First Earl I See Tonight: A Debutante Diaries Novel

First Earl I See Tonight: A Debutante Diaries Novel

by Anna Bennett

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250199461
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Series: Debutante Diaries , #1
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 89,429
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Anna Bennett started swiping romances from her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager and decided that books with balls, dukes, and gowns were the best. So, when she had the chance to spend a semester in London she packed her bags—and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.

Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the stories she loves and won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart®. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen.

Anna's books include the Wayward Wallflowers series and the Debutante Diaries series.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Miss Fiona Hartley's etiquette was far from flawless, but even she was not in the habit of writing letters to gentlemen who were of no relation to her. And she'd certainly never had occasion to propose marriage in such a letter.

Until now.

Frowning, she sat at her desk and tickled her chin with the tip of the downy quill she held poised above a blank sheet of stationery. Miss Haywinkle's School for Girls had neglected to cover the finer points of proposing to an earl. But then, the headmistress had failed to cover any number of topics that might have proven helpful, such as how to walk down the street wearing a ridiculous bonnet without feeling foolish. Or how to properly hit a cricket ball while encumbered by a gown and two petticoats.

And, regrettably, Miss Haywinkle had never offered the lesson Fiona needed the most: how a shy heiress might discern which of her gentlemen suitors was interested in more than her fortune. Alas, the men of Fiona's acquaintance seemed unable to comprehend that she was a person first and foremost — that she existed wholly independently of her substantial dowry and the vast wealth she stood to one day inherit. Perhaps it was a naïve notion, but she'd always longed to marry a man who genuinely cared for her. Maybe even loved her.

At least now she needn't bother continuing her fruitless search. The dream of a love match had flown out the window yesterday afternoon — with the arrival of a perfectly ordinary-looking letter in the regular post, addressed to her.

Curious, Fiona had lifted it from the silver salver, admiring the heavy paper and elegant script. But as she'd opened and read it, dread had seeped into her veins.

No one could discover the truth revealed in that letter — not her parents or her dearest friend, Sophie, or the authorities. Most certainly not her younger sister, Lily.

A shiver stole over Fiona's skin despite the silk shawl draped over her shoulders and the cozy fire burning in her bedchamber's fireplace. The scoundrel who'd sent the horrid note obviously knew she'd sacrifice anything to protect her sister and was demanding an exorbitant amount of money to keep Lily's secret. But procuring such a large sum wasn't easy — even for an heiress.

Papa was out of town and wasn't expected back for at least a week. Even if time weren't of the essence, Fiona didn't dare tell him the shocking news for fear his weak heart would give out. After Papa collapsed in his office last year, his doctor had warned him to avoid undue stress. Fiona had already lost her real mother, and the thought of losing Papa terrified her.

She'd lain awake much of the night, debating what to do, and had reached the only logical conclusion. What she needed was a titled husband — and fast.

The Earl of Ravenport was the perfect candidate. His desperate financial situation was widely rumored, and though he'd once been engaged, his fiancée had called off their marriage a fortnight ago. His lack of fortune and his brooding personality kept most of the matchmaking mamas at bay, which reduced the competition and increased Fiona's odds of success.

He'd come to mind for one other reason as well — on the most humiliating night of her life, the earl had shown her kindness. She'd tripped on the dance floor and landed among the musicians in the orchestra, sending their sheet music flying. Her dance partner had frozen, aghast. Other guests had snickered.

Only Lord Ravenport had stepped forward and offered his hand, effortlessly pulling her to her feet. Somehow, that simple contact — his large gloved hand enveloping hers — had managed to be simultaneously reassuring and thrilling. The brief encounter had meant a great deal to her, and yet she wasn't at all certain that the earl knew her name.

The fact that the earl happened to be handsome was immaterial. Entirely irrelevant, really. But if his devil-may-care smile made Fiona's stomach flutter now and again, she saw no harm in it. She deserved to glean something from the deal after all, and what girl wouldn't enjoy having a tall, athletic, ruggedly attractive husband — at least in name? It wasn't as though she intended to give him her heart.

Nevertheless, she'd enjoy sketching him ... one day. She didn't yet know him well enough to do him justice. Oh, she could recall his physical traits all too easily: the dark hair that spilled across his forehead, the slightly crooked nose, and the boxer's physique. But in spite of his self-assured demeanor, he was more guarded than most — reluctant to reveal who he truly was. She, of all people, respected that.

Fiona tapped a fingernail on her gleaming mahogany desk, determined to forge ahead. How, precisely, did one broach the subject of marriage with a relative stranger? Shrugging, she dipped the nib of her quill and let the ink flow.

Dear Lord Ravenport,

We've not been formally introduced, but you may remember me from the Millbrook ball, where I tripped during the cotillion and tumbled headfirst into the musicians, knocking the violinist clear off his chair. Would you consider binding yourself to me in matrimony for the rest of your natural life?

A bit too honest, perhaps. And too direct. Miss Haywinkle would be utterly appalled by Fiona's lack of decorum. Though the thought of shocking her former headmistress cheered her slightly, the letter would never do. Sighing, she tossed it in the dustbin, withdrew a clean sheet from the desk drawer, and began writing anew.

