I Love The Earl
by Caroline Linden, historical (2011)
Avon, $2.99, ISBN 978-0-06-211575-1


I Love The Earl is billed as a prequel to the author's The Truth About The Duke series, but it features characters that appear in a single blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene in One Night In London. Yes, a single scene in that entire book. This one may as well be considered a standalone tale for all practical purposes, so readers new to the series, feel free to dive into this one.

This one was initially published in electronic format available only to US and UK readers, but eventually, the paperback version was made available at Amazon. I read the paperback version, and I have to say, this "short story" actually comes up to 138 pages, and the font used is actually pretty tiny, about half the size of that used in a typical Avon paperback. For $2.99, therefore, the reader will be getting a pretty long "short story".

The heroine of this story is Margaret de Lacey, sister of Francis, the Duke whose sons starred in the above trilogy. This story takes place about a few decades earlier, with Margaret and Francis both starting out as folks in trade, their family having long been disowned by the rest of the clan for some past indiscretion of their parents. Both of them are unmarried, and Margaret, at 30, is starting to wonder whether she will have to spend the rest of her life alone. One day, they realize that Francis has inherited the dukedom of Durham. Thanks to the previous Duke's efforts at emulating the frugality of Ebeneezer Scrooge, there is plenty of money to go around. Both siblings take off to London, and to Margaret's dismay, Francis publicly settles a dowry of £40,000 on her. Here comes the stampede of desperate fortune hunters...

Rhys Corwen, the Earl of Dowling, is technically one of those fortune hunters. His father and later Rhys's guardian had done an amazing job in ensuring that Rhys inherits bankrupt title, and the disaster that is his latest enterprising effort to raise some funds left him truly destitute and desperate. It makes sense to pursue the woman with the biggest dowry of that Season, but when he meets Margaret in person, it really makes sense. Sure, the money will be great, but Rhys realizes that he could have very well fallen for Margaret at first sight, right at that very moment when she cuts him down and refuses to give him the time of day.

This story takes place at an accelerated pace, which is understandable given the format of this story, but the chemistry between the two main characters is just amazing. They are both mature characters who enter the relationship with eyes wide open, so there is no silly games or histrionics from Margaret here. She knows that Rhys needs money, but she is also smart enough to know that Rhys could also be falling in love with her, just like she is with him. I also like how Margaret has a life and various interests outside of daydreaming about love. It is actually incredible how Ms Linden has created a well-developed and sensible character within the length constraints of this story. As for Rhys, he is a nice change from the usual sneering playboy nobleman cliché. He is a nice guy who is stuck in a desperate situation, but at the same time, he is willing to choose Margaret over everyone and everything else. These two characters feel so right together that they make falling head over heels seem like the most wonderful thing ever. There are also some adorable secondary characters here that complement the main characters wonderfully.

No question about it, I love this book.

Rating: 88


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