Shirl Henke kicks off a new trilogy by introducing Jason Beaumont, an American set to become both English and his grandfather’s heir. Said grandfather, however, also has plans to marry Jason Beaumont off to his dear friend’s sharp-tongued spinster daughter Rachel Fairchild. And, of course, this all takes place in Regency England.
Rachel and Jason decide from the very beginning that they will never marry and want no part of this matchmaking scheme. Refusing to go along with the matchmaking plot is not so simple, though since the Marquess of Cargrave, Jason’s grandfather, holds Jason’s Shawnee brother Fox as hostage in order to have his grandson comply with the marriage. So, of course, Jason and Rachel decide they will pretend to go along just as far as they need to in order to secure Fox’s release.
As one would expect, Jason and Rachel begin to fall for one another as they go through with the charade. They fight often, but as time goes on, the reader can begin to detect a genuine fondness starting to develop.
Unfortunately, a number of factors conspire to make Yankee Earl an average read rather than a good one. The first third of the book focused mainly on a repetitious “I hate you, but I can’t help admiring your bodacious body” plotline. The characters fought or disparaged each other constantly, but then indulged in lustful thoughts. The vicious bickering just didn’t ring true – especially the scene in which Jason rescues Rachel from a would-be rapist and she becomes enraged at him for not leaving her to defend herself.
However, the latter portions of the book picked up somewhat as the characters’ relationship developed more through humorous repartee, rather than all-out fights followed by extensive lusting. In fact, the relationship between the hero and heroine was developing so nicely on its own that the mystery subplot worked into the book seemed to be more of a distraction than a help to the plot and pacing.
I also had problems with the development of Jason’s character. References are made to his Duke of Slut-like past, but that issue is never really addressed. Reference is also made to a past career as a privateer and to his ties to the Shawnee. But with the exception of Fox’s presence in the story, these aspects of Jason’s past are also not dealt with in any sort of detail. This leaves the reader wondering: How did Jason come to be with the Shawnee? How did he get into privateering? Who was he a privateer for? Have these people never heard of the War of 1812 in which American soil was invaded and (in the case of Washington DC) sacked by the British? This is the Regency period after all, so the war is either in progress or in recent memory. Needless to say after all this, I found Jason to be a little unbelievable. Rachel, on the other hand, is initially a tad shrill for my tastes, but as the story moves along, she becomes an ever more appealing and pleasant character. Additionally, the secondary characters aren’t the most multi-dimensional in the world, but they are entertaining and serve their purpose in the story.
While the second two-thirds of this book were sometimes entertaining and an improvement over its beginning, Yankee Earl ultimately amounts to a rather average tale. Henke does have her fair share of funny moments in the novel, so those who enjoy humorous historicals and are willing to suspend more than the usual amount of disbelief may enjoy it.