is a woman of experience, and is certainly tempted, but is unwilling to sleep with Guy and then betray him to Patrick and tries to demur. However, both are unable to resist and an affair commences.
I liked Guy and Abigail. They both had rocky upbringings they struggled to overcome and they seemed like a good match. But I had a hard time buying the speed of their relationship. They were kissing in the woods one day after meeting. And then making out in the fields just after (and I mean just after) Guy cracked some ribs (and one day after he sustained a minor concussion). I also got frustrated with Guy’s lack of confidence. He’s a war hero and an earl who has overcome huge obstacles but he doesn’t seem to recognize his own worth.
Attracted to the Earl has some interesting and intriguing plotlines. How will Guy perform as the earl, how far will Patrick go to become the earl, what is Abigail’s big secret, will Guy ‘lower himself’ to marry Abigail? All of that would have made an interesting story. But there are too many tangential tales going on in the book and it just made for a messy read.
I loved the relationship between Guy and Kit. But then Kit falls in love (at first sight) with Dora – an eighteen-year-old beauty who hasn’t opened her mouth yet – and he becomes a love-sick fool, almost too painful to read. We are also introduced to lots of characters who are really unessential to the plot. We meet two ladies from the neighborhood to whom Guy’s mother would like him to marry. Abigail and Dora meet and like the ladies and plan to help one of them woo the earl (which is strange as Abigail is sleeping with Guy by this point). But then they disappear and we barely hear of them again. Also, in the first scene of the book, when he hears of his brother’s death, Guy is with his mistress, who is properly introduced and ell-described, and who I expected to come back into the story at some point. But, no, we never hear about her again either. Strangest of all was the ending, where everything is wrapped-up by a bizarre event that seemed to good to be true.
I was even confused by the book blurb. It calls Abigail a “dyed-in-the-wool bluestocking” which I didn’t see at all. It also says that Guy was “the first man to capture her attention” which is untrue as she tells us about a lost fiancé she loved in her earlier years. It seems even the publisher was confused about what was going on in the story!
I’ve read Ms. Evans’ work before and have enjoyed some of her books including others in this series. Attracted to the Earl, however, missed the mark. It was badly in need of tightening up and there were too many subplots for me to be able to recommend it.