Earl's Well That Ends Well
Earl’s Well That Ends Well is a second-chance romance about a nobleman falling in love again after a decade of being a widower, and the mysterious woman who catches his eye. While the characters are well-written and the pace of the story works, the resolution and romance leave something to be desired.
Arthur Shelton, Earl of Macklin, has just reached middle age. He is surrounded by his doting children and loving friends, but feels a void in his life as his progeny raise their own families. Choosing to return to London for the season, Arthur encounters a woman who bewitches him entirely, and has to find a way into her heart.
Teresa Alvarez de Granada encounters Arthur when he visits the theatre where she works. She paints sets, and has built an independent, safe life for herself, one that grants her respectability and peace after years of turbulence. Distrustful of aristocrats by nature, Teresa rebuffs the earl’s interest and tries to move on with her life. However, the machinations of fate push them together in an effort to solve a series of unusual disappearances plaguing the theatre.
Arthur is well established in society, and while considered a tad eccentric, he is otherwise seen as an exemplary gentleman. He didn’t sow many wild oats, settling down young with his beloved wife. Their relationship is described as loving and mutually respectful, and it is clear that Arthur was a devoted husband and engaged father. All that aside, Teresa immediately thinks that Arthur is out of touch and has no concept of the life led by normal, working class people. Arthur, for his part, is confused and frustrated by Teresa’s indifference, and occasional rudeness. While they are pushed together by circumstance, Arthur has to try to overcome Teresa’s first impression of him, and hopefully earn her love in the process.
The main issue I had with the book is that there is too much time spent on secondary characters and subplots, and not enough of the story is devoted to the actual romance; while the reader learns a lot about the main characters, there isn’t enough relationship building. There is definite and clear chemistry between the two protagonists, but the romance pretty much stagnates until the last couple of chapters of the book. The end itself isn’t satisfying; the story stops really abruptly and without fanfare. The ending doesn’t feel like a resolution. The last page sneaks up on the reader, and while the ending IS good, it isn’t very satisfying or cohesive. The final conflict of the story seems manufactured, rather than following from previous events. And, while Teresa had great potential, she really doesn’t get a chance to grow as a character. Most of the character development is reserved for Arthur, and while it’s necessary and his arc is satisfying, Teresa could have used more time on the page to work through her trauma and move on to her new life. Teresa had a lot of potential as a complicated, intense character, but so little was resolved for her that the narrative feels rushed, even unfinished.
Earl’s Well That Ends Well is a well-written story with a full world, populated with interesting characters. The plot has good structure, but too much of the romance is sacrificed for sleuthing and mystery-solving. While it is certainly an enjoyable read, it isn’t really that romantic, nor does the heroine really get her due.