The Phantom of London. Enigma Earl. The Greenwich Recluse.
Half of his face, shadowed by gold and brown whiskers, showed male perfection, but the other half, a bizarre pattern of scar lines and puckered flesh. Truly, staring at his face was akin to seeing a painting of two men, split down the middle. Lydia recoiled as much from the hot anger flashing in his eyes as from astonishment.
HE'S A MYSTERIOUS RECLUSE
Lord Greenwich is notoriously elusive. His tendency to hide his face in public and refusal to appear in London Society have even earned him some choice monikers, including "the Phantom of London." Is he disfigured? Mad? Hiding something? With a reputation like that, no woman wants to get near the dark earl. And no one is more surprised than Miss Lydia Montgomery when she is betrothed to the earl in order to save her family from penury. But if Lydia wants a chance at happiness, she'll have to set aside her fear of Lord Greenwich and discover the man hiding behind the beastly reputation...
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Don't bargain for fish still in the water.
Edge of London
March 27, 1768
If a woman's old enough to wear a corset, she's old enough to know midnight meetings spell trouble. Lydia's sleep-fogged brain weighed this undeniable fact against family duty. Of course, duty won. Why else would she be cocooned inside a shabby hack on a dark and blustery night? The quicker she extracted her stepbrother from his latest mess, the quicker she'd be cozy again in her warm bed. Bleary-eyed, Lydia peered at the Blue Cockerel. The inn's shingle, a blue rooster cracked up the middle, squeaked a lively rhythm. The establishment was hardly worth a map's mention. Worse yet, the driver stopped a long, puddle-filled distance from the entrance. Lydia glanced down at her best and only pair of buckle shoes; tonight, the limits of family loyalty would be tested.
Outside the hack, her stepfather, George Montgomery, protested the driver's fare. His pockets always held dust better than coin. He groused and huffed but eventually dug deep for the requisite payment. That's when he caught her eye.
"Look lively, gel. Storm's kicking up...don't have all night," he snapped, wrestling down his hat against blasting winds.
"You asked for my help," she muttered and exited the hack.
Icy gusts nipped her ankles. Shivering, Lydia pulled her short red cloak tightly about. This time the blighter went beyond the pale. After all, wasn't he the one who pounded on her door, yelling she must come at once? Her trips to London were so rare, and she barely arrived two days ago. Why was her presence at this run-down spot so important? She hop-stepped from one cobblestone to another, piecing together fragments of what George had said on the ride over.
"Tristan's in a mess...really done it this time...need your help...keep quiet and cooperate...be a good gel...best for the family and all that."
"Good girl, indeed," she scoffed, absorbing the information.
As a woman of four-and-twenty, she had shed that biddable nature long ago. Not that he would know. Sparse communication weakened already thin family ties. A heady dose of drowsiness kept her quiet; all the better to be done with this business. Her stepbrother stirred up trouble one way or another.
Then her shoe squished in some questionable muck.
"Lud, even the road isn't decently cobbled." She inspected the damage and foisted her skirts higher. "No need to ruin a hem on this fool's errand."
Right then, the heavens conspired against her. A shock of rain poured down on her head, thunder boomed, and Lydia rushed after George. He pressed a shoulder to the inn's ramshackle door, and they burst into the common room.
Empty, it was.
Oh, a dying fire and a whiff of an unnamed, unpleasant aroma welcomed them. Lydia shook damp skirts and spied a boot wipe. The Blue Cockerel raised a notch in her estimation for offering the amenity. In the act of scraping one shod foot, she paused, her foot hovering over the bristled wipe. Old George's eyes nearly bulged from his head. She followed his stare to shafts of light spilling from a poorly hung door abovestairs. Signs of life. Lydia righted herself and noticed his Adam's apple bobbling up and down in the way of a nervous lad.
"George?" She touched his sleeve. "Are you well?"
"Well? 'Course...feel fine, fine." He slid a finger inside his collar and craned his neck like some strange bird. "Let me do the talking, eh? All else fails, think of your mother."
"Mother?" Suspicion edged her voice. "What's she got to do with this? Aren't we here to get Tristan?"
"We are. We are." George doffed his hat to finger comb stray graying hairs, avoiding eye contact.
Footsteps, a steady cadence in blackness, drew her attention again to that cracked door. Lydia peered into the gloom, and uncomfortable cold penetrated her skin. A sylphlike figure paced back and forth, back and forth. The tiny hairs at her nape quivered from another kind of chill.
There it was.
