The Thirteenth Earl by Evelyn Pryce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have never read a romance with a hero less defined than Jonathan. He acted one way, but was described in another. There were hints about his behaviour or his disposition that pointed into a certain direction, but he never actually showed the described state of mind.
Example: According to what was being said to or about him, he must have been almost starving himself. However, at one occasion he raided the breakfast buffet (not intended for him, so it might have been just a one time thing to annoy the others) like there was no tomorrow. Would someone who can’t eat properly because of inner turmoil be able to stuff his face like that?
Another one: It was given the impression he was a pale, skinny guy, never leaving the house and being practically a recluse. But in a love scene later on he was the embodiment of physical male beauty. Large, strong hands and muscles.
I just don’t expect from a socially awkward, shunned individual who thinks he is going mad and evades company whenever possible to act like the superior, sophisticated, witty, sometimes even cheeky, ever so in charge of a situation hero. The few occcasions when he didn’t have everything under control (like the scene with the raven) it felt as if this was just put in in order to establish that he indeed was troubled, and not because it was a real side of him. Somehow the underlying problem of the whole situation was only told, but what was shown was a completely different matter.
That being said, I absolutely adored what was being shown. The relationship between Jonathan and Cassandra was delightful. The way he talked to her was how you talk to a real partner and companion, not just some “petite” that needs rescuing (as so often in romance). They worked together to solve the mystery and his advances were refreshing and original. As a couple they were maybe a bit too forward, especially given the time setting, but I am no stickler for that sort of thing. Cassandra misunderstood a few things (when does that ever stop?), but at least those problems were removed rather quickly and the couple just continued carrying on as before.
I am not sure if the whole madness business was ever resolved properly. The father was a bit of a loose end as far as I was concerned. Was he mad now or not? I never got that. The final solution to the problem, to all problems in fact, was brought about by the women working together in spite of their previous differences which I also found was a nice change to the usual male saving the day.
If you judge the hero solely by his actions he is exemplary as to how a romance hero should be. Honest about his emotions when called for, witty, funny, original, he treats his partner as an equal (not that this is something that should even be neccessary to mention, but it is) – I loved him. Cassandra was an equally pleasing heroine. Not some damsel in distress that needs help getting away from the clutches of her fiancé, but quite self sufficient, down to earth and resolved to help Jonathan out.
I even found a redeeming quality (well, not quite, but I did appreciate it) in Miles who, when catching Jonathan and Cassandra, didn’t even pretend to give a damn about the ruination of his fiancée. As long as she has money what does he care whether she is sullied. He is honest and at least no hypocrite with a double standard. You have to give him that.
This was very enjoyable and entertaining. If you like a slight mystery, a little gothic feel and a solid romance between two likeable characters, go for it.
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