I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My Brown-Eyed Earl (The Wayward Wallflowers, #1) by Anna Bennett
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on October 4th 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
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William Ryder, Earl of Castleton, is at the end of his noble rope. Not only has he broken ties with his longtime mistress, his mother has publicly announced her wish for him to marry a suitable young lady―if only to help him raise the twins left in his care. Hiring a governess should solve some of Will’s problems…but when he meets the candidate in question, he finds himself in an entirely new predicament.
TO DO A WALLFLOWER’S JOB
Miss Margaret Lacey is brainy, beautiful, and, once upon a time, Will’s betrothed. But she bowed out of the engagement―and, since then, has never been the same. A tragic accident robbed her of everything, and now, at age twenty-three, her marital prospects are slim to none. Penniless but not without pride, Meg convinces the vexingly handsome Will to hire her for the job. What neither of them could have expected from this arrangement, however, is an attraction that burns stronger than ever. Are these two lost souls finally ready to be schooled in the art of love?
Five Times the Earl of Castleton was an Incorrigible Rake
By Anna Bennett
If there were a sliding scale for heroes, with one end being Total Romantic and the other Unapologetic Rake, Will Ryder, hero of MY BROWN-EYED EARL, would be 88% rake. He does have a romantic side—you just have to dig a little to find it! Here’s a small sampling of his, um, devilish charm.
- Incidental Contact
His cock swelled at the memory of her soft breasts pressed against his chest. Her lithe legs had straddled him, her thighs squeezing his hips with just the right amount of pressure. And when she’d lifted her head to look at him, a silky chestnut curl had fallen across his cheek, tempting him to spear his fingers through her hair and obliterate what was left of the tidy knot at her nape.
If there was one thing he could absolutely not resist, it was balancing a beautiful woman on top of him—even one as contrary as Miss Lacey.
- That Which Shall Not Be Named
She wrung her hands. “I feel that I must apologize for”—her cheeks instantly flushed bright pink—“the extremely unfortunate and entirely accidental contact that my knee happened to make with your…”
Will raised both brows and feigned ignorance. “With my what, Miss Lacey?”
“I came upon her swimming in the lake one day.”
“You did not.”
Will shrugged. “It was all quite innocent, I assure you. I was fishing, looking for a place to cast my line—”
“Is that what we’re calling it these days?”
Leveling a glare, Will made an admittedly weak attempt at a defense. “I’d fished there dozens of times without seeing anyone. And when I stumbled upon her discarded dress and saw her bare arms and legs splashing in the water…well, I did what any red-blooded boy would have done.”
- Smooth Talking
“Your smile is…” He rubbed the stubble on his chin as he searched for the words. “Bright, fleeting, rare. Like a comet shooting through the midnight sky.”
She blinked slowly, letting his words sink into her skin and thrum throughout her body. Dumbfounded, she stared at the chiseled perfection of his face. “That’s…beautiful. But my smiles are not so rare.”
“No? The ones directed at me are.” Cupping her face in his palm, he lightly brushed his thumb across her cheek. “I suspect you’ll make me wait seven years to see one again.”
- Power Play
“The point is,” she said softly, “you had all the power. I had none. And I found that vexing in the extreme. I still do.”
Contemplating her words, he reached for her hands and met her gaze. With her hair gleaming in the moonlight, her skin glowing with passion, and her eyes challenging him to deny the truth of her words, she appeared anything but helpless. “I think you underestimate your own power.”
“I lack wealth, status, and beauty,” she said matter-of-factly. “Pray tell, what power is it that I wield?”
“You have power,” he breathed. “You have power over me.”
End of Chapter 4:
“Miss Lacey.” Valerie pointed across the lawn. “I think the woman over there is waving to you.”
Meg turned and raised a hand to her brow, shielding her eyes from the sun. Several yards away, Charlotte waved happily as a young girl skipped beside her.
“Who are they?” Diana asked.
“My friend Miss Winters and her charge, Abigail.”
“I think she’s our age,” Valerie said.
