If Wishes Were Earls
It’s been a few years since I’ve read anything by Elizabeth Boyle. I recalled one forgettable so-so book and another that I remembered somewhat better – Something About Emmaline, which had a madcap Remington Steele-like heroine. If Wishes Were Earls is kind of in that camp; fast-paced but disjointed, with a likable if sometimes a little ditzy heroine.
Harriet Hathaway belongs to a respectable but not very rich family, and her fondest wish in life is to marry the Earl of Roxley, a man with whom she’s practically grown up. Roxley was fast friends with her brothers, and they’ve already shared some passionate interludes together.
Unfortunately, Roxley is more than a little down on his luck. He comes from a family of famously lucky ne’er do wells, but someone appears to be systematically engineering his downfall. His investments are tanking, and he keeps losing at cards. Finally a Mr. Murray produces Roxley’s vowels, threatening to ruin him if he won’t marry his daughter.
Roxley is on the verge of proposing to Miss Murray, mostly because he needs money and Murray has him over a barrel. But even at the beginning of the book he knows that he really loves Harriet, so he’s reluctant to propose. Their marriage and proposal are delayed by his aunt’s insistence that Miss Murray must attend a “mustering” – which is to say that she must be brought to meet each of Roxley’s aunts in turn. Conveniently, Miss Murray’s companion injures herself, so Harriet is drafted to accompany Roxley and Miss Murray on their journey. Since Roxley is afraid that his “ruin” is all part of some dangerous plot involving a secret cache of diamonds, he really doesn’t want Harriet anywhere near him. He figures the less she knows and the farther away she stays, the better it will be for both of them. Naturally she ignores his protestations and comes along anyway. Predictable hijinks ensue when they find out that Miss Murray is not who she claims to be. Can Roxley save the day? Can true love conquer all? Will Roxley stop calling Harriet “Kitten”? With both of them learn that “damn” has an A in it?
The answers are yes, yes, no, and no. True love does conquer all, and the bad guys get their due. Roxley and Harriet get each other, which is good, because both of them are nice enough but also a little silly. It’ll be a match made in heaven, but I sure hope someone else is doing the finances and running the household. Practical matters are not this pair’s strong suit. Indeed, I thought they were never going to find the missing diamonds, since the most obvious hints about them sail right over both their heads.
It kind of sounds like I didn’t like them, but I really did. I believed they belonged together, and they were fun, if a little annoying. Despite the fact that Roxley was ostensibly on the verge of marrying someone else for the bulk of the book, he actually came across as an early committer, which is something I admire in a hero. You never think he’s really going to marry Miss Murray, nor does he think so himself.
But while I liked Harriet and Roxley and enjoyed parts of their story, I also found mechanical issues getting in the way. The first is that the book feels very disjointed. The primary reason for this is that it hops back and forth between the present and the past, and the flashbacks get confusing. I generally don’t have a problem with flashbacks, but in this case they made a disjointed book seem a not only confusing but a little manic.
I was also dead-set against Roxley’s chosen nickname for Harriet – Kitten. I guess my imagination just fails me here, because I struggle to picture any adult woman finding this flattering or endearing. Oddly enough, a guy used to called me “Blythe Kitten” in high school. (Yep, it’s even immortalized in my senior yearbook.) I found it ridiculous as a teenager, and my opinion hasn’t changed. My other annoyance was with Roxley’s near constant use of “Demmed” and “Demmit”. I can’t think of a good reason for an author to use either of these, especially to excess. Is it somehow more offensive when it’s spelled right? It is supposed to remind us that they have English accents? Whatever the reason, it drove me crazy.
But while If Wishes Were Earls is certainly flawed, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it anyway much of the time. I imagine it would likely be more appealing to those who’ve read the other books in the series (I haven’t) and already had some attachment to the characters. If this isn’t you, I can’t quite recommend it. But really, you could do demmed worse.