A large shadow. That monstrous shape, a floating specter, flickered past gaps in warped wood. Light slivered away when the figure moved. An occupied room at a public house shouldn't cause concern, but she swallowed hard at the sound of those eerie steps. Someone abovestairs waited for them. This had to be a different kind of trouble.
"Let's get Tristan and go home," she said, her voice uneven.
"Right." George tugged at his waistcoat and kept a cautious eye on that door. "Remember, be on your best behavior."
Lydia grimaced at George's back but followed him up creaking stairs in silence, doing her best to stave off worrisome nerves. How odd, this place. Everywhere, tables heaped with dirty dishes and half-empty tankards of ale, as if someone cleared the inn on a moment's notice. A pair of beady-eyed rodents, bold in their watch, hunched over a crust of bread. Lydia hugged her cloak tight, unable to shake the haze of being off center and ill placed. Even more, she was poorly prepared. In her haste, she failed to comb her hair or don a corset. Though well covered, she squirmed at that brazen fact. As she took a bracing breath, the room's odor assailed her again.
"Ugh, sour rags." She pressed a hand under her nose. "That's the horrible smell."
Somehow, identifying that mundane lack of housekeeping helped her calm.
George's fist pounded the door. "Shh, gel."
"Why? Are we insulting the rats?" She rolled her eyes.
"Enter," a male voice called from within.
A push against warped wood, and metal hinges whined their slow, high-pitched complaint. The door swung wide. Strangers-two men, tall and rather large-occupied the tight space. Tristan was nowhere in sight. A narrow, rumpled bed stretched vacant and forlorn. That alarm went off in her head again, yet George stepped into the room and waved her to follow. Lydia stepped past the threshold, and her inquisitive nature shushed those warnings for a better look at what she found inside.
A huge, sun-bronzed man leaned beside a tiny window, as nonchalant as you please. Her jaw dropped at the sight of him. Bald as an egg, he was, and sporting a full beard with three little braids to boot. A gold hoop gleamed from his ear. A pirate? Or a ruffler? He brought to mind those beefy men who roamed unsavory streets, smashing heads first, asking questions later, though he was nattily dressed in ruby-red velvet under his frock coat. Despite her best manners, she gaped.
Ah, but the other man was more mysterious, what with his collar flipped high and tricorn pulled low. A plain, oiled cloak covered him from his face down to his battered boots. A slit of eyes was the only sign of humanity. Any moment now, Lord Mysterious, a highwayman for sure, would brandish a musket, and they'd be done for.
"Montgomery," the cloaked man greeted George and gave her a fleeting look.
"Milord." George, hat in hand like an errand boy, spoke to Lord Mysterious but jabbed a thumb at her. "I've done as we agreed and brought her, but I haven't yet broke the news to...to her mother, leastways. There'll be hell to pay, if you know my meaning. Women can be all weepy and such about these things."
"Your parley with Mrs. Montgomery is no concern of mine," said Lord Mysterious.
For a highwayman, he spoke rather well...and George did address him as milord.
What was this again about her mother? And where's Tristan? Lydia hugged herself for warmth and inched closer to the door's shadows. George failed to inspire confidence the way he wiped his forehead and squirmed. She couldn't be sure if that was sweat or rain on his face.
"If I may, milord, you're a reasonable man. I was wondering, really, that is, I was thinking there must be another way."
"Another way?" The cloaked man's voice held a soft, menacing note. "You came to me with this bargain."
Bargain? What bargain? Her head snapped to attention. Lud, but she should've pressed for details. The unsettling way her stepfather kept curling and uncurling his wide-brimmed hat didn't bode well.
"If you could find a mite of forgiveness...maybe give me some time to find another remedy?" George spread his arms in supplication. "Lord Greenwich, please...surely, in your youth, you've done some reckless deeds-"
"Don't." Lord Greenwich's voice cut short George's blather.
The elusive Edward Sanford, Earl of Greenwich.
Thunder cracked overhead. The window's wavy panes rattled.
The cloaked man was none other than one of England's highborn sons, and Tristan and George's employer. Her sigh of relief was loud enough that both strangers glanced her way.
Tristan's in a pickle if nobility's involved, but at least they weren't in the company of common thugs. All things considered, a rare view of the eccentric Earl of Greenwich made the midnight rouse worthwhile. The men conversed in low tones, and Lydia indulged her curiosity, blatantly staring from the folds of her hood. Shameless behavior, of course, but why dither over that? Any woman in her shoes would do the same.
The Phantom of London. Enigma Earl. The Greenwich Recluse.
