The Persistent Earl
The Persistent Earl is Major John Allen Jameson, the Earl of Devenham. He has come to the home of his friend, Sir Edward Allington, to recuperate from his war wounds. Devenham has a notorious reputation, and Edward’s wife Judith isn’t at all sure she wants him in her home, especially since her widowed sister, Lady Phoebe, seems so fragile after the scandalous death of her husband. Not only will Phoebe be living under the same roof as Devenham, her skills as a nurse are required as well.
As Phoebe nurses him back to health, her distrust of Devenham’s rakish ways slowly changes. Devenham has a way with Edward and Judith’s children, and he is willing to face his fears in a way that Phoebe slowly discovers and then admires. Both Phoebe and Devenham have been damaged in ways no one knows, and the sections where these two fall in love are romantic in a very understated way.
Mucking it all up is Phoebe’s half-brother-in-law Richard, who has designs on Phoebe and her property that go beyond the brotherly. As Devenham gets closer to Phoebe and tries to dispel her fears about loving him, Richard gets miffed, to say it mildly. Will Devenham and Phoebe get beyond this impediment and find the happiness they so richly deserve?
The Persistent Earl works quite well in the first half when Phoebe and Devenham are getting to know one another. His devilish, teasing flirtation is well done, and Phoebe’s discovery of his true good nature is delightful. Society’s preoccupation with appearances, scandal, and the attendant hypocrisy was also well done.
When the story veers to the mystery surrounding the death of Phoebe’s husband and that nasty Richard, however, I found myself enjoying it less and less. Also, as someone new to this sub-genre, author Eastwood’s phrasing and focus on clothing and the like was distracting. Rather than setting the scene, it overset them. Still, the premise of Phoebe and Devenham’s meeting and courting was fairly creative, and if it weren’t for Phoebe’s penchant for running out of the room whenever Devenham’s attentions became too intense for her, I’d have enjoyed her as much as I did the earl.