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Meet the Earl at Midnight

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

This is Gina Conkle's entertaining debut, the first in her Midni

This is Gina Conkle's entertaining debut, the first in her Midnight Meetings series.
Edward, earl of Greenwich, needs an heir. After his older brother’s untimely death and a self-imposed deadline, Miss Lydia Montgomery, a commoner, will have to do especially since it wi...
This is Gina Conkle's entertaining debut, the first in her Midnight Meetings series.
Edward, earl of Greenwich, needs an heir. After his older brother’s untimely death and a self-imposed deadline, Miss Lydia Montgomery, a commoner, will have to do especially since it will also settle her stepfather’s debt. Of course, she has no say in the matter and, as is common in this genre’s time period, there are themes of the manipulation of women.
“Her womb was a negotiation piece.”
Lydia is an on-the-shelf spinster at the age of twenty-four, an artist, and a very willful, assertive, and perceptive heroine. She is a victim of her time, yet she makes the very best of things. I love how she views the sunny side of life by taking her own destiny into her hands. She is not afraid to ask the imposing Edward direct questions and lets him know that she will not tolerate infidelity.
After a youthful indiscretion, Lydia was living quietly with her Great-Aunt Euphemia, much like Maria Bertram in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. After her initial shock at being sold in marriage, Lydia recognizes the advantages of marriage to a peer as his great influence and power in Polite Society will allow her to freely pursue her art.
“She shouldn’t take a nursemaid’s scolding tone with nobility, but thunder cracked overhead, a reminder of the nasty storm, and her patience ran dry. She had things to do come daybreak.”
Edward is a botanist whose reclusive nature and striking physical scars have earned him many unflattering monikers: “The Phantom of London. Enigma Earl. The Greenwich Recluse.”  He is rumored to be mad, disfigured, or both. Most women of his class have not been able to see past the scars, until Lydia. He reminded me of Sebastian Easton from Lorraine Heath’s She Tempts the Duke but this story is much more lighthearted in tone. 
Edward values intelligence and facts and Lydia’s forthrightness knocks his tight little socks off. She vexes him, exasperates him and, eventually, beguiles him.
"Wasn’t food or sex what most men clamored for? Keep those appetites sated, and a woman could do what she wanted."
Edward hides himself both physically and emotionally from everyone, something Lydia will not tolerate. He is a quiet, studious, and orderly man who dislikes female histrionics disturbing his peaceful world. This personality sometimes creates some wonderfully funny moments in the story. He also dresses very casually, not bothering with a valet or fashionable clothes representative of his station. And never was the description of a man’s open collar so sexy and alluring. He has no patience for fripperies at the same time he acknowledges their existence. His love and devotion to science are similar to Lydia’s feelings toward her art.
"Plants, thankfully, never demanded conversation."
But Lydia distracts him terribly and this creates some searing sexual tension—it seems their intimate moments are constantly interrupted—but there is only one sex scene in the entire book. Their conversations are often tart and witty and they are among the highlights of the entire story. I love Lydia’s cheekiness and directness. In one scene, when Edward comments on her lack of fashion after her dress the morning after he brings her to his home, she sarcastically reminds him she doesn’t have any other clothes, then proceeds to rip into him on his own stained clothing and less-than-elegant appearance. It’s a grand set-down worthy of Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Fimbriate petals morphed into a chocolate-haired woman with a proud walk and delectable form wrapped in white velvet.”
As they get to know one another, Edward finds he wants to make Lydia happy yet he is torn by his duty to his family and himself. He longs to do what he wants, unlike his own father, an astronomer. This causes problems between him and Lydia as, the more she gets to know him, the more she comes to love him and enjoy his company. All Lydia wants is a place and time to paint; not jewels or clothes and this shocks him.
"Her coy words neatly parried to his thrust."
Edward’s mother, Lady Elizabeth, visits toward the end of the story. She is a very proper shrew who adheres to Polite Society’s strictures, but she’s not quite as horrible as Mrs. Ferrars in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I find her comical in her extreme rudeness; she reminds me more of Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice in her over-the-top pomposity. As with Edward, Lydia stands up to her admirably, despite hurtful words and attempts at bribery.
Lord Edward also permits his own ragtag groups of servants a very casual relationship in his household as he even offers them his own books to read. Miss Mayhew, his very attractive housekeeper, is a puzzle I hope Conkle solves in a possible future story.
The descriptions of Greenwich Park are delightful, including the very lovely greenhouse where Lydia and Edward work. Lydia offers to sketch, draw, and paint to assist Edward in his scientific endeavors, much to his surprise and gratitude. Since his scientific scrawlings are illegible, they become a team.
There are very nice touches of authenticity to the 1768 time period, for example, the use of butcher paper as an inexpensive stationery and the gorgeous descriptions of the countess’ fashions:
"The countess, every hair in place, stood statue-still by the easel in all her finery, a watered silk gown, glimmering in shades of rose and champagne."
The language of science in this novel is very sexy as Conkle expertly weaves it into her narrative. This is one of the reasons I love historical romance. And each chapter opens with a clever and provocative proverb or quote.
Memorable moments:
"This was not the first time her hand was on the front placket of a man’s breeches, but now was not the time to clarify that point."
"Her shoulder grazed his arm, a bare rustle of wool against velvet."
A most enjoyable romance.