“I believe she is.” Meg cast a glance at the bench behind her where the earl had been joined by a pretty blond-haired woman in a stunning pink gown. The woman slowly twirled a yellow parasol trimmed in delicate lace while she giggled at something Lord Castleton had said. Her maid stood to the side of them, a discreet distance away. No, the earl would not mind if she introduced the twins to Charlotte and Abigail.
He was too busy making his next conquest to notice. In fact, Meg doubted he’d notice if she and the girls toppled head-first into the Serpentine.
“Meg!” Charlotte cried as she approached. “What a lovely surprise.” Pink-cheeked and breathless, she pulled Meg into a quick, fierce hug. “How are you faring—well, I hope?”
She cast a meaningful glance over her shoulder toward the earl. “Quite.”
Charlotte followed her gaze and nodded. “Well, then,” she said to the girls, smiling, “we must all become acquainted, for I’ve a feeling we’ll be spending many afternoons together.”
After introductions, Meg handed the ball to Abigail. “Here, you may take my place in the game. You’ll keep up with these two far better than I.”
While the girls played, Meg and Charlotte walked to the shade of a stately oak nearby. “It’s so wonderful to see you,” Charlotte said. “You look very well, indeed. Are you happy?”
The question caught Meg off guard. She couldn’t very well tell her friend the truth—not after she’d been so kind as to arrange the interview. “I miss Beth and Julie, of course. But the twins are delightful.”
Charlotte raised a brow. “And the earl?”
“So far, we’ve managed to tolerate each other.”
“What?” Charlotte’s forehead knitted. “He hasn’t done anything . . . untoward, I hope?”
“No,” Meg reassured her. “It’s not that.” She frowned as the girls drifted across the lawn, farther away from her. “I’m going to bring them back here.” She started toward them, but Charlotte placed a hand on her arm.
“They’re fine. Let them enjoy a bit of freedom.”
Meg relaxed. Unlike her, Charlotte knew what she was doing. And the girls were in plain sight. “Tell me this gets easier.”
“It does. Building trust takes time.”
Meg nodded but was unsure whether her friend referred to the children or the earl.
“You said that there was some history between you and Lord Castleton,” Charlotte said. “When did you two meet?”
“Ages ago. We used to be neighbors.” Meg glanced back at the earl. He and his beautiful companion had begun strolling down the path by the lake. She might as well tell Charlotte the whole sordid tale. “I was barely fifteen when—”
“Diana!” Valerie shouted. “Stop!” Several yards away, she stared helplessly as her twin sprinted across the park lawn, head down, her new boots churning up the grass.
Meg ran to Valerie’s side. “Where’s she going?”
“She told us to count how long it takes her to run to the other side of the road and back.”
Meg’s heart plummeted. “That’s Rotten Row.” She lifted the front of her gown and took off, running after Diana. The little girl seemed oblivious to the phaeton careening down the path, pulled by horses galloping like their tails were aflame.
“Diana!” she cried, shouldering her way past a man puffing on a pipe.
But the girl kept moving, closer to the road and the out- of-control phaeton.
Her slippers slapping the ground as she ran, Meg gasped for air, and called out again, louder. “Diana!”
The little girl stumbled to a stop in the middle of the road. She spun around to face Meg, her blond curls blowing in the breeze. Smiling, she raised her hand to wave.
She stared wide-eyed at the huge horses barreling down the dirt path toward her.
Never in her life had Meg felt so powerless. Not when her parents announced she’d marry a man she barely knew. Not when she’d been forced to leave the only home she’d ever known. Not ever.
She had to reach Diana in time.
Meg sprinted. She launched herself at Diana, knocking her off her feet. The girl tumbled into the grass, out of danger.
But Meg’s chest slammed onto the dirt, knocking the breath from her lungs. With the horses almost upon her, she struggled to her feet, but her slipper caught on the hem of her dress, and she landed on her knee with a bone- jarring thud.
The ground vibrated with the pounding of hooves. Dear God. She was about to be trampled.
Her throat thick with dust, Meg couldn’t breathe, much less scream.
