30 September 2015

Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh (The Wicked Quills of London #1)

Summary from Goodreads:
Eva Leigh's irresistible new series introduces the Wicked Quills of London: a group of bold, brilliant female writers whose spirited allure is beyond seductive...

Eleanor Hawke loves a good scandal. And readers of her successful gossip rag live for the exploits of her favorite subject: Daniel Balfour, the notorious Earl of Ashford. So when the earl himself marches into her office and invites her to experience his illicit pursuits firsthand, Eleanor is stunned. Gambling hells, phaeton races, masquerades . . . What more could a scandal writer want than a secret look into the life of this devilishly handsome rake?

Daniel has secrets, and if The Hawk's Eye gets wind of them, a man's life could be at stake. And what better way to distract a gossip than by feeding her the scandal she desperately craves? But Daniel never expected the sharp mind and biting wit of the beautiful writer, and their desire for each other threatens even his best-laid plans.

But when Eleanor learns the truth of his deception, Daniel will do anything to prove a romance between a commoner and an earl could really last forever.

Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford, intends to tempt one Mr. E. Hawke, proprietor of the scandal rag The Hawk's Eye, with an exclusive: a first-hand look at the scandalous activities the rag so gleefully reports second-hand.  He intends to start with an evening at an exclusive gambling hell in Mayfair...except there is no "Mister" Hawke.  "Miss" Hawke, Eleanor, is the proprietor.  Miss Hawke, as a self-made woman in her early thirties, is no milk-and-water simpering ton maiden.  She agrees to Ashford's plan - with a little help from her friends in the theatre Eleanor captures her story and Daniel's attention.  Eleanor is the type of woman Daniel didn't realise he wanted - sharp, quick-thinking, enterprising, takes no crap, and calls him on his BS - but turns out to be exactly the woman he needs.  For his part, Daniel demonstrates to Eleanor that not all noblemen are useless, morally-dubious toffs.  Even if they drive the best phaeton in town.

I really, really enjoyed Forever Your Earl, the first book in The Wicked Quills of London series by Eva Leigh. Now, I've been having a bit of trouble with new series lately, particularly from authors that are new-to-me.  The "hooks" are a problem, or the premises are overly-contrived, or the writing falls flat.  However, Eva Leigh - who is a new-to-me author - has put together a cross-class romance series (we're given a look at Heroine and Hero #2 at the end of Forever Your Earl, so I'm assuming that Heroine #3 will also be a writer - possibly of a document we are tangentially introduced to in this book - and that Hero #3 will also be a dissolute nobleman of some variety, possibly someone we are also introduced to in this book) that manages to stay true to the Regency period yet feels fresh and delivers on the writing.  Given that our heroine Eleanor is a writer, I had expected good quality writing.  This book delivered with a bonus-order of snappy dialogue the way I enjoy it from Tessa Dare (though no dirty math jokes, sigh) and Sarah MacLean.  Eva Leigh is in good company among the stellar line-up of Avon authors.  The theatre back-stage scenes are appropriately chaotic and funny, the scene at the gambling hell is approrpriately sumptuous, the phaeton race is thrilling, and the B-plot is so, so good.  Oh, and there's a romance, too.  It's sweet and so appropriate and no one was a complete tool about saying those three little words when it was necessary to say those three little words.

There's only one thing that I didn't like about this book and that I felt very bashed-over-the-head by discussions of gender roles and class roles and how men act versus how women act.  It felt too modern for my taste in Regencies and I think I felt this way because it seemed to occur during one single arc very early in the book when Eleanor dresses in drag to go to the gambling hell.  We lost the majority of the gender tension - even though some of the scene was very funny - and I think maybe the discussions could have spread out through the book.  Just to be a bit more subtle.  But that's a minor thing in a really fun book.

Forever Your Earl is available now, wherever books are sold, AND for those of you who really like it, the next book in the series, Scandal Takes the Stage, will be available at the end of October!

Dear FTC: I received a DRC of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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