Earls Just Want to Have Fun is Book 1 in the Covent Garden Cub series by Shana Galen. A prequel, a novella named The Viscount Of Vice, introduced us to Bow Street Runner, Sir Brook Derring who, in this novel, has been hired to locate a young lady kidnapped as a child by the evil Satan, the head of a local gang living in the notorious Seven Dials district.
Filthy Marlowe is the only girl in the Covent Garden Cubs and she must work twice as hard as the boys to maintain her place within the group. She is one of Satan’s favorites as she is a skilled pickpocket and can dress as either lad or lass as the need dictates. Her ability to speak in more cultured tones also leads to more convincing scams and thus more earnings. However, mostly Marlowe speaks the cant of her surroundings and Galen intersperses numerous colorful language into her conversations, sometimes only decipherable from context clues. Perhaps a glossary would be helpful to the reader, although we get the gist of the meanings.
When one of the cons goes bad, Marlowe is taken away by Sir Brook. Well actually, it is Sir Brook’s brother, Maxwell Derring, Earl of Dane, who ends up unintentionally doing the kidnapping, since he has unwittingly loaned his coach for this caper and suddenly finds himself involved in the rescue attempt. It seems that Brook believes that Marlowe is really Lady Elizabeth, kidnapped by Satin at the age of five. She, however, believes that Satin had rescued her from starving in the streets and that her loyalty lies with her cronies and her boss, especially since nobody leaves the group and lives to tell about it. Either way, Dane looks down upon the filthy Marlowe who fights dirty and speaks an indistinguishable English, and feels his brother has gone mad. To make matters worse, Sir Brook is called away and Lord Dane must deal with the hellcat alone, making her somewhat presentable since there is no place safe for her to stay, except their home. And, to top matters off, the safest spot to watch over her is tied up to a chair in his own bedchamber. With the assistance of the capable, discreet butler, Crawford, Marlowe is cleaned up enough to join the family for breakfast where she is welcomed by Dane’s sweet sister Lady Susanna who quickly befriends the hapless house guest. Unfortunately, Maxwell’s mother isn’t so understanding and refuses to spend one second longer than she has to under the same roof as this undesirable riff raff. Of course, nothing runs smoothly and Lord Dane must continually put out the fires that inevitably blaze up in Marlowe’s wake, cursing his absentee brother for leaving the bulk of the work on his shoulders.
To make matters worse, the Earl has an inherent distaste for those living in poverty who continually steal and cheat those in the upper class. His own father died from pneumonia after the trauma from their home being burglarized. This results in a mistrust of Marlowe and all she represents until he sees how the other half lives and begins to understand what drives such actions for survival. As the resistant Marlowe comes to accept the charming Maxwell and he begins to understand her past way of life, a love between the two starts to develop, although there are all sorts of misadventures along the way.
While there are quite a few convoluted plot flaws, including the continued disappearance of Sir Brook, for the most part, this novel is a delight with quite a few laughs as well as some unexpected plot twists which help keep the reader’s interest throughout the story. I heartily recommend this book with a four star rating.
I would like to thank Sourcebooks Casablanca for allowing me a free download of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.