She took the most polite and businesslike approach she could manage given the rather forward nature of her request.

Dear Lord Ravenport,

I am writing to you with a proposal that is unconventional but quite sincere. After much deliberation, I've reached the conclusion that that each of us would benefit greatly if we were to ally ourselves through marriage. I possess a very large dowry which I'm certain you would find useful. In addition, I would promise to be a very undemanding wife. Indeed, you would be free — nay, encouraged — to pursue your own interests.

All I would ask in return is that you allow me to retain a small property with a cottage in Cornwall, five thousand pounds for my own use, and a reasonable yearly allowance. The stipulated monies shall be mine to spend as I please without any explanation or interference.

I do have one last requirement. We must wed within a fortnight. I understand that this may seem rash, but since our union would merely be one of convenience, I see no reason to delay. Please consider my proposal and provide your response at the first opportunity.

Sincerely,

Miss Fiona Hartley

In the end, she was quite satisfied with the result. And yet her hands trembled as she folded the sheet and melted the sealing wax.

Once sent, the letter could not be retrieved; the words could never be taken back. There was no way to know how Lord Ravenport would react to the deal she'd proposed. He might tell all his friends and make her the laughingstock of the ton, or he might refuse to dignify her proposal with a response. But proposing to him was her best hope of sparing her sister, Lily, untold ridicule and pain. Fiona had no choice but to try.

A knock on her bedchamber door made her jump guiltily. She quickly hid the letter in the folds of her skirt. "Come in," she said, attempting a breezy tone.

Her sprightly maid, Mary, bustled into the room, and Fiona released the breath she'd been holding. "Pardon the interruption, Miss Fiona. Miss Kendall came for a visit. She and Miss Lily are in the drawing room, and they're quite eager for your company."

"Please tell them I'll be down momentarily. I require a few minutes to ..." To contemplate the sheer madness of what I am about to do. To come to terms with my future, which most notably includes a cold, loveless marriage. " ... to finish up a bit of correspondence."

The maid set freshly folded linens on the damask-covered bed. "I'll gladly tell them. But your sister is not a particularly patient person. Don't be surprised if she insists on retrieving you herself." Mary cocked an ear to the door and clucked her tongue. "Alas, it sounds as though she and Miss Kendall are heading this way now."

Oh dear. Fiona sprang from her chair and, before she could change her mind, thrust the letter into Mary's hands. "Would you please see that this is delivered immediately? It's quite important," she said, "and requires the utmost discretion."

Before the maid could reply, Lily burst into the room, poor Sophie in tow. Propping her hands on her slim hips, Lily narrowed her eyes at Fiona. "Here you are. Why have you closeted yourself away in your room on this glorious day? Sophie and I had begun to despair of you ever making an appearance, and we've much plotting to do in advance of tonight's ball."

"Plotting sounds rather sinister," Sophie said softly. "Perhaps you meant planning?"

"No, no, I meant plotting." Lily swept the heavy velvet panels away from the window and shot a suspicious look at Fiona and the maid. "Have we interrupted something?"

"Certainly not," Fiona said, a bit too brightly.

Mary whisked the letter behind her back and dipped a quick curtsy as she inched her way toward the bedchamber door. "I'll leave you ladies to your own devices. Be sure to ring if you require anything." She shot Fiona a reassuring smile before scurrying down the hall.

Fiona fought the urge to chase after the maid, seize the letter, and tear it into a thousand pieces. Instead, she greeted her friend with a warm hug and waved a hand at the armchair beside her bed. "What an unexpected pleasure, Sophie. Please, make yourself comfortable while Lily explains the nature of this apparent pre-ball emergency." Fiona arched a brow at her sister. "No, wait. Allow me to guess. You tried on the blue silk this morning only to find the bodice has grown too snug?"

Lily grinned and launched herself toward Fiona's bed, bouncing on the mattress in a most hoyden-like manner. "No, the gown is fine. Care to take another guess?"

Fiona tapped a finger against her lower lip. "You cannot find a hair ribbon in just the shade of sapphire to match your slippers?"

"Wrong again." Lily sat up on the edge of the mattress, and the familiar gleam in her green eyes sent a chill down Fiona's spine. "I realized something during my walk after breakfast. Here we are — the three of us — barely a month into our first season, and despite all we learned while we were away at finishing school, it seems we are woefully unprepared."

Fiona wrapped an arm around the post at the foot of her bed and smiled. "I had a similar thought this morning. But I doubt Miss Haywinkle will agree to reimburse our tuition, if that's what you're thinking."

Sophie smoothed a lock of golden blond hair behind her ear and tilted her head. "I found the headmistress's lessons quite instructive. Perhaps I could have done without the endless French conjugations, but she did teach us how to avoid a myriad of social blunders."

"You would have avoided them anyway," Lily said, and Fiona agreed. Sophie possessed a natural grace, was unfailingly polite, and never uttered an unkind word about anyone. "Besides," Lily continued, "I'm not talking about black-and-white matters, like which fork to use during the first course or the correct way to address a dowager duchess. I want to know ... more important things."

Sophie's brow wrinkled. "What sorts of things?" Lily leaned her head back and closed her eyes. "I should like to know how it feels when the most handsome man in a crowded ballroom looks directly at me."

