My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’ve previously read 2 books by Kate Rothwell (aka Summer Devon) and enjoyed each quite a lot, so I was more than excited when the author offered me a review copy of her newest release, The Earl, a Girl and a Promise. I just finished this and boy, I’m glad to report that it was a fun, sexy novel with an adorable H and a spunky h and that I’ve enjoyed this too.
Let me tell you why I find KR’s writing enjoyable. For a starter, I feel at home with her stories. They are well-written, different, without any headache inducing melodrama. KR’s heroes and heroines usually possess traits that I admire and enjoy in the characters of a romance novel. The heroes are no big rakes or scoundrels; they’re more or less regular guys with hot possessive streak for their women. And they know how to give it sexy without bragging about it to the world. I love it how the author portrays that a hero doesn’t need to sleep with half the world to be considered sexy *eyeroll*. To top it off, her heroines generally possess a strong character, in addition to their intelligence and that wicked sense of humor that never fails to get me rolling with laughter. I can connect with them on a level which is very satisfying for me personally. Paul and Emma were no different.
Paul arrived from London on a mission. He just became the earl, a title that didn’t belong to him anyway. He’s also a baron by birth, or would be once his father passes on. But this ‘duty’ his rakish, dissolute uncle pressed upon him has been niggling at him ever since he passed away. Paul could’ve very conveniently forgotten it, taking over George’s vast wealth with aplomb. Damn his good-guy nature and double damn his conscience! George, on his deathbed, made him promise that he’ll do the right thing, and Paul needs to do the right thing. When he stepped into that dark, stinky alleyway of the vast New York City to find his deceased uncle’s heir, the last thing Paul expected to find was an armful of nude, beautiful woman.
Now why the heir is in New York, of all places and needs to be found? There lies a long, complicated story; or maybe, not so very complicated.
As I mentioned, George was a rake of the worst order. He enjoyed whatever came his way as long as it’s drink and women. But somehow, he also managed to improve the Earldom and its financial prospects. And somehow, he fell in love with this beautiful barmaid some 20+ years ago and married her out of the blue. I felt that Rita was the one after his own heart, since they shared the same kind of promiscuity where relationships were concerned. Needless to say, George’s family didn’t care for this ‘match’ and Rita was kicked out of England. She left for America, already pregnant with George’s baby. George married again, as no one believed that he really married Rita. This marriage didn’t result in any heir. George made it so that Rita and her family live well. Rita already had a daughter from a previous marriage when they met, George had had some vague notion that he had a son by her. Which is why, Paul is now in New York, looking for that prodigal son; one Rupert Jonathan to be precise.
Paul has had his own men investigate stuff about the family. He has learned that the marriage was valid, only waiting for the papers to arrive. He has also learned that while the family was living in a small-town where his uncle had an estate, until very recently they had to move due to the scintillating characters of Rita and her son, his cousin Johnny. He knows that Rita has a daughter too, apart from Johnny and a younger son, whose father is unknown.
Now to talk about Paul, gradually we get to learn some dark aspects of his past. It was apparent that Paul strictly controlled his sexual urges... at least most of it. It’s not that he’s a virgin but he has very little experience comparing to men of his age. There’s a reason behind it; his preachy, hysterical father dominated his childhood, drumming down the moral dilemma of having sex with a woman and how evil sex is for a man’s constitution. Paul witnessed some pretty horrible stuff by his father as a kid that somewhat tainted his views of this so-called ‘animal urge’; something his father always blamed was inspired by women. His father has gone mad after a murder and is now put away in some mental institution. Paul is scared as hell that he’ll someday turn out to be just like him.
But, Paul has ‘those urges’ like any other red-blooded man, yet, it’s been some years that he’s had sex. It does render a man dizzy, insane… so, when this beautiful girl throws herself at him, talking to him as if she knows him, Paul starts feeling ‘things’. Yet, something about her felt just... right. Even though, at the carriage when he offers her a lift, it’s sorted out that Emma has mixed him up with one of Johnny’s friends, Paul still doesn’t want to let her go. It seems as if Emma doesn’t wanna leave either. They kiss and Paul makes up his mind to take her to his home for one night only. He already assumed that Emma is a lose woman. After all, she admitted to have been dancing in that Men’s Club until her recent misfortune of losing her attire of the evening and that she’s not a virgin. Yet, Paul was so attracted to her that he just had to have her. Knowing Emma is willing only fueled that fire in him.