You had to be hiding in a cave to have not heard one of those infamous monikers. A scientist of note, he vanished a few years past from the public eye. Broadsheets claimed he never ventured out in the light of day. People whispered of a carriage bearing the Greenwich coat of arms, an ominous black conveyance tearing about Town, curtains drawn. Some said the earl suffered from madness. Some said he was stricken with a hideous, disfiguring disease. These silly stories came to mind because she read them to Great-Aunt Euphemia, who thrived on a steady diet of gossip pages.
Lydia pushed back her hood a fraction for a better look at London's favorite phantom. When he raised his head, she glimpsed dark eyebrows and strands of gold-brown hair framing what must be his face hidden behind the collar. Apparently, the Enigma was blond. She smiled, recalling the whimsies of Town chatter when it eventually made its way to humble Wickersham. Shrouded as he was, one could see why so many peculiar assumptions abounded. Truly, George conversed with a slit of eyes. At that picture, a yawning laugh escaped her.
"Something funny, gel?" George snipped.
"Did I laugh? Sorry about that." Lydia covered her mouth, not caring a whit. "I thought we were here to save Tristan, not have a midnight meeting with your employer. Not sure why I'm here."
"Like I told you in the hack. Silence, gel-"
Lord Greenwich stopped their exchange. "Be nice, Montgomery, or you'll find me less lenient. No more delays. She goes with me...as per the agreement."
Lydia snapped to attention. All vestiges of her hazy drowse vanished.
"What did you say?" Her head tipped toward the earl.
Lightning flashed. Pulsing brightness danced behind the nobleman's shrouded bulk.
"You heard me."
"Yes, I heard you, but I thought we were here to save Tristan. What's this about an agreement?"
His dark eyes narrowed on her. "You are here to save your stepbrother...in a manner of speaking."
"Then where is he?"
"His whereabouts are not my concern."
Now this was all very cryptic. Lydia planted a hand on her hip, and taking a deep breath, tried for clarity.
"But I thought he was in some kind of minor scrape."
"There's nothing minor about your family's troubles." The earl scoffed, and his cultured voice sharpened. "I wouldn't call your stepbrother borrowing money from some unsavory types minor. He came begging for help not long after he started his apprenticeship. My man of business"-he gestured to the well-dressed man near the window-"obliged him with a loan. When Tristan couldn't repay that debt, he stole from Sanford Shipping. Your stepfather made matters worse by trying to cover it up...from me." His lordship's tone lightened at this. "Even lifted some coin for himself. But we waste time. You know this already."
Lydia digested the news: Tristan and George were thieves; the earl found humor in the fact that they tried to pull the wool over his eyes; and he assumed she was fully apprised. Worse yet, Lydia was somehow embroiled in this mess, a mess that looked to be more than a paltry few coins lifted from a till. She glared at her stepfather, who shrunk under her withering stare, and then she faced Lord Greenwich.
"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, my lord, and this sounds like a worse muddle than what's typical. But I fail to see what this has to do with me." Irritation building, she enunciated each word. "If you please, sir, the hour is late, and my skirt is soggy."
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. The hearth's fire flickered orange light across his lordship's exposed slice of humanity, and his dark-eyed scrutiny softened.
"I understand this is all very abrupt, Miss Montgomery. We need to begin with proper introductions. I am Lord Greenwich." The earl gave a small bow and motioned to the bald man. "And this is Mr. Jonas Bacon, my man of business."
Her gaze snapped to Mr. Bacon's hulking form. He managed a thin veneer of respectability by the fine clothes he wore and the good grace of a noble's company. Man of business? What kind of business was one question banging around her head among the others crowding for space, but good manners prevailed. Lydia curtsied greetings before taking a deep breath and trying anew with sleep-deprived tolerance.
"Yes, I know who you are. I've gathered that much. But what do you mean by this agreement?"
The earl's dark eyes widened under his black brim. "Are you telling me you know nothing?"
Doubt threaded his words, but she wouldn't let that bother her.
"I'm very much uninformed, sir. I knew my stepfather was in your employ as clerk, and recently Tristan, but this is the first I've heard of any thievery. Terrible news...but I'm at a loss as to how my presence makes a difference."
That slash of topaz-dark eyes searched her face, and the fine hairs on her neck bristled again. Heavens, she had nothing to hide, unlike these men. His lordship exchanged a glance with his man of business. Five of Mr. Bacon's fingertips braced a washstand in relaxed repose, yet his indifference belied a pair of alert, assessing eyes. The earl sighed behind the collar as he faced her.