"As would I." Fiona sighed. "And I'd like to know precisely how it feels when he puts his hand on the small of my back and whispers in my ear." She sat on the arm of Sophie's chair and lightly bumped her friend's shoulder. "What would you like to know?"

Sophie shifted uneasily, and her fair cheeks turned pink. "Well, I suppose it would be helpful to know how it would feel ... that is, the particular sensation of ... well, being ravished."

"Why, Sophie," Lily cried, "how positively wanton of you! I am impressed."

Sophie covered her face with hands and groaned. "I'm mortified. I don't suppose we could forget I ever said that?"

Fiona slipped an arm around her friend. "Don't be silly. Lily's only teasing. You can tell us anything."

Lily leaped off the bed, impatiently pushing a long, dark curl away from her face. "Yes! These are precisely the sorts of things we must know. I'm going to make a list." She plopped herself behind Fiona's desk and began rummaging through the piles of sketches covering the surface, pausing to consider one. "Oh, Fi, this is a brilliant drawing of Lady Everly, and the parrot perched on the branch behind her is genius. That woman is an insatiable gossip."

"Thank you," Fiona said sincerely. "But I wasn't trying to make a statement."

"I know," Lily said with admiration. "And yet your drawings never fail to reveal the truth about people." She shuffled the sketches some more and opened a desk drawer. "Do you have a blank sheet of paper around here?" She peered over the desktop. "Never mind, I shall reuse this one in the dustbin."

"No!" Fiona's heart pounded as she snatched the first draft of her proposal to the earl from Lily's hand and crumpled it in a fist. "This list deserves a new, clean sheet." She quickly located one in her drawer and placed it in front of her sister, who stared at her curiously.

Lily raised her delicate eyebrows, dipped the pen in the ink, and meticulously enumerated all the things they wished to experience during the remainder of their first season. "It's ambitious, to be sure, but I have faith that we shall learn all this ... and more."

Fiona was not quite as optimistic as her sister. As of this morning, her season was not about finding love, but rather, about securing a husband in the least amount of time possible. The blackmailer had demanded payment within a fortnight, which meant she must convince the earl to marry her before then.

Obviously, she did not have the luxury of indulging in a slow, heartfelt, romantic courtship. But surely there were advantages to a betrothal that was perfunctory, businesslike, and practical — even if they escaped her at the moment.

"We are all agreed then?" Lily said, more like she was issuing an edict than asking a question.

Fiona and Sophie nodded and murmured their assent. Resisting Lily was an exercise in futility.

"Excellent," she said, pacing the length of the bedchamber. "Each of us will keep a diary in which we record these things" — she waved the list — "so that we don't forget what it's like to ... to fall in love."

Sophie shook her head vehemently. "Oh dear. I can't write such things in a diary. What if my mother were to discover it?"

Lily shrugged. "You can tell her it's mine."

"Mama knows my handwriting." Sophie stood and nibbled the tip of a finger. "No, a journal is much too dangerous. Besides, I doubt I'll have anything of significance to record."

"Nonsense," Fiona countered. Oddly enough, her sister's idea had some merit. It was a small way of taking charge of their lives when very little else seemed to be within their control — a most vexing state of affairs. "If you pay attention to your feelings, you will discover little things can be the most meaningful. Sincere compliments, gallant gestures, furtive smiles ... I think we should give it a try."

"You don't have to write names if you'd rather not," Lily added. "Let the gentlemen remain anonymous if you wish. What we want to capture are the feelings."

"But why?" Sophie asked. "Who is our audience? It's not as though we're going to publish our journal entries." She turned a shade paler. "Are we?"

"No. The diaries will be for our own edification," Fiona said firmly. She glared at her younger sister sternly. "Perhaps we'll choose to share them with each other. Maybe we'll save them in the bottom of a trunk so that one day, when our own daughters make their debuts, we'll be able to warn them about the unique combination of exhilaration, dread, and hope that's wrapped up in one's first season."

"I suppose there's no harm in taking a few notes," Sophie said, still more than a little skeptical. "With all names excluded."

"Good. It's decided," Lily announced. "We shall begin keeping journals immediately. May tonight's ball provide ample material."

