“The Earl and The Reluctant Lady” by Robyn DeHart

★★★☆☆

Hmmm, yes, a historical romance was just what the doctor ordered this fine, Halloween day. I have no idea what attracts me so much to the genre, but the old speech is fascinating (yes, I’m boring, whatever 😒) and the wit of them is simply so entertaining! Not many of my friends agree, they find them yawn-inducing, but I’m glad I’m not the only fan in the world 😂

This was a delightful read, of course, with a very good writing that carried well and was never stilted (at least to me 👀). There was just the right amount of description, narration and conversation, which made the storyline easy to follow and enjoy.

Agnes is our female main character, and we are first introduced to her as she’s attending a ball with her mother. Here we will learn how Agnes is always doomed to be shadowed by her own mother, which likes to flirt and is known to go with many men in society, as well as sometimes being associated with being like her. All that brings her embarrassment and shame, especially as she’s able to hear others’ comments about it.

“She’s really so disgraceful,” a woman whispered. “Who?” another responded. “Lady Darby. Did you see how she shunned her own daughter to steal that man’s attention?”

This ball is also the first time Lord Wakefield sees her and, shall I say, falls in love with her at first glance. Fletcher (our male MC) is at the ball on a mission, seeing as he’s part of ‘the Seven’, an elite spying organisation for the country, but instead of actually trying his hardest at the work at hand (come on, who even tries their hardest at work 💁🏻‍♀️) he ends up pulling the lovely Agnes in a dance.

Even though Agnes knows very well Fletcher’s reputation in society, and what an unabashed flirter he is, it still doesn’t stop him from affecting her 😉

“Miss Watkins, I must admit I am rather enchanted with you.” Lord Wakefield’s deep voice fluttered over her skin.

And his humour! Let’s say Fletcher made me LOL quite some times 😂

“Look there.” He pointed above them. “Do you know what that is hanging in the tree?”

“Some sort of parasite, I would imagine. Though it is difficult to make out the details in this poor lighting,” Agnes said.

“I do believe it is mistletoe,” he whispered.

“This is the wrong time of year, and I think it does not bloom in this part of Britain.”

“Miss Watkins.” She looked back at his face. “Do you know what they say about mistletoe?” He tilted her chin up and bent to kiss her.

Their attraction was sadly not to bear fruit though, as Agnes’s brother is Cristopher – Cristopher, who hates Fletcher. And the same Cristopher, who gives Fletcher his assignments in the organisation. Could there ever be worse luck?

Cristopher seems to only send him into missions where Fletcher has to seduce the secrets out of women with information. It was all good and fun in the beginning, but he’s getting sick of it now, how his only worth seems to be his body and how he uses it.

He was tired of that being the sole skill he brought to his position with the Seven. Need information from a woman? Send in Fletcher to seduce it out of her. He blew out a breath.

Well, he’s in a bit of a pickle ☹️ And Cristopher keeps on twisting the dagger in when he sees only a hint of Fletcher’s want for Agnes.

“I know it should go without saying, but I want to make certain you understand my sister is completely off-limits for you.”

And twist some more…

Fletcher eyed him. “And if I decide to court her?”

“I understand you recognized that Agnes is special. But she’s too damned good for the likes of you. She’s not like your revolving door of widows, there for you to seduce.”

Ouch.

With an already low self esteem from childhood, Fletcher internally agrees with Cristopher and distances himself. For three years. Yup. But after that amount of time, circumstances bring the two star crossed lovers (or shall I say, non-lovers since there hasn’t been any loving going on for quite some time in their parts 🤷🏻‍♀️😂) back together. Cristopher will need to learn how to fight for the woman he… loves (let’s be serious, however much those two denied it, they both fell in love with each other at first sight 🙄) and Agnes will also need to work on her no-marriage-for-me policy.

Yes, I did REALLY like it in general, but here comes the part you all love: critique time! Aww come on, don’t groan like that, it wouldn’t be a review of mine without at least a complaint! And let me remind you all, I’m a petty bitch, and many things irritate me for no reason… so no hard feelings everyone 💁🏻‍♀️

• First of all, the way Agnes got inside the Lady of Virtue group was quite sudden and poorly explained.