posted by AustenStudent on May 7, 2014

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

This was definitely a different take on historical romance genre

This was definitely a different take on historical romance genre that I grew up reading, which is a good thing, don't get me wrong. It has a scarred earl, who happens to be a brilliant scientist, and a girl who is a commoner and fancies herself an artist. Sure there's t...
This was definitely a different take on historical romance genre that I grew up reading, which is a good thing, don't get me wrong. It has a scarred earl, who happens to be a brilliant scientist, and a girl who is a commoner and fancies herself an artist. Sure there's the nobleman who takes the daughter to marry instead of turning her family over to debtor's prison, the unapproving mother, the need of an heir, those things are pretty typical, but this book takes place away from London society and has one sex scene in it. I'm use to reading those old painted cover books where the two MCs are usually all hot and heavy by page 100. This was more a slow lead up to their night of passion. Maybe that's why I'm kinda conflicted on whether or not I really liked this book. I'm guessing the next book will be about Claire, the housekeeper/close friend, since she left abruptly in the middle of the book. I'm more interested in Jonas though (I like a mysterious man). Will probably read the next book just to see where it goes.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

posted by amdrane2 on May 6, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    Boring

    Every readers desire for romance is different. This just did not meet my standards. Stories about heros' who broods are slow paced. First, I must say I do not like reviews that tell me about the story. Why read the book when you have bloggers and others posting their reviews telling you the entire story. These bloggers primary purpose is to lead you to their blog sites or get a free book.

    This is not my style of romance however, I understand authors write the way they enjoy reading. In my opinion this story did not have enough substance. The same argument of the hero's ambition and his desire to go on a voyage extended throughout the book until the last few chapters. This is not the book if you like stories that are fluid, adding different plots to move the story forward, also not full of internal monologe or thoughts. The philosophical quotes inserted within the story were tiring. There were times while reading I felt the writer telling instead of showing us the story.

    The only part I enjoyed was the authors insight on man and woman relationship. Men having selfish desires whether it be fleshly lust or ambitious lust that must be sated.

    Romance novels are changing. I don't know if writers are being infleunced to write in this style at writers conferences, but I find it absolutely boring. Don't label these books romance when it should be labeled drama. What I mean that there's no romance in the novel or the story has a lot of teaser scenes. I believe romantic scenes are needed in a romance story. And it helps to place the scene early within the story because now the author is challenged to keep the reader engaged. Show how the romance is going to move to the next level. There is one romance scene at the very end of this novel. If I am going to spend my precious hours reading the story give me some substance to enjoy it. If not, label the story properly (publishers) so we the reader can find authors who writes in the style that is most pleasing to the reader.

    Thanks to reviewers who tell their opinion about the story, NOT tell you the story.

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