Well, would that it was that easy! Even though they end up having sex (hot sex at that), things don’t end very well. It was clear that Emma is not easy with this, and Paul doesn’t know how to make it up to her but offering her some monetary compensation. He felt so guilty, you have no idea. Poor babe! He even takes care of Emma’s feet that were cut on that alleyway. Then Emma leaves after a misunderstanding, leaving Paul to contemplate going after her... because he still didn’t want to let her go.
The problem for Emma was her budding feelings for this man she just met and became intimate with, which will not do. She thought she ca... well, try and earn something. Many girls with dire financial straits do after all. Emma has never prostituted herself for money; she knows she’s not made for this. It might be that schooling she had in a lady’s comportment in an institution of that small-town where they used to live. It’s such a difficult situation for Emma, forever hovering between the crevices of social inequality.
When it was revealed that Emma is Rita’s daughter, I was amazed because I wasn’t expecting this. We meet Emma’s very colorful family as the story progresses. Her vivacious mother is not with them but her younger brothers are. Johnny is somewhere in his early 20s and really handsome; an Adonis, having his mother’s blonde, blue-eyed good-looks. A charmer to boots, Johnny knows his appeal very well. He’s also very proficient in all things thieving and scamming, which he was very proudly teaching his younger brother Tad, much to Emma’s dismay. But Tad looks nothing like Rita, Johnny or Emma, who has auburn hair. He’s is all dark like a gypsy.
TBH, I liked this family instantly, even though I reserved my comments on Rita. I just enjoyed the conversations between the siblings too much. They’re an easy bunch without any artifice. Yes, Johnny likes to steal and is a seasoned pickpocket but he takes life in stride and makes do with whatever it offers him, much like his mother. Like his father, Johnny is quite popular with the ladies too, which couldn’t be avoided considering how gorgeous he is. Tad is his worshipful minion. This can’t be said about Emma however. She’s the most serious individual in the family. The only one, who also apparently possesses a conscience and common sense. She is looking for a practical, honest job to live by. But her disastrous encounter with that handsome stranger refuses to leave her mind. It was not about sex. But Emma doubts herself. She’s been duped once by an a$$ who took her virginity at a young age. She was the fool who thought he meant to marry her. But all I could see a guileless young girl who was taken advantage of by a much older man, who had sweet words and a handsome demeanor but an a$$ all the same. Emma can’t let that foolish young girl rule her head anymore. So she hides away Paul’s dresses which she borrowed, and decides to go about her daily life.
Which, however, was not to be. It doesn’t take Paul much time or effort (thru his own men) to figure out who exactly Emma is and what kinda mess he’d created by sleeping with her. Poor guy, always burdened with that damnable conscience. *sigh* But Paul has to face it. The sooner he gets over with it, the sooner he can move onto living his dull life, even start practicing medicine again. So he leaves a letter for Johnny to meet up with him so that he can break the news to him and discuss what is to come afterwards. Johnny was aware of his father of course, but having never met him or any of his family, he naturally thought no one would bother about him. Then he goes and gets himself into trouble, and ends up in jail. Emma comes to rescue him, not knowing Tad has already ran to Paul (because his address was there in his letter) for help.
And so they meet again, this time, with newly-released Johnny and Tad. Tad’s hero-worship shifts pretty quickly towards Paul. Emma is flustered and annoyed. She doesn’t want his help, still unaware of Paul’s intentions regarding Johnny. But Johnny, oh, I totally fell for this charming rogue. There was just something about him altogether. Johnny wore confidence like a second skin, and had an easy smile but inside, I detected hidden depth and a few vulnerabilities larking; a result of his station in life no doubt. His remark on how ladies just want to have ‘fun’ with him struck me because like those common rakes, he wasn’t boasting about it. I didn’t think Johnny particularly liked that kinda empty attention. He also proves soon enough that he’s a quick study, a hard worker who only needed a shove to the right direction.
