Meet the Earl at Midnight Mass Market Paperback – May 1 2014
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"A refreshing Georgian spin on Beauty and the Beast." - Grace Burrowes, New York Times bestselling author of Once Upon a Tartan
"Hauntingly atmospheric..." - Publishers Weekly
"A delightful twist on Beauty and the Beast. [Gina Conkle's] fresh, vibrant voice shines. 4 Stars" - RT Book Reviews
"I love fairy tale retellings and this one, Beauty and the Beast in Georgian England, is sweet and steamy and definitely worth a read." - Clever Girls Read
"If a reader likes sensual buildup, "Meet the Earl at Midnight" has it in spades. I practically felt the sexual frustration sizzle off of the pages." - Long and Short Reviews
About the Author
Gina is a lover of history, books and romance, which makes the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations. Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions, except for romance that's where she gets the eye roll. When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found in southern California delving into the latest adventures of organic gardening and serving as chief taxi driver. Find her at www.ginaconkle.com.
Top Customer Reviews
I loved that Lydia, the heroine, is not only lower class, and uneducated (though intelligent!), but also not the virgin bride that Edward assumed he was getting.
I feared that her being trapped into the marriage agreement would spoil the book for me, and that Edward's bluntness would be too offensive to overcome, but it all came together into a beautiful romance.
I expected more of a physical element in this romance, but instead we get a lot of foreplay leading up to... well... you know.
I'm intrigued by the cast of characters that surrounded these two, and I'll keep my eyes peeled for the next in the series - which is the best compliment I can give a book, really.
Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Edward, earl of Greenwich, needs an heir. After his older brother’s untimely death and a self-imposed deadline, Miss Lydia Montgomery, a commoner, will have to do especially since it will also settle her stepfather’s debt. Of course, she has no say in the matter and, as is common in this genre’s time period, there are themes of the manipulation of women.
“Her womb was a negotiation piece.”
Lydia is an on-the-shelf spinster at the age of twenty-four, an artist, and a very willful, assertive, and perceptive heroine. She is a victim of her time, yet she makes the very best of things. I love how she views the sunny side of life by taking her own destiny into her hands. She is not afraid to ask the imposing Edward direct questions and lets him know that she will not tolerate infidelity.
After a youthful indiscretion, Lydia was living quietly with her Great-Aunt Euphemia, much like Maria Bertram in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. After her initial shock at being sold in marriage, Lydia recognizes the advantages of marriage to a peer as his great influence and power in Polite Society will allow her to freely pursue her art.
“She shouldn’t take a nursemaid’s scolding tone with nobility, but thunder cracked overhead, a reminder of the nasty storm, and her patience ran dry. She had things to do come daybreak.”
Edward is a botanist whose reclusive nature and striking physical scars have earned him many unflattering monikers: “The Phantom of London. Enigma Earl. The Greenwich Recluse.” He is rumored to be mad, disfigured, or both. Most women of his class have not been able to see past the scars, until Lydia. He reminded me of Sebastian Easton from Lorraine Heath’s She Tempts the Duke but this story is much more lighthearted in tone.
Edward values intelligence and facts and Lydia’s forthrightness knocks his tight little socks off. She vexes him, exasperates him and, eventually, beguiles him.
"Wasn’t food or sex what most men clamored for? Keep those appetites sated, and a woman could do what she wanted."
Edward hides himself both physically and emotionally from everyone, something Lydia will not tolerate. He is a quiet, studious, and orderly man who dislikes female histrionics disturbing his peaceful world. This personality sometimes creates some wonderfully funny moments in the story. He also dresses very casually, not bothering with a valet or fashionable clothes representative of his station. And never was the description of a man’s open collar so sexy and alluring. He has no patience for fripperies at the same time he acknowledges their existence. His love and devotion to science are similar to Lydia’s feelings toward her art.
"Plants, thankfully, never demanded conversation."
But Lydia distracts him terribly and this creates some searing sexual tension—it seems their intimate moments are constantly interrupted—but there is only one sex scene in the entire book. Their conversations are often tart and witty and they are among the highlights of the entire story. I love Lydia’s cheekiness and directness. In one scene, when Edward comments on her lack of fashion after her dress the morning after he brings her to his home, she sarcastically reminds him she doesn’t have any other clothes, then proceeds to rip into him on his own stained clothing and less-than-elegant appearance. It’s a grand set-down worthy of Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Fimbriate petals morphed into a chocolate-haired woman with a proud walk and delectable form wrapped in white velvet.”
As they get to know one another, Edward finds he wants to make Lydia happy yet he is torn by his duty to his family and himself. He longs to do what he wants, unlike his own father, an astronomer. This causes problems between him and Lydia as, the more she gets to know him, the more she comes to love him and enjoy his company. All Lydia wants is a place and time to paint; not jewels or clothes and this shocks him.