Fiona cringed inwardly. If the Earl of Ravenport made an appearance tonight — as she hoped he would — there'd be no shortage of drama in her corner of the ballroom.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "First Earl I See Tonight"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Anna Bennett.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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First Earl I See Tonight: A Debutante Diaries Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
def618 More than 1 year ago
Wealthy Fiona Hartley and her sister Lily are going to have their first London season. Lily was adopted as a babe and someone is threatening to tell the truth about Lily’s birth mother. Fiona has decided to pay the man but needs to get her dowry to do so. She has decided to send a letter to Gray, Earl of Ravenport, asking him to marry her asap. She knows the Earl needs money and he was once nice to her at a ball. He’s not quite sure about her and decides to have a house party at his crumbling estate, assuming one look will drive her away. Fiona is an artist and sees what the estate could be when restored. His Grandmother thinks they will be perfect for each other. After spending time with her, he agrees to the marriage but informs her he’s incapable of loving her. During the house party, she becomes acquainted with his friends. One of them, Kirby, doesn’t seem quite right to her. Gray does fall in love with her, but no spoilers from me because this story gets complicated and hard to put down. I really enjoyed it and hope you will read it.
PalmaMama More than 1 year ago
First Earl I See Tonight is my first read by Anna Bennett. I received this arc from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. The story starts off with an interesting premise. A heiress, who’s family earned their wealth, is being blackmailed with a secret about her sister. The only way she can payoff the blackmailer is to propose marriage to an English earl who’s in desperate need of money. I enjoy a woman who takes the less conventional path and goes after what she wants. I also enjoy a man who is devoted to his family and only wants what’s best for them. However, to read this story, you need to just go with the flow and not ask too many questions. The first half of the book was ok, but by the time I figured out who the blackmailer was, I was over it. The reasoning behind the blackmail, the way they figured out the secret and the hero’s dealing with the blackmailer were all disappointing.
grandmareads102 More than 1 year ago
Fiona Hartley needs a husband immediately and she knows who she wants. It's the Earl of Ravenport. He doesn't know what hit him when he receives her proposal. She offers him her large dowry and gives no reason as to why they should marry. What happens next is an unusual courtship filled with romance and bad poetry. I enjoyed First Earl I See Tonight. Fiona is intelligent and resourceful. Her charming writing and witty dialogue made me smile. Gray is a grumpy loaner who has been burned by love. Can Fiona bring him out of his shell? These characters make the story come alive. I loved seeing Fiona and Gray together. It was so romantic watching them fall in love. The story is well written. It combines romance with a touch of mystery as Fiona struggles to deal with a blackmailer who is a threat to her sister, Lily. Anna Bennett made me care for Fiona and Gray. I wanted them to get their well deserved HEA. I received a copy of this book which I voluntarily read and reviewed. My comments are my honest opinion.
momof3boysj More than 1 year ago
Fiona is in need of money to keep a secret from coming to light. The Blackmailer hasn't given her much time. She decides a marriage of convenience would be the easiest way to get money quickly and sets her sights on Gray, an earl in serious need of money. Gray doesn't want marriage, but he would love to restore the estate for his grandmother. In his attempt to ward off Fiona by showing her his estate, seemingly falling apart around them, she doesn't give up. Spending time together brings forth emotions neither is prepared for, but is it enough for a marriage, and will Fiona make the deadline before the truth comes to light? a good start to a new series. **received an ARC from NetGalley**
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
First Earl I See Tonight by Anna Bennett Debutante Diaries #1 Blackmail is a dirty business and Fiona Hartley needs a way to pay off the blackmailer to keep her family happily as it is. Her decision to access her inheritance through marriage sees her writing a wedding proposal to a man she believes might be interested in her money little knowing that what she expects and what will happen will be quite different. David Gray, Earl of Ravenport, thinks that Fiona is mad at first but does meet and talk to her. The two grow closer to one another at a house party on his crumbling estate but there is always the blackmailer lurking in the background to cause turmoil in Fiona’s mind…and life. My thoughts: *Well written if somewhat predictable *Storyline highly unlikely *Liked the characters *Enjoyed the interactions between Gray and Fiona *Some will find this book highly entertaining while others will want more substance Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars
Jolie More than 1 year ago
I am not going to go into my entire spiel about how much I love historical romances. Because you all have heard it before and I don’t want to bore you. I will say that I was becoming bored with historical romances. As well written as some might be, they all seemed to follow 1 of 2 formats. You have the plucky heroine who gets in over her head and the alpha male hero rescues her. Or, the hero is tortured over something that happened in his past and the heroine heals him. While First Earl I See Tonight does have a tortured hero, that is the only part of the plot that was predictable. First Earl I See Tonight is about Fiona Hartley. Fiona had received a note from a blackmailer demanding money by a certain date. If he/she didn’t receive that money, an article would be published in a prominent newspaper about her younger sister, Lily. The blackmailer claimed to have evidence that Lily was the illegitimate daughter of a well-known madame. If that came out, Lily would be shunned by the ton and her chances for a good marriage would be over. Desperate to avoid that, Fiona writes a note to the Earl of Ravenport, asking him to marry her and outlining why they would have a good union. Gray, having been dumped by his fiancée, is amused and shocked by the note. Determined to scare her off, he invites her to his crumbling country manor house, The