RogerBW's Blog

A Beastly Kind of Earl, Mia Vincy 18 September 2021

2019 American Regency-ish romance, part of a loosely linked series. Thea Knight disguises herself as her sister Helen, so that Helen can elope with her beau. Lord Luxborough, set to watch Helen, realises what's going on, and works out that if he marries the woman under a false name he can get access to the family money he needs without the inconvenience of a wife he doesn't want…

And yes, it's a romance and the expected things happen. But Vincy manages to make it work; for example there's a big fight in which each of our principals misunderstands what the other wants, but it's even-handed, and both of them try to work out afterwards why the reasonable-seeming things they said were taken to badly.

There's also a riff on the Byronic hero thing: the Earl is regarded as a wicked man, a dabbler in magic, and of course he must have killed his first wife… and like all good lies everything has a basis in truth, and if some of the sensibilities feel perhaps a little too modern to be commonplace they aren't strictly out of period (and there are echoes of an actual period book which are very well played). These tricks are brought off very neatly.

(All right, it gradually becomes clear that Vincy thinks that if someone is called "Beau Russell" that means his Christian name is actually Beau. Oops. Vincy could do with a reader who's more generally familiar with the period rather than adept at digging into details, perhaps.)

But these people mostly act like grown-ups rather than petulant children, and they have reasons for what they do even when they do the wrong thing; and there's a lightness about the whole business which sets off the moments of despair but is also pleasing in itself. On hearing that Luxborough was scarred by a jaguar in New Spain…

"What is a jaguar?"

Helen drew on her slightly more extensive education to explain, "A jaguar is a very big cat. With very big claws, and very big teeth, and very little sense of humor."

"Impossible," Thea said. "If it is a cat, then it doubtless believes it has an excellent sense of humor and it's the humans that cannot take a joke."

(We also get an earl stoned out of his tiny skull. And yes, it's just about justifiable in period…)

I may just have been in the right mood for this after a few recent disappointments in my reading, but I very much enjoyed it.

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Series: Longhope Abbey | Next in series: A Dangerous Kind of Lady

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