This Earl of Mine
The cover of This Earl of Mine won me over before I even read the description, as I’m a bit of a book magpie. The biggest compliment I can give this book is that it was fun as all get out. The characters were cheeky and the fake courtship between Georgie and Ben incited a riot of butterflies in my stomach. A lot happens, though, and as a selfish reader, I didn’t appreciate the details that competed with the romance.
Shipping heiress Georgiana Caversteed has inherited her father’s very profitable business. She’s easily one of the richest women in society which makes her a target for fortune hunters and her scheming cousin, Josiah. Wary that Josiah will maneuver her into a situation where she will be forced to marry him, Georgie plans to outwit him by marrying a man already sentenced to death at Newgate.
Georgie does express uncertainty and sadness that this choice is the only course of action that will deter her cousin. To soothe some of her feelings, a large sum of money will also be paid to her soon-to-be-late-husband’s surviving relatives, should he wish. Unfortunately, her initial choice dies prematurely, and Benedict Wylde is the only option left. What Georgie doesn’t know is that Ben is undercover, hoping to get information on a plan to help Napoleon. He signs a prenup, they marry, and she thinks he’ll soon be sent to Australia.
You can imagine her shock when Ben shows up in a ballroom, looking clean-shaven and rather dashing, and he certainly has a few words for his wife.
Let me be very clear that the book description is the bare basis for the entire romance; I would say it’s not really the central plot at all but rather the setup for it. Everything mentioned on the back of the book happens within the first forty pages and gives zero indication of what will happen in the following 250+ pages. I still very much enjoyed Georgie and Benedict’s romance, but if you’re expecting Ben’s disguised identity to carry through most of the book, it does not.
What follows is Georgie and Ben faking a courtship to lead to a fake marriage as a way to explain their real marriage. Only Georgie’s family knows of her marriage and her groom’s identity remains a secret to all. Josiah thinks she’s wed some midshipman in her fleet. Her mother and sister think she’s married a doomed highwayman.
If all goes well, Georgie will get her freedom and Benedict will get a lovely sum (which he needs to bail his older brother out of debt) and the two will live separate lives in different parts of the country. To achieve that future, Benedict will embody the role of a fortune hunter, and Georgie will be the wallflower besotted by the love and attention of such an attractive man. Until then, they need to prevent the reality of the situation from being exposed, lest it ruin Georgie’s sister’s coming out.
Georgie is a lovely heroine with a mind for business and bookish nerdery. She’s a little shy when it comes to social and romantic situations, but carries a protective torch for her younger, more flighty sister Juliet. What really made me swoon about Georgie and Ben’s relationship is the admiration Ben quietly has for Georgie:
He’d never met a more self-sufficient women in his life. Rather daunting, her intellect. Had she been a man in the army, she would have been a strategist equal to Wellington. A formidable opponent, Miss Caversteed.
And the two communicate! When Benedict makes his return to society and Georgie meets him again, they actually talk and come to an agreeable plan for the both of them. When Georgie realizes she can help Ben with gathering information, he’s on board. The pair made a great team and I found myself anticipating the next scene they’d share together.
When Benedict reveals to his two closest friends that he’s actually married to the Georgie Caversteed, he gets a good ribbing:
Seb raised his glass in an ironic toast. “Well congratulations. It all sounds wonderfully irregular. Usually it’s the penniless beauty who’s maneuvered into marrying the rich-but-nefarious hero.” His brows arched in good humor. “But here’s our poor, pretty Benedict forced to sacrifice himself on the altar of matrimony to an attractive hoyden worth more than all three of us put together.” He sent Benedict a mocking look. “You poor child. Fate can be so cruel.”
Did I snort-laugh? Yes, yes, I did. I like Seb.
There are times when Benedict is sympathetic to Georgie’s situation, that “if she were a man” she wouldn’t be forced into marrying someone sentenced to death in order to protect her inheritance. In the past, whenever a man interested in Georgie realizes he must meet with her lawyer for a prenup, he bolts. Josiah is awful and doesn’t hide the fact that he’s hoping to concoct a situation where she’s “ruined” and would have to marry him.
Unfortunately, there was also a mystery element to the story, and I firmly believe it was unnecessary. It took away from the delicious sexual tension between Ben and Georgie. Ben’s task of uncovering the Napoleon plot doesn’t magically go away once he drops his disguise at Newgate, but I kind of wish it did? Maybe just a little? Listen, when it comes to suspense versus more smooching, I’m always #TeamSmooching.
Not only does the mystery slow down the romance, there’s a constant repetition of backstory. The origin story of the Tricorn Club is repeated often. Georgie’s reasoning for marrying Ben to outwit Josiah is impossible to forget for even a few pages. I didn’t need the summary every couple chapters. I’m here! I’m present! And…the space used for constant expositional summaries could have been exchanged for (you guessed it) more smooching.
This Earl of Mine is a little different than what I thought I was getting, but as I said earlier, it was overall a lot of fun. Both main characters were likable and entertaining. You’d be surprised at how much I’ve been striking out on likable romantic pairings. Ben and Georgie enjoyed being around one another and I felt that in a completely warm and fuzzy way. They make bookish jokes to one another and quote Shakespeare. He calls her “Georgie girl” while she fights the urge to return with “Benny boy.” It’s all astoundingly adorable. Extra plot elements and frequent rehashing of details bogged down the romance, which is ultimately what we’re all here for, but it was still a satisfying way to pass the time.