But for now, Paul discovers that he has his work cut out where the new Earl is concerned. If his now ruined parlor (and a cringing butler) is to take into consideration, which Johnny and Tad muddied upon hearing the news jumping up and down the sofa, the new Earl needed to learn almost everything an English gentleman might posses. From perfect English and washing his mouth off dirty words in mixed company to deportment and dressing up. Everything. After all, Johnny will have to live in England to assume his responsibilities. Paul is highly doubtful about the success of this endeavor, still he takes up on the challenge, calling in help (the said butler included) to train the new Earl. But we know that he wanted to keep Emma close too. ;)
Paul suggests that Emma, Tad and Johnny move in his townhouse immediately but this will not do for Emma. She can barely keep her head straight when Paul is near, how can she live with him in the same house? But she knows it’s futile to disagree with Paul’s decision and they take up residence. Emma is happy to have her own room at last, a beautiful one at that. Tad is exuberant for have his own too. I found the lessons to train the new earl vastly entertaining. It was just fun to watch Johnny faltering, then learning, always with that roguish smile on his face, making Paul think if his uncle had half of Johnny’s looks and charm in his youth, it’s no wonder ladies toppled over themselves for George. Paul also assumed that Johnny’s Adonis-like looks will help smooth his way to a great extent. With enough polish, Johnny just might become a first class English Earl. Or so Paul keeps telling himself, so that he can be done with this farce and move on with his life ASAP.
For me, the banters between Johnny, Paul, Emma... even Tad and the rest of Paul’s household staff was a treat to read. Those were hilarious, full of witty remarks. But it was also frustrating how Paul and Emma are pulled into this mire of push and pull (can’t live with/can’t live without-type) between them. Both were confused, their own suspicions and vulnerabilities ruling their head. What I wanted was them doing each-other, and frequently. The chemistry was so palpable, it made me miserable how they became determined to keep distance. *sigh*
After some times, they decide to return to the small-town where Emma and her family used to live. There, they meet up with Rita.
Meeting Rita was an exceptional moment for me too. I already said, I reserved my opinion of her beforehand, not knowing what to think... but she surprised me. Rita is not only still sexy and beautiful but also an intelligent and sensitive woman who can give freely, completely, when she wants to. For all her so-called ‘experience’ with men and frankness about her affairs, she seemed rather a guileless woman to me. Moreover, she was married to both the father of her children. Tad is not hers, but a charity case and yet, Rita loves him like her own. It was also clear that she and George loved each-other in their own weird way. She knew how to keep a secret, even if it dragged her own reputation through mud. That just goes to show her amazing strength and personality. She won me over, just as she did all those men. Even Paul wasn’t spared of her charm (pretty apparent where Johnny got his), though he didn’t fantasize about her sexually (thank God for that lol). What he was more worried about was her reaction of him sleeping with Emma. He shouldn’t have at all, because Rita approved of him from the first moment. The matchmaking was clear as daylight, making both Paul and Emma uncomfortable. But Rita understood instantly what was going on... or at the least, the hint of it. She was all too happy because, I felt, she knew that in Paul, Emma would find a bright and loveable future for herself.
They settle in George’s house. It wasn’t theirs when they were living here before. They lived in a small cottage nearby. The irony, because Johnny now owns it all! At that moment, Emma’s past comes knocking; one Mr. Samuel, that a$$hole who took her virginity and left. Now that the jerk heard of Johnny’s good fortune, he has returned to ‘show his affections and good intentions’ towards Emma. Emma saw through it... almost. Her head is now always full of Paul and in comparison, Samuel doesn’t even come close.
The presence of Samuel creates a gap between Paul and Emma. Paul immediately understands who this guy is from Emma’s reaction. More so, when she steals away with him to have walks. But Emma did that to make sure she has no lingering attraction to Samuel, also to deflate his nagging (and presumptuous) announcement of a match with him. The guy had some balls and I wanted to crush it with my bare hands... well, no, not bare, with gloves maybe! :/ I didn’t have to worry for long, cause Emma took care of it at the end of the story. *snickers* But the real fun was before the epilogue and you gotta read how the family came together and took it upon themselves to solve this really ‘complicated’ thing between Paul and Emma; by throwing them together in an empty cabin on their way to England. What best way is there for ‘figuring things out’, hmm? lol It was just PRICELESS. I laughed, shook my head and then, just grinned. Good God, what a family! I *heart*!
In the end, I wished for a couple of more chapters of Paul and Emma’s married life. I needed to see more between them without all those interruptions. They were happy no doubt but I wanted to bask in that happiness for a little while longer. Now, I want Johnny’s book (duh!). I even have an idea of what kinda h he should be paired with, but I'll leave Ms. Rothwell to decide, if she chooses to give the dashing rogue a book *squints at the sky, looking for a wishing star...* Meanwhile, I’m going to count my days.......... 4.25 stars for this lovely story.
I received a review copy from the author in exchange of an honest review and would like to thank her for it.