She braced herself for the inevitable pain. She wasn’t ready to die, and yet—
Whoosh. A blur of dark green dove in front of the horses’ hooves. Bam. A large body landed on top of her, forcing the air from her lungs. Strong hands grasped her shoulders and pulled her away from the hooves, the dust, and the danger.
She rolled over the ground like a log, the man on top of her one moment, she on top of him the next. And when they finally jolted to a stop beside a row of prickly hedges, both of them clinging to each other and breathing hard, she was on top.
Meg pressed her hands against the solid wall of his chest, and raised her head to look at her rescuer.
Lord Castleton. Naturally.
He wore a lopsided grin that, in spite of her brush with death, made her very aware that he was a man and she was a woman—lying atop him.
“Are you quite well, Miss Lacey?” A polite inquiry on the face of it, but his arched brow and suggestive tone made it wholly improper.
“I believe so,” she rasped. “But Diana—”
“Is fine.” He pushed himself to sitting, holding her firmly on his lap. Concern darkened his brown eyes. “You, however, seem like you could use a glass of brandy.”
CREDIT: From MY BROWN-EYED EARL by Anna Bennett. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
Phew! So my question for you is, where does your ideal hero fall on the sliding scale? Romantic? Rake? Or somewhere in between?
One commenter will win a signed copy of MY BROWN-EYED EARL! U.S. only, please.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Meg’s mind was made up: she needed a position. Her friend Charlotte Winters lent a helping hand, and that’s how drab, dull wallflower Margaret Lacey became a governess to two six year-old twin girls. What Charlotte had neglected to mention was that the twin’s guardian was none other than William Ryder, now the Earl of Castleton. The same Will that Meg had curtly refused to marry him eight years before, when her father had urged her to accept this arranged marriage. Will’s life has gone topsy-turvy when the mistress of his deceased cousin unceremoniously dropped sisters Diana and Valerie on his doorstep. Not at all recovered from a hellish hangover, Will must interview governesses, and he certainly has not forgotten Meg, and when he sees her applying for the position, Will thinks the time has come to get back at the girl who thought she was too good for him. But deep down, Will is not the vengeful type, and when he hears how Meg is trying to keep her sisters Beth and Julie fed and clothed while financially helping her kind uncle Alistair, he hires her. Will has no doubt that Meg will do well, even if she’s sure she will fail.
The premise for MY BROWN-EYED EARL is one that can go two ways: it can be very unpleasant or charming; everything depends on how the characters are defined and how the author goes about it, and I’m happy to say that every single page was a delight! MY BROWN-EYED EARL is evenly paced, the story flows smoothly, and the writing is seamless. Meg and Will clash often, but in civilised fashion and the verbal sparring is extremely witty and entertaining. Will likes Meg’s quick wit and her gumption; they are very well matched, and I loved how those two strong personalities interacted. They are willing to listen to reason and admit they’re wrong, and there are no silly misunderstandings because they both speak their minds. The romance was inevitable, not because the author said so, but because Meg and Will do belong together, it’s a given just as the sun will rise tomorrow.
MY BROWN-EYED EARL is so carefully plotted that, every time I thought I’d predicted the outcome of a situation, I was wrong! The romance is absolutely lovely; Meg and Will’s love grows through respect, mutual attraction, and it blossoms quietly but deeply, and the sex scenes are sensuous and elegantly written. I also liked that the twins are neither monsters nor angels; they’re perfectly normal little girls and essential to the plot. There is also a bit of suspense, which at some point had me scratching my head at the purpose of a certain situation, and I must admit that Ms. Bennett definitely knew where she was going! The (gorgeous!) cover conveys precisely the mood of the book: mostly light-hearted, playful, and delicately exquisite. I also found MY BROWN-EYED EARL a surprisingly quick read: before I knew it, the book was over and not for a second was I ever bored. I’m already looking forward to book 2 of The Wayward Wallflowers series and Beth’s story. Dare I repeat myself? MY BROWN-EYED EARL is a delightful, genuinely charming, and most lovely story!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.