One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
Sarah MacLean’s writing flows well stylistically, her characters tend to have great conversations, and despite the light tone suggested by her titles, go to some deep places emotionally. All of these elements were present in One Good Earl Deserves a Lover, but since the book is also saddled with a ridiculous premise and a few too many cutesy moments, it made the book tough to grade. In the end, once I got past the set-up in the opening chapters, I enjoyed the emotional journey that followed so I had to give it a conditional recommendation.
In the prologue, we see a young man coming home from a night of debauchery to learn that he, the disappointing second son, is now the heir. This state of affairs makes neither the man nor his father happy. In a way, the prologue does an effective job of pulling the reader right into the story as one wonders what happened to the heir and why this second son is such a disappointment, what will he do with his unexpected title and so on.
Unfortunately, the focus then shifts to our heroine, Philippa (Pippa) Marbury. Right off the bat we learn that Pippa has always appeared rather odd to much of society. She vastly prefers her scientific pursuits to shopping, parties or anything else young women of her day were expected to do. Despite her eccentricities, Pippa has managed to attract the attention of an earl and the arrangement seems perfect: He is a nice if somewhat simple man, and they will live at his country home where she can be eccentric to her heart’s content. Of course, Pippa has no idea what to expect on her wedding night. Given that Pippa has three married sisters, one would think she could just have a discreet conversation with one of them, but apparently not. She instead wanders into the gaming hell of which her brother-in-law is part-owner and meets up with Cross, whom she has heard is an expert on ruination.
Pippa wastes no time telling Cross about her dilemma and requesting instruction. Cross at least has some amount of sense, and he puts her off. I almost stopped reading at this point because heroines who beg to be ruined annoy me, and for such a supposedly smart woman, Pippa seemed like a bit of a twit in these early chapters. However, I kept reading and started on a journey that veered at least a little bit away from Pippa’s quest for ruination (though not entirely – she’s persistent and keeps going back to try again with Cross) and went down a road that brought Pippa and Cross in contact on more of an emotional journey.
What are the positive points of this book? Well, I enjoyed the world of it. The gaming hell, The Fallen Angel, and its owners did intrigue me and I found myself drawn into the place and its various characters. Even though he plays the martyr and feels the need to take on the burdens of his world a bit much, Cross is a wonderful hero. He seems intelligent and honorable, and he’s a tortured hero on a somewhat subtler level than others I’ve read. And on the more shallow side, I loved that I finally got to read about a gorgeous redheaded hero. There are too few of them in romance! By the end, I had warmed up to Pippa as well, though it took me a while. At times, I felt like she was shown doing odd things simply for the sake of saying to the reader, “Look! This heroine is different and ‘intellectual’! Isn’t that great?,” and that just didn’t work for me. However, as the story progresses, we see Pippa having conversations with Cross that seem more emotional than contrived and these, together with some of her scenes with her fiance, helped me understand and like her better.
It also becomes obvious that while Pippa is quite bright and inquisitive, most of her family disregards her and Cross is one of the few people who seems to notice her for who she truly is. Even though he wants no part of her desire to be ruined, he is drawn to her enough to take the time to learn her habits. The little details he notices and grows fond of helped make their relationship feel deeper, and they also help the reader grow to like seeing these two together. Pippa’s initial trip to The Fallen Angel and some of her rather awkward attempts to obtain instruction feel contrived and silly, but the further one gets from that set-up and the closer one gets to knowing what Pippa and Cross are really like, the more likable their story becomes.
While One Good Earl Deserves a Lover has a contrived, silly beginning, the characters rise above it and the emotional side of the story that eventually unfolds kept me reading. The book has its eyeroll-inducing moments, but it’s still a pleasant read. Temple’s book is next, and since he’s one of the more intriguing secondary characters, I can’t wait to read it.