William Ryder, the Earl of Castleton, has had a thing for Miss Margaret Lacey since they were young, so he was astonished when she staunchly rejected their fathers attempt to arrange a marriage between them (not that he was pleased that his disreputable dad was choosing his bride-to-be). Now, seven years later, he finds Meg in his home applying for a job as governess for the set of six year old twins recently dropped off at his door. The precocious Valerie and Diana are the illegitimate offspring of his cousin who died in a freak accident. Their mother, his cousin’s mistress, threatened to place them in an orphanage if he wasn’t willing to provide for them. The honorable Will would never abandon his best friend’s children to such a fate, but the rambunctious girls obviously needed a steady hand. The Earl, whose own father has been indifferent, fears he doesn’t have the ability to be a good parent, so he turns to what he hopes is “professional” help. Unfortunately, Meg has zero experience, just a need to earn some money to keep her sisters and uncle out of the poorhouse. Of course, once she realizes the potential boss is her former jilted fiancé, she is ready to decline the position. Yet, Will is intrigued and makes her an offer she can’t refuse, so Miss Lacey finds herself wrapped up in the lives of her two charges as well as garnering the attention of the distinctly handsome Castleton.
My Brown-Eyed Earl by Anna Bennett is book one in The Wayward Wallflowers series. Meg and her younger sisters Elizabeth and Juliette have been living with their Uncle Alister, Lord Wiltmore, the only family member willing to offer a home to all three girls after the tragic death of their parents (killed in a storm on that fateful night Meg rejected the marriage proposal). Full of guilt, Meg stoically believes it is her obligation to care for the family. While the somewhat oblivious Uncle Alister has provided them a loving home, his limited funds do not allow for luxuries like fancy gowns. That’s why the sisters have been dubbed The Wilted Wallflowers by The Ton and despite their beauty, their drab attire brings them nothing but scorn and ridicule.
Set to remain a spinster, Meg is determined to earn enough to provide some luxuries for her siblings. With kindly attentions, while visiting the dressmaker to add to the twins wardrobe, Will offers to purchase her a new gown as well, but the proud Meg refuses to even consider the idea. Luckily, the Earl looks beyond her attire and his former feelings are rekindled. Meg is not immune to his charms and they quickly find themselves romantically involved. Encouraged by his mother to take a wife, Will wonders if Meg has the capacity to fill the role of Countess. A series of misadventures seem to indicate otherwise, but first impressions can be deceiving. Whether the Earl can convince his lovely governess to put aside her guilt and find her own happiness is the ultimate goal.
While I loved the witty repartee between Will and Meg, along with the lovable characters Bennett has created (especially the twins), there were some definite flaws in this Regency Romance. In fact, if you like your historical novels to accurately reflect the era, then this is not the book for you. The author plays fast and loose with the mores of the time, ignoring the high standards for maintaining a spotless reputation – such as a current debutante living unchaperoned with a bachelor. Even if all was innocent (which it wasn’t) the scandal would be far reaching. Then Meg’s friend Charlotte, also a governess, openly appears in society with her employer, seemingly as a couple. Neither a likely scenario! In addition, the conversations, although witty, were full of vernacular unbecoming for polite conversation. Despite these and other discrepancies, this book was not without its charm. Yes, there were the muddled accounts of the lovers past as well as a clumsy attempt to provide a little excitement via an inquisitive mystery man, but there were also some interesting interactions, often comical, which compensated for all the flaws.
With a little better attention to the appropriate details, a more complete backstory, and some fine tuning to the plot/climax, this could have been a four+ star book. Still, I’ll give it three and a half stars for its easily readable writing style and humor.
A thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.