Sex and the Single Earl
Sex and the Single Earl features a heroine who has had a crush on the hero since forever but is not about to let him ride roughshod all over her because of it. The single earl, hero and beneficiary of all Sophie Stanton’s unrequited love, is Simon St James, Earl of Trask. He wants to get married to Sophie because she’ll bring land that he needs to increase his holdings in Britain’s wool industry. He and Sophie have known each other for a very long time and he has acted in the role of older brother for most of it. He’s not immune to her physical charms, which makes his plan to marry her more palatable. But Simon looks at the marriage as the means to an end. So the set-up is a smitten-but-fighting-it heroine and an about-to-have-a-rude-awakening hero. I’m partial to these type of stories and I enjoyed this one – but only up to a certain point.
Unfortunately, Kelly’s writing is too flowery and excessive for my tastes. In addition, Simon as seen through the eyes of Sophie, is too much like a movie star, a high school quarterback, a rock and roll legend, and a god to make me feel comfortable with their relationship dynamic. Though Sophie attempts to play hard to get so as to make Simon respect and value her more, I think at the end of it, that she’s pretty easy to get. Simon always knows this and I didn’t think his awakening into loving her was rude enough.
Sophie describes Simon as having “sinewy legs” and “sinewy muscles” that ripple under his coat. Like most romance heroes, he growls a lot – but Sophie takes it a step further for us and thinks that he “sounded like a wild beast of the forest” and at one point when he finds her doing something she shouldn’t, he looked “positively demonic”. A description that made me chuckle was when Sophie tried to push Simon away but “she might as well have been trying to topple one of the monoliths of Stonehenge.” I could go on but in the interests of space have chosen this quote which I believe encapsulates the imbalance in their relationship: “His size and strength combined into a mesmerizing power that demanded her submission.”
Despite this, I did actually enjoy the story here. There’s not much of an outside plot beyond the two of them falling in love. Yes, there’s a bit of action, but I saw it more as a reason for Sophie to be stubborn and at times reckless, thus allowing Simon to continue being her larger than life hero by saving her while appreciating her bravery and good heart and eventually falling in love with her. The writing is clearly on the wall here but I didn’t mind.
I think this is because, despite the flowery excesses that Kelly uses to describe the hero, there are several other scenes with incredibly smooth writing that feature nice, natural dialogue that was witty without resorting to zingers, one-liners, and snappy ripostes. In addition, I learned something new about the life of the lower classes in nineteenth century England when Sophie entered a workhouse. The scene was not painted prettily and I really got a sense of time and place and appreciated being allowed to glimpse something other than Almacks or walks about the Pump Room.
So, I enjoyed the story despite always being very aware of the excessively flowery language and the Perfect Possessive Hero. There was even an Evil Mistress thrown in there to juxtapose against Sophie with her heart of gold. I think I will give Vanessa Kelly another try in the hopes that her heroines aren’t always so weak and her heroes aren’t always so infallible.