Fortress. Instead of scaring her off, it charms Fiona. Gray realizes that there is so much more to Fiona than what he thought. But he cannot love. A traumatic event when he was a child had forced him to seal that part of him off. Can he open up and let Fiona into his heart? And will Fiona find out who the blackmailer is? Can she trust Gray enough to let him know what-is going on? Will she have to let true love go to protect her sister’s reputation? Read the book. I loved the cover of First Earl I See Tonight. It encompassed everything that was going on in the book, except the blackmail. The model looked exactly as I thought Fiona would look. I loved that The Fortress was in the background. And the diary was there, along with Fiona’s deceased mother’s necklace. Loved it!!!! I loved Fiona. For a girl of her time, she was very forward. I mean, she wrote to Gray, asking him to marry her. That is unheard of for her era. Girls did not do that. And it was so freaking refreshing and new!! I had menioned above that I was getting bored with reading historical romances. This book pulled me back from the edge of not reading them. I loved her argument for making her case and her reaction to Gray asking if she was with child. I laughed out loud at that. Fiona was not graceful either. I mean, she met Gray by falling into the orchestra playing at a party. She was also loyal to her family. She would do anything to keep Lily’s parentage out of the papers and save her from becoming shunned. Her only fault was that she should have told Gray sooner than she did about the blackmailer. I liked Gray. I will admit, I did laugh when I read his response to Fiona’s request. I would have noped the heck out of there. Burned the note and not looked back. But, he was intrigued by it. Which is why he visited her at her home and questioned her the way he did. Which was hilarious because of Fiona’s responses. I liked his plan to scare her into not wanting to marry him by inviting her to The Fortress. That blew up in his face, big time. It was her way of seeing the beauty in everything that sent him down that slippery slope to love. Becaus
Hfowler More than 1 year ago
I liked the characters in this one a lot. Gray and Fiona were great together. His blend of cold distance and the inability to trust, and her openly selflessness and compassion work great together to make for a wonderful love story. I’m glad Gray found a way to open up and love again and I liked Fiona’s spirited and determined drive to win Gray over. She was bold and didn’t give up. The plot was strong, the conflict believable (and sad being who the bad guy ends up being), and the passion and emotional tension all roll up into a great story. It is an easy read; easy to fall in love with and the characters are well drawn and captivating. I do recommend it, though I did skip a lot of the journal entries because I wanted to get back to the interactions between the characters, the series has great potential and I want more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This being the first book in a new series it's a great debut. I love how neither one is looking for love. But as the plot gets going there is a mystery to solve. Working this out together brings them to a point where they both start to have feelings for each other. Its a nicely paced and easying flowing book. It's so much fun when the unexpected happens.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I loved David and Fiona's story!! Fiona needs to marry and do it quickly. She thinks that David is the perfect person to approach with her proposition. Too bad he has no plans to accept her offer. David invites her to his crumbling home to get her to change her mind, but it backfires on him. The more time he spends with her, he starts to doubt his decision. Can Fiona's proposal of a marriage of convenience turn into something so much more? I loved watching these two interact. They were so much fun!! Every time David did something to turn Fiona away from the idea of wedding, she turned it around on him. I can't wait to see what Bennett has in store for the rest of the Debutant Diaries series!
DebDiem More than 1 year ago
First Earl I See Tonight is a fabulous historical romance by Anna Bennett. Ms. Bennett has given us a book that is well-written. The cast of characters are phenomenal and my favorite part of the book. Fiona doesn't want to marry anyone that only wants her dowry and cares nothing for her. When she receives a blackmail letter, she is forced into action. David is an Earl without a fortune to rebuild the family estate. David and Fiona's story is loaded with drama, humor, action, spice and suspense. This book hooked me on the first page and held me captive until the end. First Earl I See Tonight is book 1 of the Debutante Diaries Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a lovely book. I really enjoyed the love story between Fiona and Gray. This was my first book by Anna Bennett, but I will be sure to look up her other books. I've just recently started reading historical romances and this book was perfect. I loved the writing style and the interactions between Gray and Fiona. I admire Fiona for being a strong woman and fighting for her family. Gray was also a great hero with rough edges but a tender heart underneath. I enjoyed the suspense in the book and trying to figure out who the blackmailer was. If you're looking for a good historical romance with some suspense then this is the story for you. **ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own**
etoile1996 More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed the wayward wallflowers, and first earl i see tonight kicks off the new debutante diaries series from anna bennett. bennett's writing is always enjoyable and i really liked both fiona and gray as characters. i'm just not sure they're well-served in this story. other reviewers have called out the inconsistencies in the plot and secondary characters, but these things don't mean that this book isn't enjoyable. it is. like i said, fiona and gray are characters you can't help but root for. and so, even if they deserve something better in terms of plot, the one they have still gets them to happily ever after, and isn't that the point? **first earl i see tonight will publish on october 30, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/s. martin's press in exchange for my honest review.
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
