Thursday, May 28, 2020

75. Who's That Earl

Who's That Earl (Love and Let Spy #1) Susanna Craig. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In spite of the eerie, not-quite quiet that settled over the island in the hours between dusk and dawn, Lieutenant Thomas Sutherland nearly missed the telltale rhythm of oars slicing through water. Damn and blast. If he weren’t careful, he’d find himself in enemy hands after all this time. Or at the mercy of his general, once he’d explained how he’d been distracted from his duties by the scent of flowers.

Premise/Plot: Thomas Sutherland has newly inherited a title and an estate in Scotland. He'll need to take time away from his service--he's a spy--to settle things. As things stand there is a tenant--a famous/infamous gothic writer, Robin Ratliff-- leasing Dunnock castle. He'll need to either renew the lease or take up residence himself...

Jane "Higginbotham" loves living at Dunnock castle. It's the perfect place for her secret to stay secret. She's not the "secretary" of a famous author, she is THE author. Her gothic romances are entirely inappropriate for proper women, decent women to read or to admit to reading. Ratliff has just as many enemies--those who hate his immoral books--as fans. When the novel opens, Jane has just received two pieces of mail. One warning that there is a new Magnus and he's on his way (that would be Thomas Sutherland, though it does NOT name names.) The other a death threat against the author Robin Ratliff. One could leave her temporarily homeless...the other leave her dead. If in fact the writer means what he threatens...

Jane and Thomas soon meet. But surprise, surprise, surprise Thomas and Jane are not entirely strangers to one another. Seven years previously they'd enjoyed a brief flirtation that if things had gone another way--if he hadn't been called away by the army, for example--and if they'd had more time. Thomas doesn't want Jane to know he is the new Magnus. Jane doesn't want him to know she's the author. Both have secrets from the other....

My thoughts: I loved the idea of this one. A woman author writing under a pen name finds great success writing over-the-top gothic novels...and perhaps will find her true love as her own life undergoes some adventures and misadventures. I love the idea of the hero being a spy/former spy. I love the Scottish setting. I love the Regency time period. I love the plus-size heroine.

Did I actually love, love, love this one? Almost. Maybe. Perhaps. I like the idea of these two being reunited unexpectedly. Are the feelings still there? Can they clear up any misunderstandings? Are the obstacles standing in the way any closer to being removed? I like the tension between these two secret keepers. It reminds me of the Friends episodes where eventually everyone is connecting the dots about Monica and Chandler. They don't know that we know...they don't know that we know they know we know. I like how they come to trust each other.

But. It is not a clean read--which is what I personally, personally prefer. It definitely has on-screen "smut." Conveniently these scenes seem to be contained within two separate chapters. So technically if readers knew in advance which chapters contained the "naughty" "smutty" bits, they could skip over them...if they want a clean read. And, well, if you don' might not mind knowing exactly where these bits are either.

There is definitely a feel of instant about this one. The connection and spark between the two is there from the start. There is no falling in love. There is no gradual development of feelings and desires. It is BOOM. The fact that these two have a history together might explain some of the instant--but not necessarily. I mean I think that kind of thing happens more often than not in genre romances. This bears closer resemblance to a soap opera perhaps than Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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