"Her coy words neatly parried to his thrust."
Edward’s mother, Lady Elizabeth, visits toward the end of the story. She is a very proper shrew who adheres to Polite Society’s strictures, but she’s not quite as horrible as Mrs. Ferrars in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I find her comical in her extreme rudeness; she reminds me more of Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice in her over-the-top pomposity. As with Edward, Lydia stands up to her admirably, despite hurtful words and attempts at bribery.
Lord Edward also permits his own ragtag groups of servants a very casual relationship in his household as he even offers them his own books to read. Miss Mayhew, his very attractive housekeeper, is a puzzle I hope Conkle solves in a possible future story.
The descriptions of Greenwich Park are delightful, including the very lovely greenhouse where Lydia and Edward work. Lydia offers to sketch, draw, and paint to assist Edward in his scientific endeavors, much to his surprise and gratitude. Since his scientific scrawlings are illegible, they become a team.
There are very nice touches of authenticity to the 1768 time period, for example, the use of butcher paper as an inexpensive stationery and the gorgeous descriptions of the countess’ fashions:
"The countess, every hair in place, stood statue-still by the easel in all her finery, a watered silk gown, glimmering in shades of rose and champagne."
The language of science in this novel is very sexy as Conkle expertly weaves it into her narrative. This is one of the reasons I love historical romance. And each chapter opens with a clever and provocative proverb or quote.
"This was not the first time her hand was on the front placket of a man’s breeches, but now was not the time to clarify that point."
"Her shoulder grazed his arm, a bare rustle of wool against velvet."
A most enjoyable romance.
Well that opening salvo certainly grabbed my attention.
Bargained off to meet her stepfather's debts and to keep her mother safe, Lydia Montgomery decides to meet Lord Sandford, the Earl of Greenwich's demands, with her own strings attached!
Edward's passion is for uncovering the secrets of exotic plants. He has decided to set his things in order, get himself a wife and heir, before sailing off, maybe never to return, on a scientific expedition to collect plant samples from the Africa's.
As he is a recluse, badly scarred from an encounter with pirates on a previous voyage, this seems the way to proceed.
In fact he has some interesting observations attached to him by society. There's elusive, eccentric, The Phantom of London, mad, diseased, and The Greenwich Recluse to name a few. The way he has decided to solve his problem certainly fits with some of the monikers.
Both Lydia and Edward, Lord Edward Christopher James Sandford, ninth Earl of Greenwich, that is, are fascinating characters.
Lydia has more than a talent for painting. This talent helps her to enter into her Earl's heart and will later set them at odds with each other.
Edward's mother, the countess, is a piece of work. She is appalled that her son is marrying a commoner! The early interplay between her and Lydia is amusing and difficult, yet she and Lydia form an uneasy alliance in an attempt to keep the Earl at home.
Then there's the mysterious housekeeper, the beautiful Miss Mayhew. I don't feel that the mystery of her is ever resolved. Occasionally, the mysterious Miss Mayhew had me feeling like I'd wandered into the pages of Wuthering Heights, or some other gothic novel.
The middle dragged a tad, as Lydia struggled to be true to herself, but the resolution of the struggle between Lydia and the Earl was handled in an interesting manner with some surprising outcomes.
This beauty and the beast story has some interesting depths and special moments.
A NetGalley ARC
“Ooomph!” Lord Sanford grunted but moved quickly to save her from falling all the way to the ground. Her face mashed against leather and linen. Strong hands held her arms. At least she didn’t knock the earl down. Grabbing for purchase, her fingers touched warm wool…buttons…skin. Her face pressed into fabric, she murmured, “I’m so very sorry.” Lydia tried to right herself, but relief turned to horror: she was a mortified eye level with the pewter buttons of Lord Sanford’s breeches.
MEET THE EARL AT MIDNIGHT by Gina Conkle is a wonderful Georgian romance reminiscent of one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast. This fractured re-telling is the story of Lydia Montgomery, our feisty heroine, and the "Phantom of London" Lord Edward Christopher James Sanford, the ninth Earl of Greenwich,, our scarred and emotionally bereft hero. Edward was an enigma who shunned society. Like the Beast, Edward only showed his true self to those close to him and he rarely left his castle.
The tale begins with a clandestine meeting that snared my attention right away. Lydia's wily stepfather and brother had been caught embezzling from Lord Greenwich's business, Sanford Shipping, where they were both employed. In lieu of pressing charges and having Lydia's family put in debtor's prison for their crimes, Edward agrees to an exchange involving forgiveness of their thievery for Lydia as Edward desperately needs an heir. But, no one told Lydia of any of this prior to the meeting.
My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club.
4 1/2 Wine Glasses!