The First Earl I See Tonight by Anna Bennett is a Regency Historical Romance. Book 1 in the "Debutante Diaries", and it promises to be an exciting new series. Featuring, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport and Miss Fiona Hartley. Fiona is a talented artist being blackmailed, she must save her sister and family secret from scandal.  Gray has had a difficult childhood,  was just jilted by his fiance and his estate is need of finances to restore it to its formal glory.  Gray wants do this for his beloved grandmother, whose losing her eyesight.  A bit slow at first but picks up, about the third chapter.  To me it was a bit confusing at times, some things just didn't come together for me, especially for the Regency era, but with that said it was an enjoyable and satisfying read. A few surprises along the way. The characters are charming. The plot was interesting but some things just did not fit well, to me. I enjoy a good romance, with  some mystery, suspense, and a HEA, which THE FIRST EARL I SEE TONIGHT does have. When, it all came together it was a bit of a let down, to me, it felt a bit rushed at the end  just before the finale.  Please, don't get me wrong,  this is an interesting, and  enjoyable read. I enjoyed watching Gray and Fiona's attraction grow into love and their HEA. "I voluntarily received a complimentary copy, however,  these are my honest opinions. I was in no way required nor compensated to write a review." #NetGalley,#TheFirstEarlISeeTonight Rating: 4 Heat rating:Mild Reviewer: AprilR
Pompie1999 More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this read even though a few things puzzled me. It was fast-paced and kept me reading well past my bedtime. I enjoyed the characters and wanted to see them have their HEA and to see the villain punished. David Gray, Earl of Ravenport inherited his earldom when he was much too young, twelve to be exact. He had a traumatic childhood and his father’s, and then his mother’s passing were tragic as well. Now, he’s an adult with a bankrupt earldom. He’s taciturn, dark, cold and more guarded than most. Given the way he was raised and the horror he witnessed, he knows that he will never give his heart to anyone. He’d even tried that once only to have the woman break the betrothal. His one goal at the moment is to refurbish the Fortress – the name Gray had given his manor house. He needed to do that for his grandmother who was the one bright light in his otherwise dark world and now, she’s losing her eyesight. Gray wants to restore that cherished childhood home before she loses her sight and can’t see it at all. Miss Fiona Hartley is the very lovely, caring daughter of an insanely rich mill owner. She loves her sister and her father beyond measure – and well – maybe her step-mother a bit as well. Fiona is a bit gangly and accident prone which seems to keep her suitors away. As a gifted artist, she usually sees through to the real person underneath the one that is shown to the world. Now, there is trouble, big trouble, in her world. Someone is blackmailing her and if she doesn’t pay, they’ll reveal a family secret that would ruin Fiona’s family and her sister in particular. She has no access to those kinds of funds, so how can she pay him? Well, she decides her only choice is to very quickly find someone to marry her. She only needs to find an impoverished peer who will marry her for her very sizable fortune. Fiona has considered and eliminated a number of men of the ton and has finally settled on the Earl of Ravenport. He was sweet and considerate to her when she had a mishap at a ball – and when he gripped her hand to help her up, she felt a jolt of electricity. So, she writes him a very businesslike letter outlining terms and conditions and proposes marriage. You can surely imagine his reaction when he received that letter. He tells her no, but she is persistent and he has to find some way to dissuade her. So, what does he come up with? He decides to invite her, her family and a friend to visit his home for a house party. He is sure that will do the trick because the last fiancé he took to his home jilted him promptly. I loved watching them come to care for each other and realize that each wanted only the other. I would have loved to see an epilogue in this book. Something set a couple of years into the future -- with the Fortress all restored, maybe a baby and a wonderful relationship with Fiona's father restored. You noticed that I said there were some things that puzzled me – weren’t right – or just bothered me. Obviously they didn’t bother me a lot because I gave the book a 4-star rating, but still, they are puzzling. What are they – well here are some of them. (1) Why would a blackmailer choose to black Fiona? She’s rich but has absolutely no access to actual funds. Why wouldn’t the blackmailer blackmail either the father who does have access to money or the sister who would be directly affected by the revelation - even though she doesn't have access to funds either? (2) Why would there be a gratuitous appearance b
KindleLady More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the story of Fiona, a quirky, talented, clumsy and determined young lady and Gray, a brooding ,stubborn and loyal Earl who come together under unusual circumstances and still manage to find each other. The storyline flowed and the only "sour" note was the villain in the story, as I just couldn't believe he would act that way. I liked the auxiliary characters, and look forward to their stories. Thank you NetGalley for letting me read and review this ARC.
Crystal61 More than 1 year ago
I did not want to put this one down! Fiona was a wonderful character with her love and loyalty to family, determination to keep everyone safe, and brave enough to take those steps. As I learned about Gray's past, I cared more about how this story ended. He started as a self-absorbed man but found his way into the world. I loved the interactions between Fiona and Gray, and enjoyed the love between the secondary characters. This is a story that I highly recommend, and I look forward to the next book in the series. I received an ARC through Netgalley, and this is my unsolicited review.
astroyic More than 1 year ago
Captivating! I was totally captivated by this intriguing, tender and suspenseful historical romance. These characters will touch your heart and a the romance is filled with wonderful tender moments that at times took my breath away. Fiona Hartley is desperate, a shy, but rich, debutante, who is being blackmailed. Wanting to save her family from scandal, she proposes to a handsome Earl that is in dire need of the funds, that she can supply. But after being refused by the woman of his heart the Earl of Ravenport has decided that marriage would not be in his future until he could take care of his estate, finances and his grandmother. But what starts out as a way to scare off Fiona, he invites her and her family to come and stay at his crumbling down manor house. But the more these two interact, the more they are taken by the other. Will the tender, beautiful moments lead these two a HEA? You will need read to find out. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thought and opinions are my own.
