In the first book of The Lords of Anarchy Series, A Good Rake Is Hard to Find by Manda Collins, Miss Leona Craven is determined to discover who is behind the death of her brother Jonathan. The Lords of Anarchy, a riding club which Lord Craven had recently joined, figures prominently in the story. Minor characters Lady Hermione Upperton and Jasper Fawley, the Earl of Mainwaring, are introduced and their romance is the center of the second book in the series, Good Earl Gone Bad.
Hermione is an excellent whip and is ecstatic when she gains acceptance as the first woman member of The Lords of Anarchy. Jasper has a traditional view of females and in general disapproves of her unconventional actions, but he can’t help but admire Hermione’s style and pluck behind the reins. Unfortunately, he is a witness to her father’s losing streak at cards where Lord Upperton not only risks his daughter’s inheritance, but also gambles away her prized matching set of grays. The winner comes to claim his horses right before her debut at the riding club. Lord Mainwaring is supportive but realistic and points out that even though the pair was purchased with Hermione’s own funds, her father is ultimately the rightful owner. After witnessing this devastating loss, Jasper realizes that Lord Upperton is not above using Hermonie’s marriage as leverage for his gambling habit. The Earl has been attracted to Hermione since the day they met and after deciding she would be good marriage material, he engages in a “friendly” hand of cards using his counting talent to win Lady Upperton’s hand. In an era where a father could legally marry off his daughters without their consent, Hermione has no choice but to acquiesce to her father’s IOU. It helps that she, too, is attracted to Lord Mainwaring. He gives her a taste of the wedding night and her anger over the situation dissipates. Together, the two begin to learn more about each other as they solve the mystery behind some horse thefts and murders which have been plaguing the area. Both Jasper and Hermoine’s friends assist in the search for answers despite the dangers they encounter as they move closer to the truth.
While the premise promised an entertaining Regency Romance, the writing style just didn’t deliver. The plot needed more action, especially the obvious resolution of the mystery which was told through a discussion in an Epilogue instead of being acted out in the plot. In addition, the dialogue tended to be mundane which lead to characters who were less than compelling. The minor characters could also have been fleshed out a bit more, such as Lord Mainwaring’s disapproving mother. While I liked both Hermione and Jasper and their love scenes together were satisfying, there was a whole lot more potential which should have been explored. Some aspects of the story could have easily been cut, while others should have been expanded. A pity!
And who was the good Earl who went bad – was it the callous addicted-to-gambling father or one of the villains? A better title might have been – The Earl Who Was Good at Cards.
The next book in the series, Good Dukes Wear Black, will feature the secondary characters from the first two novels, Piers Hamilton, the Duke of Trent, who has decided to become the newest President of the seemingly cursed Lords of Anarchy and Miss Ophelia Dauntry, an inquisitive writer for the Ladies Gazette.
I debated whether to give a rating of 2 1/2 or 3 stars and settled on the latter score – but it is a low three.