Desert Isle Keeper
The Earl I Ruined
The best way to make me devour a book is to have characters that absolutely pine for each other. Even better if they have some kind of history between them that means they’re hiding their feelings, afraid to get hurt, or have been secretly in love for years. The Earl I Ruined checked all my boxes and them some, and made me lose sleep more than one night to stay up reading.
Peckham’s début, The Duke I Tempted, was very different to other historical romances I’ve read recently because the hero had a submissive side he exercised through visiting a sex club. From reviews I’ve seen, this didn’t work for some readers because the issue of whipping put people off, and there were also concerns as to whether the hero was being faithful to the heroine by pursuing those proclivities with someone other than her. I hope those readers might give the author another shot because The Earl I Ruined is very different to its predecessor, while still having the wallop of emotion and lush writing that Peckham displayed in that first book. If you loved The Duke I Tempted, I think you’ll be delighted with this second installment as well.
If you’re used to ladies getting their reputation ruined and being forced to marry, Lady Constance Stonewell turns that trope on its head. She writes a scathing poem about the Earl of Apthorp, revealing his Wednesday visits to the Charlotte Street sex club. Now that she’s gained the stodgy earl the nickname Arsethorp, she sets out to save his reputation by offering to marry him. Or at least, to fake an engagement.
Julian Haywood, Earl of Apthorp has loved Constance for years, but has hidden it behind a veil of disapproval for her outrageous demeanor. However, by telling his sexual secrets to the world and jeopardizing the Charlotte Street club and all involved, she has gone a step too far. He would have loved to marry her before, but her offer of a hasty engagement now only makes him angry and hurt.
Still, they agree to convince society that they’re hopelessly in love for a short time, then break it off before the wedding. For Constance, being tied to a man she calls Lord Bore and who constantly looks down on her won’t be easy. For Julian, the hurt of the sham engagement to a woman he wanted to marry is often too much. The more time they spend together feigning romance however, the more they come to understand each other and what hides behind each of their outward façades,
I adored Constance more than I ever would have expected from her appearance in The Duke I Tempted. She seems to be someone who loves attention and drama, but once we get to see the weight of the insecurity she conceals, I found myself relating to her. She is so worried that the world wants her only for fun and parties, and that she doesn’t have any true friends. That makes her particularly defensive towards Julian, who doesn’t seem to care at all about frivolity. It’s as though she thinks she has one weapon in her arsenal, and he’s immune. Little does she know, the earl is far more than he seems, and once they started to get to know each other, and Julian lets her see his wild side, these two set off sparks like a bonfire.
The sex club has a really small role in this book, besides being part of the impetus for Julian and Constance’s connection, which worked for me. I’m not big on sex clubs in books, to be honest, so I liked that The Earl I Ruined was more about how Julian was affected by people’s knowledge of his proclivities, than about him really visiting there. That said, the scenes between Julian and Constance are hot! She’s so innocent, which I normally don’t love, but in this case it let Julian step out of his ‘Lord Bore’ shell and take control.
Far and away, though, the best part of this book is how rich the history is between Constance and Julian. That’s what tugged at my heart and kept me turning (digital) page after page. I really believed that they had years of knowing each other behind them, including times of attraction and missteps and friendship. That foundation added something to the story that you don’t get from the average meet-cute scenario, and I fawned over both of these poor little damaged characters and how much they struggled to see what was in front of them.
I’ve been completely impressed by both The Duke I Tempted and The Earl I Ruined; Scarlett Peckham is so strong right out of the gate with this fabulous series. I have no clue if there will be more but I’ve already heard buzz of a new series from her and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. Truly, she’s got a fabulous talent for emotional writing and I’m excited to read what comes next.