The Earl Not Taken
I’d been missing historical romance, so I decided to try a new-to-me author. I’m not familiar with A. S. Fenichel’s work, but I can see that she has a growing backlist. The Earl Not Taken is first in a new series and frankly, I have to say it’s just not worth my time or yours.
Poppy is one of the Wallflowers of West Lane. And yes, they do refer to themselves by that title – you can almost hear the capitalization and everything. Maybe it’s meant to be the feminine version of one of those secret societies of rakes that seemed to dominate historical romance series for several years. Whatever it is, it felt affected and a tad ridiculous throughout the book.
At any rate, Poppy is a Wallflower and like her fellow Wallflowers, she graduated several years ago from a boarding school where all of them were sent for being just a tad too spirited and reckless. Before being whisked off to school, Poppy briefly met Rhys Draper, brother of one of her classmates and now Earl of Marsden. They were not impressed with each other.
Years later, the two are thrown together as Poppy’s dear friend Bella has been widowed and the horrible circumstances of her marriage have started to come to light. As Bella’s brother, Rhys feels some guilt over what happened to his sister. When it looks like another member of the Wallflowers may soon be married off, Rhys ends up going along with Poppy’s plans to investigate the prospective groom in order to determine his worthiness as a mate. Wacky adventures and romantic attraction ensue.
I have to admit that I honestly found this book tiresome. Poppy is the sort of ‘feisty’ heroine who rushes into all manner of improprieties and dangers without seeming to have many thoughts about them. She has sworn off marriage and reminded me very much of people I knew in college who wanted to talk about being rebels simply for the sake of rebelling. She’s rather immature and somewhat rigid in her thinking, all of which turned me off.
Next to Poppy, Rhys is often a bit bland, though it should be noted that he has almost saintly patience with Poppy. His caring for his sister’s plight makes him somewhat sympathetic, and since he has a little more life experience, he often comes off a bit more mature and balanced than Poppy. Throughout the book, I could believe in his physical attraction to Poppy, but it was hard to see these two as a lifetime HEA. In addition, since Rhys is never anything but respectful toward Poppy, her years-long grudge against him for something he did as a teenager made little sense.
The historical setting of the book felt a bit thin as well. On the one hand, I did enjoy touches such as the introduction of an Egyptian secondary character into the story. Nineteenth century England, particularly London, was not 100% white and I liked seeing that acknowledged. However, other parts of the historical setting simply did not work.
I’m not a reader who particularly notices glitches with title and address, but some of the errors in this book are glaring enough that even I picked up on them. In addition, the fact that all the Wallflowers left their families and moved into Bella’s house to set up house together without anyone’s family seeming to remark on it struck me as unusual to say the least. I guess this setup did allow for Poppy and Rhys to disappear into a stranger’s home for two days on an unchaperoned jaunt, but it did strike me as odd.
Between Poppy’s immaturity and sometimes irrational storming around, the stereotyping of all parents as awful, and the constant harping on the Wallflowers of West Lane throughout the story(always capitalized), I got tremendously tired of this book long before the halfway point. I made it to the end, but there’s no prize for me. I’ll keep trying new-to-me authors, but this is one book I simply cannot recommend.