“I put together a group and have slowly been recruiting, carefully selecting my girls and then training them.”

A bit sudden…?

Lady Somersby just walks up to Agnes and tells her straightaway about the group (which is supposed to be a tad secretive(?)) and asks her to join point blank. They knew each other before, but it seemed only in passing… How did Lady Somersby know that Agnes was a perfect candidate? Have they ever had deep or meaningful conversations where Agnes’s spirit and intelligence shone? Didn’t get that feeling much…

• So apparently the Ladies of Virtue do many missions… some of them being stopping crime that is rampant in the streets such as pickpocketing (really?)… like, no, I just find that a bit stupid and senseless… like, ok, they train for such activities, and they carry knives to protect themselves (which makes it sooo much better) but, come on… dangerous much? No one ever heard of Jack the Ripper? Oh, sorry, that happened later in history, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them were to become the first victim in the future 😕

On top of that, they also try to ‘reform’ men from their bad vices… such as arrogance and spending too much money and whatnot… Agnes also gets it in her head that she needs to reform Fletcher from his sinful ‘lust’ in life. Ehmmm, yeah, that irritated me quite some. A bit of a petty cause… there’s no really need for them to do this… it’s like they’ve got nothing better to do. I mean, I understand stopping crime, but what has stopping men from having a night liaison got to do with making the world better???

It wasn’t precisely proper for her, as a lady, to discuss such matters at all, let alone with a gentleman. Still, it was time his lustful ways were reformed.

Who does she think she is? To be honest, all those Ladies of ‘Virtue’… who do they think they are? Those mens’ mothers? Wives? Like, they have no duty to them, yet they just stick their noses into complete strangers….

Nah, that was all such bullshit to be honest, coming from a lady with too much time on her hands and no intelligence to her in that aspect (even though people mention how smart she is all the time… where, my good sir? I cannot see a thing 🧐)

• The amount of times Fletcher kept on putting himself down… it was ok at the beginning, but he just kept on repeating it!

The men in his family hurt women, which was all they ever did.

Like, does he think his family has a curse where the male members are doomed to make their wives miserable or something? Because I can’t see how that will affect him controlling his own bloody actions… you are the only one that can make you act out Fletcher, if you want to make someone happy and be faithful to them, it’s quite simple, you know 🙄

But it did drag for some time (ok, a lot of time, until the near end of the book really) and the amount of times Agnes was lying to herself about not loving him or not wanting to marry him… meh.

• Agnes sometimes was irritating as a person, a bit of an uppity straight-laced lady, and with some bad decision-making skills. For example, one time she kisses a man (her friend to be exact, to ‘experiment’ if kissing others is as good as kissing Fletcher) and then subsequently gets really angry by seeing Fletcher talking to an ex-conquest…. Like, she was a bit rude there – just because he has already a reputation, it’s ok to judge him (when he didn’t even do anything wrong) but her kissing other men is alright, even when she knew Fletcher liked her, because she’s a GOOD lady 🙄 Just ugh.

Another time (towards the end of the book) she and Fletcher manage to finally get engaged, but she gets a letter from her ‘secret admirer’, threatening her to break the engagement or Fletcher will get hurt. Does she sensibly tell Fletcher and together work to solve that issue? Of course not!

Fletcher was in danger. Because of her. There was only one thing for her to do: she needed to break their engagement, then retire to the countryside.

I’ve seen this happen in so many other books, where the female MC chooses not to tell the male MC about the danger, ending in unnecessary dragging and additional drama between them that I find quite not needed in a book. Like, come on Agnes, grow the bloody hell up and tell him (he’s the one in danger anyways, he should know!)

And in yet another instance, she deliberately cuts herself on a knife to ruin her face. You read that right! She truly believes her beauty is more of a curse than anything, and she hates all the attention she gets from it.

“I wanted to ruin my face, to make him not want me anymore. Make all of them not want me anymore.”

A bit too dramatic, Agnes? But hey, I’m not in her situation, what do I know 🤷🏻‍♀️

But apart from (all) those irritating little things, it was still quite a good book, I enjoyed it a lot, and the ending was adorable!

*** I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book which was kindly provided through NetGalley by this book’s publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ***

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