Wednesday 30 December 2020

#CBR12 Book 91: "A Beastly Kind of Earl" by Mia Vincy

Page count: 384 pages
Audio book length: 11 hrs 53 mins
Rating: 4 stars

Some years ago (I want to say three?), two noblemen lied at a ball and claimed to have slept with Miss Thea Knight. She was humiliated and scandalised and both family and high society rejected her. She's been living lonely in the country under an assumed name as a ladies' companion. Now she's pretending to be her younger sister at a house party, so said sister can run away to Gretna Green and marry her true love. She also plans to publish a pamphlet with the true story behind her supposed ruin, and hopefully restore her reputation. She just needs to figure out how to get enough money to pay for the pamphlet's publication.

Rafe Landcross, the reclusive Earl of Luxborough, is believed to have murdered his first wife. He also has unsightly facial scars after having been attacked by a jungle cat during an expedition in the Americas. Due to a provision in his mother's will, he needs to get married to claim a large sum of money, but he also doesn't actually want another wife. He learns about Thea Knight and her sister's deception and figures that marrying Thea, who is using a false name, is the perfect plan. If he pretends to believe that she is, in fact, her sister and they get married, he can later have the marriage annulled once he has the inheritance in hand. Thea, on her part, intends to spend as much of her new husband's money to buy items she can easily resell, and then leave him. 

So Thea (under her false name) marries Rafe, and goes with him to his big and somewhat spooky estate. Gruff and introverted Rafe tries not to be charmed by Thea's optimistic nature and natural charm, while she refuses to be scared off by his terrifying appearance or dark reputation. Of course they start falling for one another and both of their schemes are complicated. They come to realise that they share a common foe, however, and might do well to unite to defeat him. 

Thea and Rafe are a delightful couple, who both have sad experiences in their past (Rafe very much more so than Thea). He's also never allowed to relax and forget about his failures, thanks to his powerful father-in-law, who keeps paying actors all over the country to publicly accuse Rafe of witchcraft, dark arts and murder. Rafe bears the various actors no ill will, knowing that they're only trying to make money. He's even mostly learned to ignore them. Nevertheless, his first marriage was a tragic one and now he's convinced that he never deserves happiness again (yes, that old chestnut). He also can't imagine that anyone as lively and vibrant as Thea won't waste away and hate living secluded in the countryside with a grumpy man obsessed with botany. 

Thea has never gotten over the fact that the only people who believed her and stood by her when the scandal broke was her sister and her best friend, Arabella Larke (who will help her publish the pamphlet). Thea's status-obsessed parents washed their hands of her and have refused any contact with her, so as not to harm the marriage chances of their younger daughter. Throughout the book, it's obvious that Thea so desperately wants to get back into her parents' good graces, even though they were willing to turn their backs on her in her time of need. Happily, she realises that there are other ways of building a family throughout the book.

Part of the conflict in the story obviously comes from the fact that Thea and Rafe start their relationship on a lie. Thea believes she is fooling Rafe with her false identity, he's using her to get his inheritance. As they get closer, both suffer from not being able to tell each other the full truth. It also takes Rafe quite a while to work through all his angst and misplaced guilt, but when he does, he comes through beautifully. 

I don't want to spoil anything, but this is a romance, and there IS a happy ending. The way the various threads in the novels come together into the finale is beautiful, and I'm so glad that I discovered Mia Vincy's books this year. She's quickly moving into pre-order category for me. 

Judging a book by its cover: I wasn't a huge fan of the overwhelmingly pink cover on A Wicked Kind of Husband (which is chronologically set AFTER both this and A Dangerous Kind of Lady (not sure why that is). This, however, in a beautiful sunny, cheerful yellow seems to fit perfectly with Thea's general temper and personality. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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