jojosmodernlife More than 1 year ago
In order to protect her family, Fiona must do something unconventional: propose to an Earl.  Not just any Earl, but the angry and recently single from an engagement Earl Ravenport.  Also, their marriage needs to happen in a matter of weeks in order to save her family.  Who would possibly say no to that? This book was fantastic! It had romance, humor, adventure and an especially heartless villain.  It also tested loyalties among the characters as well as how far one is willing to go for the ones they love. Easy and fun to read with the narratives alternating between Fiona and Gray.  It was especially hard to put down around the 75-80% mark where all of the tiny details sprinkled along the way turned into a storm (literally) of chaos where I just kept saying "no no no no no no".  This was the part of the book that I think was the best!  Favorite character was Earl ("Gray") Ravenport because the author was able to slowly reveal his warm, funny, and charming personality.   Initially he comes across as defensive and distant (often described in the book as "cold") but through interactions with his grandmother and Fiona he finally warms up.   Furthermore, I enjoyed the use of the Fortress in disrepair like Gray was after his broken engagement to Lady Helena.  Yet with his grandmother as his main motivation and Fiona's help he was able to get a lot of progress on restoring it, and himself.  It reminded me a little bit of Beauty and the Beast, without the animated furniture, in that Belle's love for Beast was able to restore the castle (and Beast) to it's original beauty. Lastly, I really appreciated the use of the relationship between Fiona and her sister Lily, as well as the relationship with Gray and his grandmother.  I am fortunate enough to be very close with my sister, just as Fiona and Lily are close.  I am also fortunate to be very close with my grandmother whom is well-loved by everyone she meets, just like Gray's grandmother.  I hope the next book in the series is about Fiona's sister, Lily, as it seemed to have set up a conflict that could continue for her that I would like to see resolved.   I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy romance, especially regency romance, the strong bonds of sisterhood, and the restorative power of love. On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: graphic violence, foul language, suicide, blackmail, betrayal, gambling, prostitution, and sexually explicit scenarios.   Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.
mavel More than 1 year ago
Nunca había comenzado una novela de romance histórica con la protagonista femenina proponiéndole matrimonio al protagonista masculino. Eso simplemente no se hace! Pero Fiona Hartley no tiene otra opción. Necesita dinero de manera urgente y al casarse podrá obtener lo que necesita así que le manda una carta al Conde de Ravenport proponiéndole algo como un negocio: él necesita dinero y con la dote de ella que obtendría al casarse Ravenport podrá arreglar su mansión familiar, sólo tiene que darle a Fiona la cantidad que necesita y ambos podrán vivir tranquilos. Esta parte si es más común, me ha tocado leer varias novelas donde los protagonistas se tienen que casar y después viene el amor. Pensé que eso me encontraría aquí pero me sorprendí al leer porque, para empezar, los personajes tuvieron química desde el principio y Fiona me encantó. Tenía una forma de ser muy optimista que contrastaba bien con lo seco que podía ser Gray. Debo admitir que a veces me molestaba esa actitud tan pesimista del Conde. Su niñez fue bastante traumática sobre todo las muertes de sus padres pero él se la pasaba diciendo que jamás podría amar a alguien pero se desvivía por su abuela. Creo que nunca se daba crédito a sí mismo por todas las cosas buenas que hacía. Y de nuevo digo que Fiona me encantó, Siempre fue un personaje que actuó con fuerza y motivación por la seguridad y el bienestar de su familia. Una vez que se metió en la cabeza que se iba a casar con el Conde de Ravenport, se dedicó a hacerlo posible. No se permitía desviar de la meta. Solo fue al final cuando permitió que las circunstancias la aplacaran y si me dio un poco de coraje porque pensé que iba a pasar como en tantas otras novelas donde los malentendidos mantendría separados a los protagonistas pero aquí fue donde la fuerza Gray salió a relucir y me probó equivocada. Quedé muy contenta con mi lectura y espero con ansias el segundo libro de esta nueva serie.
ChristineH More than 1 year ago
Delightful story of a brave girl desperate to save her family by proposing marriage to a brooding earl with his own issues. The story and characters are well developed. The author does an good job of writing the internal motivations and thoughts of the characters. The heroine, Fiona, keeps a journal to give the reader insight and some comic relief. As I read, I came to care about the characters and couldn't put it down. The story was well paced and keeps the reader interested. I'm eagerly awaiting Lily and Sophie's stories.
Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks More than 1 year ago
The first in Anna Bennet's Debutante Diaries series is the kind of regency romance I live for! First Earl I See Tonight is the beginning of an intriguing series for the most romantic of romantics. A jilted duke, bitter and hardened toward love, is propositioned by a young woman desperate to save her younger sister from ruin. The immediate answer is a hard "no" but Fiona's talent and genuine charm may be all she needs to secure the safety of her sister's reputation. First Earl I See Tonight moves at a balanced pace. There's enough time to get to know Fiona, her younger sister and their best friend, and the Gray. There's even a bit of intrigue as Fiona tries to determine just who has the nerve to blackmail her. A good chunk of reading time revolves around Fiona trying to convince the duke to marry her as they get to know one another. Gray's dark past sneaks to the forefront while the cast attends a house party at his country estate. The characters' depth is revealed piece by piece as the story plays out and it left me with a warm feeling. I loved Fiona's wild plan and her determination in the face of rejection. She risked much for her sister and even when her feelings toward Gray became more her compassion rose to encompass his feelings as well. I had a lot of 'aw, that's so sweet' moments reading this story and I would definitely repeat the process a couple dozen more times! You certainly can never go wrong with a regency romance and especially not with Anna Bennett! I'm excited to read the next book in the series, The Duke is But a Dream, which sounds just as enchantingly romantic as First Earl I See Tonight! *ARC provided in consideration for review*
Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks More than 1 year ago
The first in Anna Bennet's Debutante Diaries series is the kind of regency romance I live for! First Earl I See Tonight is the beginning of an intriguing series for the most romantic of romantics. A jilted duke, bitter and hardened toward love, is propositioned by a young woman desperate to save her younger sister from ruin. The immediate answer is a hard "no" but Fiona's talent and genuine charm may be all she needs to secure the safety of her sister's reputation. First Earl I See Tonight moves at a balanced pace. There's enough time to get to know Fiona, her younger sister and their best friend, and the Gray. There's even a bit of intrigue as Fiona tries to determine just who has the nerve to blackmail her. A good chunk of reading time revolves around Fiona trying to convince the duke to marry her as they get to know one another. Gray's dark past sneaks to the forefront while the cast attends a house party at his country estate. The characters' depth is revealed piece by piece as the story plays out and it left me with a warm feeling. I loved Fiona's wild plan and her determination in the face of rejection. She risked much for her sister and even when her feelings toward Gray became more her compassion rose to encompass his feelings as well. I had a lot of 'aw, that's so sweet' moments reading this story and I would definitely repeat the process a couple dozen more times! You certainly can never go wrong with a regency romance and especially not with Anna Bennett! I'm excited to read the next book in the series, The Duke is But a Dream, which sounds just as enchantingly romantic as First Earl I See Tonight! *ARC provided in consideration for review*
Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks More than 1 year ago
The first in Anna Bennet's Debutante Diaries series is the kind of regency romance I live for! First Earl I See Tonight is the beginning of an intriguing series for the most romantic of romantics. A jilted duke, bitter and hardened toward love, is propositioned by a young woman desperate to save her younger sister from ruin. The immediate answer is a hard "no" but Fiona's talent and genuine charm may be all she needs to secure the safety of her sister's reputation. First Earl I See Tonight moves at a balanced pace. There's enough time to get to know Fiona, her younger sister and their best friend, and the Gray. There's even a bit of intrigue as Fiona tries to determine just who has the nerve to blackmail her. A good chunk of reading time revolves around Fiona trying to convince the duke to marry her as they get to know one another. Gray's dark past sneaks to the forefront while the cast attends a house party at his country estate. The characters' depth is revealed piece by piece as the story plays out and it left me with a warm feeling. I loved Fiona's wild plan and her determination in the face of rejection. She risked much for her sister and even when her feelings toward Gray became more her compassion rose to encompass his feelings as well. I had a lot of 'aw, that's so sweet' moments reading this story and I would definitely repeat the process a couple dozen more times! You certainly can never go wrong with a regency romance and especially not with Anna Bennett! I'm excited to read the next book in the series, The Duke is But a Dream, which sounds just as enchantingly romantic as First Earl I See Tonight! *ARC provided in consideration for review*
grammyx3 More than 1 year ago
A blackmail note! How am I going to come up with the money to save my sister, Lily's reputation and the reputation of my family? My only recourse is to marry and use my dowry money. But I only have two weeks to accomplish this. What to do, what to do? Hmm... The Earl of Ravenport was recently jilted by his fiancee, is in a desperate financial situation and he was so kind to me when I tripped on the dance floor recently and landed among the musicians. The gallant Lord Ravenport extended a hand to help me up. I'm sure I will be fine married to such a courteous gentleman. My decision is made. Now to pen a proposal of marriage and send it to Lord Ravenport. This is exactly what Fiona Hartley, daughter of a wealthy merchant does in this story. Needless to say the Earl is not overjoyed at this proposal and has no intention of considering marriage but it has piqued his curiosity. So Fiona and David Gray meet again at the Northcroft ball. From this point the progression of their interactions and relationship is a great to story to read. The author, Anna Bennett has woven a fun tale with this mysterious background of who the blackmailer is and how Fiona solves her problem. Anna Bennett has delightful characters, a fascinating storyline and a perfectly paced story in this book. I look forward to reading about more of her Debutante Diaries ladies in future books in this series.
RachelBee999 More than 1 year ago
I would like start off by giving a huge thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending a review copy and letting me be apart of the book blog tour for this book. I thought this story was really good, I’m looking forward to the next book in this series to come out. I wouldn’t mind revisiting this world again. I thought the story was very well written and I was able to follow along easily. I thought the pacing of this story was just right. I didn’t think it was to fast or slow. I liked the overall plot to this story, at first i was not thrilled by the blackmail plot. I thought it would turn me off to the main character. But I turned out to be wrong. I really like the twist at the end in regards to who the blackmailer was. I thought it was a daring choice on the authors part. I thought all the characters were well written. I love the pairing of Gray and Fiona. I like how Gray by the end of the story was able to put aside his insecurities and was able to give Fiona his heart. I liked that Gray realized that not everyone was materialistic and that you can find beauty in unexpected places. Though I was kind of annoyed at Fiona’s handling of the blackmailer, I soon realized that her actions was based on protecting her loved ones. Plus, I love how her protective instincts by the end of the story went to Gray. Overall, great story, I highly recommend picking this one up.