It’s Christmas, time for the annual Bacchus Party at Grantham Wendell, the Earl Chelford’s Manor. Mischief abounds with whoring, gambling, and drinking to while away the holidays. Yet the Earl is bored, despite the efforts of the courtesan busily trying to distract him from his troubled mind. This is the time of year that his young sister perished in a fire. He laments his inability to save her and without the forced merriment he would be grieving all alone on this big estate. Scanning the crowd of his degenerate friends, he wishes . . . , but his thoughts are interrupted by a young lady who decides to crash the party, quite literally. Miss Elinor Conley’s carriage has collided into the Earl’s kitchen and the dazed girl has been placed in the servants quarters to recover. Grantham and his best friend Lord DeWinters go to investigate, and the Earl is immediately attracted to the innocent before him. How refreshing to have someone present who has not been tainted by the decadent lifestyle often found in his home. Yet what is he to do, if she joins the group of current inhabitants she will be utterly ruined? While he attempts to boot the now unwelcome crowd out the door (they can’t go anywhere due to a sudden snowstorm) they come up with an alternate plan – pretending to be respectable. Miss Conley is invited to dinner and the dining hall is transformed from a raucous frolic into a normal Christmas Eve celebration. Elinor is overjoyed to have the Earl’s attention and runs back to her quarters to fetch him a gift hidden in her trunk, but when she returns she overhears a bizarre conversation and demands the truth. Horrified at the libertine crowd, she flees to her nearby Aunt’s house, snow and all.
Now Lord Chelford must find a way to get back in her good graces. Her naïveté intrigues him and he realizes that she would fit perfectly into the better life he wants for his future. Unfortunately, this foolish second sister of a blacksmith had rashly planned the entire incident. She had caught a glimpse of the Earl back in her Gloucester village and fallen madly in love with a man who seemed gentle and kind, devising a dramatic way to get his attention while supposedly on her way to visit an ailing aunt who lived nearby. Even if she could find it in her heart to forgive Grantham, could he forgive her duplicity?
Here we have a nice little novella featuring the fast set of London. The Cheer in Charming an Earl (The Naughty Girls, #5) by Emma Locke actually takes place during the same Christmas Season that Lucy (How To Ruin A Rake, The Naughty Girls, #4) is visiting the crowded home of her pregnant sister Georgina who eloped with the local blacksmith. With so many mouths to feed, the Conley family is grateful to have Elinor move in as a companion to her mother’s sister where she will spend the rest of her days in spinsterhood (since all the potentially eligible men in town, both young and old, are off to war). Fitting in nicely with the series, the male guests at the Earl’s Twelfth Night bacchanalia (also friends of Roman) reappear as Lucy’s suitors in Book #4. At one point Roman even asks for his old friend and is informed he is now married. So I guess we should really consider this book number 3.5.
I’m sorry to say I was disappointed. Despite the witty dialogue and lively characters, the plot left a lot to be desired. I just didn’t feel the love at first sight which would have resulted in such a whirlwind of activity. There was definitely no passion present, just a vague longing for a better life – almost an “anything is better than what we have now” attitude. Unspoken is the incestuous thought that Elinor Is a suitable replacement for the lost sister. Luckily, this is a novella, so it’s a quick read. The most notable character, for me, is the blacksmith brother, Gavin, who swoops in to save his sister’s reputation from the known libertine when words of her mishap reaches his doorstep. The wayward aunt, not at all what we expected, is also a nice surprise. Three stars.