Many of y’all know that I read historical romances for fun. They’re fast, flighty, flirty, and always give me feel-good vibes because of Happily Ever Afters. (As a reader I generally lean more towards those kind of books.) Maybe I’m growing a bit more cynical or getting to used to the common tropes used, however, as both these historical were unfortunately not very impressive for me. Let’s hope my next reads are!
One Good Earl Deserves A Lover
Author: Sarah Maclean
Series: The Rules of Scoundrels #2
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The second in the incredible new Rules of Scoundrels series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean.
Lady Philippa Marbury is odd. The bespectacled, brilliant fourth daughter of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby cares more for books than balls, flora than fashion and science than the season. Nearly engaged to Lord Castleton, Pippa wants to explore the scandalous parts of London she’s never seen before marriage. And she knows just who to ask: the tall, charming, quick-witted bookkeeper of The Fallen Angel, London’s most notorious and coveted gaming hell, known only as Cross.
Like any good scientist, Pippa’s done her research and Cross’s reputation makes him perfect for her scheme. She wants science without emotion—the experience of ruination without the repercussions of ruination. And who better to provide her with the experience than this legendary man? But when this odd, unexpected female propositions Cross, it’s more than tempting… and it will take everything he has to resist following his instincts—and giving the lady precisely what she wants.
Sarah MacLean’s books, it seems, are either total hits (like WAM I’M REREADING THIS GOOD STUFF) or misses (like darn, I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this one). One Good Earl Deserves A Lover fell in the middle of the spectrum. While it had things I really enjoy in historical romances, there were also things I was annoyed with. I think the biggest thing is that this series, which follows these “rogues” that own a gambling hell, all focus on these mean guys that actually have soft and squishy insides. Well, for the past two books (while this was more successful), this idea generally fell a bit flat.
This book pairs odd, bespectacled, and intelligent Lady Philippa, or Pippa, with Mr. Cross, who helps run the Fallen Angel. Pippa is actually engaged to a man that, according to many of the characters, is boring and dumb and would make her bored. This was a bit iffy for me, not only because of the “betrothed” part but the way the characters talked about him. (Don’t worry though, it certainly gets touched upon in the end when the characters realize he is much smarter than people give him credit for.) Another is that from the very beginning, Cross’s inner dialogue notes of how he can’t touch Pippa, and how she is way too pure and innocent for someone as jaded and cruel as him. I think that this thought came up too fast, without any progression or contact or time to allow it to develop. That made the emotion falter a little, as personally I would have thought it more romantic if the thought came after they at least were together for more than a couple of hours or so (more like, a couple of lines of dialogue).
“She was untouchable. As untouchable as every other woman he’d known for the last six years. More untouchable, infinitely better.”
I feel like these days, I’m reading more of a caricature of a rogue than someone who has substance. Does he check off the boxes of blaming himself, a sad and broody past, and trying to push the heroine away? Check, check, and check. Pippa is known as “odd” because she likes anatomy and is a scientist, which I loved. I always love nerdy historical romance heroines, but I also thought that she was a bit adamant in her ways as well. (Let’s just say it took a while for the characters to develop.) I think overall, the story was sweet and nice but not uncommon, and definitely could have been shortened if not for the back-and-forth of the couple.
I Dared the Duke
Author: Anna Bennett
Series: The Wayward Wallflowers #2
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DARE TO FALL IN LOVE
Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, is known throughout the ton for three things: the burn scars on his neck, his ornery disposition, and the trail of broken hearts behind him. None of which would concern Miss Elizabeth Lacey in the least—if she weren’t living under his roof. As his grandmother’s companion, Beth is all too concerned with the moody and compelling duke. Incensed by his plans to banish the sweet dowager duchess to the country, Beth refuses to do his bidding. If Alex wants her help, he’s going to have to take her dare…and grant her three wishes.
Alex adores his grandmother, which is precisely why she must leave. A string of unfortunate incidents has him worried for the safety of everyone around him—including the dowager’s loyal and lovely companion, Beth. But the notorious wallflower isn’t as meek as she appears, and as their battle of wills heats up, so does Alex’s desire. He’s dangerously close to falling in love with her…and revealing secrets he’d rather keep hidden. How can he convince her that his darkest days are behind him—and that, for the first time in forever, his heart is true?
I’ve been following this fun series, but it’s a bit generic as far as historical romances go (which, the more I read, the more I find it’s harder to discover unique ones). Nonetheless, I Dared the Duke still offers readers a delightful escape from reality as they follow a bickering pair – a Dowager’s companion and a Duke – towards a budding romance and something more. From the very beginning, Beth and Alex are like fire and water. Alex has had murder attempts on his life, thus he wants to move his vibrant grandmother to the countryside from the city. However, her companion, Beth, adds another complication to his plan. Beth has only heard rumors of Alex, and how he’s a scoundrel and blunt, not caring about what others care of him. That certainly does not leave a good impression, and the two don’t exactly hit it off.
However, sparks fly (even as wits battle) and both leads find themselves falling in love with the other, whether it’s Beth stripping the layers of Alex and finding the man underneath all the rumors, or Alex looking past her “Wilting Wallflower” nickname and towards the loyal, compassionate, and hard-working young women that she is. He asks her about her own happiness, which puts into perspective the fact that Beth usually does things so people around her are happy. They make a very sweet couple and complement each other quite well, even as they strive to discover who exactly is trying to murder Alex.
“‘She does seem happy,’ he agreed. ‘But I find myself curious. Are you happy?’”
I Dared the Duke is a pretty generic historical romance, complete with bickering couple and past trauma that contributes to a character, but it also provides an enjoyable break from reality as a romantic read. The couple’s journey towards love, acceptance, and respect was ultimately a sweet one to read about (if not anything special). Also, I’d like to note the author describing a Roma costume using a derogatory term, which I’m not a big fan of. This is hopefully a problem the literature community can start fixing soon.