For the Earl's Pleasure
One of the things I love about reviewing at AAR is that it has allowed me to broaden my horizons and read a lot of authors I’d never tried before. For the Earl’s Pleasure is my first book by Anne Mallory, but it certainly will not be the last. I greatly enjoyed this story and the author’s voice made a difficult-to-pull-off plotline quite effective.
This novel touches on one of my favorite themes – childhood friends reunited – and throws in some twists that make for a rewarding read. Abigail Smart and Valerian Rainewood knew each other as children, and were close companions. However, for reasons not immediately made clear to the reader, the two now barely speak to one another.
The book opens with a biting and rather well done exchange between the two as they cross paths at a social event. In that scene, one can detect both the great animosity between the two, as well as what seems to be an ill-disguised chemistry. The initial scenes crackle with tension, and in the early chapters, the book reaches a point where I sensed that we’re due either a ridiculous, contrived setup or a truly unique journey. Kudos to the author for taking readers on the latter. There are certainly some contrived elements that call for a certain suspension of disbelief, but the author writes them in a way that I wanted to accept them so as to stay inside her world.
In the initial scenes of the book, the reader learns that Abigail has a secret or two – at least one of which becomes clear in the early chapters after Rainewood is viciously attacked. His life remains very much in danger and, for reasons I don’t want to spoil here, he is forced to rely on Abigail. This is a turn of events that galls them both at first, but, as they work together, each learns that the other may be a better person than initially suspected. My only real quibble with their relationship is it took entirely too long to reach a point where they could actually clear the air and talk about what caused their falling out. There are other sources of tension within the story, so this one did not need to continue for quite so long.
Though this book has some paranormal twists to it, it is definitely set in the Regency world rather than some alternate magical one. No werewolf brotherhood of spies here. Instead, the author works paranormal elements seamlessly into her story and uses them to real emotional effect. The plot of this novel could very easily have lent itself to light slapstick. However, instead of thin wallpaper comedy, we get a deeply emotional story – and it works. The history is not the meatiest and there is certainly some humor and even silliness in the interactions between hero and heroine, but the story here is primarily an emotional one. The hero and heroine are both flawed but likable people, and they are the ones who truly carry the story.
It’s not often that I want to lose myself in a book and tear through it all in one sitting, but For the Earl’s Pleasure definitely fell into that category for me. The relationship isn’t perfect and the suspense plot gets too melodramatic toward the end, but the book is a fun read overall and I have happy memories of it.