"My apologies, Miss Montgomery, I was led to believe you were an informed party"-he cast a sharp-eyed look at George-"on all aspects of this predicament."
George coughed, and his thin body hunched within his greatcoat.
"Allow me to explain," the earl continued. "More than a fortnight past, I confronted your stepfather with evidence of the theft. Of course there'd be a trial...certain conviction due to overwhelming evidence...incarceration at Newgate...unfortunately for your mother, the Compter-"
"The Compter?" she yelled. "Are you mad? My mother won't go there...least of all for something George did."
"-until the debts have been satisfied," Lord Greenwich finished. "Of course, being past your majority, you are in no way under familial obligation."
Her stomach lurched at his casual discussion of her mother in that ancient Cheapside prison. Damp, moldy bricks reeked of death and excrement, casting its horrid pall long before the edifice came to view. Debtors and their families toiled in darkness, slogging for years before gaining freedom; others wasted to nothing, forgotten by the outside world. Scrawny children, released in daylight, begged and scrambled for ha'pennies while standing in filthy gutters, all in the name of repaying family debts. And the horrors of a woman alone...she shuddered. Lydia was of an age and free; her mother, shackled to George, was stuck. Forever.
"There must be another way." Her voice rose with each word. "How bad is this blasted debt?"
He raised a gloved hand to halt her onslaught of words.
"No hysterics, please-"
"You talk of sending my mother to the Compter, and you're bothered by hysterics," she bit each word at him and took a step closer.
His lordship's eyes closed a moment, as if he dipped into a well of forbearance. "If you'll remain calm, I'll finish."
Lydia scowled at George, who was too busy wiping perspiration from his forehead; she'd get no help from that quarter. She wouldn't put it past him to implicate her mother in some way just to weasel his way out of any consequence.
"There is an amenable solution...a plan, if you will."
"Yes, I'm most interested to hear what plan was concocted without my knowledge," she said, glaring at the earl.
"Please understand, Miss Montgomery, I thought you were in full agreement to the solution your stepfather presented." The cadence of his voice slowed. "Call it a creative remedy to satisfy an urgent requirement of mine."
"I don't care what you need. My mother will not go to that hellish place."
"Careful, Miss Montgomery," the earl cautioned. "You're in no position to make such pronouncements...such is the way of things with theft and debt, an imperfect justice system to be sure."
Lydia inhaled quickly, about to give his high and mightiness the sharp end of her tongue.
"Wait." He raised a gloved hand. "I'm not without compassion. Understand, the power to resolve this matter rests in your hands."
Lydia was sure she had the red-faced bearing of an angry fishwife. But he was nobility, and George and Tristan were clearly at fault.
"Go on, then." Her arms clamped over her chest, bunching damp garments. "You said something about a plan."
"Your stepfather overheard a conversation I had with my solicitor at Sanford Shipping. He knew of a particular and rather urgent need of mine. To get to the point-he offered you."
"Offered me? You want to employ me to pay off this debt?" Lydia canted her head sideways. "That's what this is about?"
Lord Greenwich had the nerve to be amused. At least she took the muffled sound behind the collar to be a laugh. Beside him, a heavy log rolled and split apart in the hearth. Firelight flared a bright dance of orange and yellow, exposing his splinter of skin.
"No, Miss Montgomery, I don't want to employ you." He paused, and topaz eyes scrutinized her. "I need you for a different purpose."
Though bare of corset or stays, Lydia couldn't shake the sensation of whalebone pinching her ribs. Breathing became difficult. Male stares bored into her, waiting. Her fingers dug at scratchy wool and muslin.
His lordship sighed overlong and repeated in a monotone voice, "Because Tristan and your stepfather stole-"
"No," she huffed. "I'm not a half-wit. I mean, why this odd trade? Makes no sense. If not to employ me and repay the debt, then what for?"
The earl's shoulders squared. His dark-eyed look reached across the space and pinned her.
"More precisely, I need your body."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sweet, charming, and romantic, Meet the Earl at Midnight was a wonderful historical romance read. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was absolutely lovely. Lydia was a good heroine. She was strong, clever, and determined to follow her dreams. She could be a bit stubborn at times and she did some dumb stuff, but it were always done with the best of intentions, so it didn't bother me too much. Overall, I liked her. Edward was also wonderful. He was very smart and much more interested in his scientific work than in Society, especially after he was scarred. So, he didn't have all the social niceties. But, he was sweet and a truly good man at heart. A few times, I wanted to shake some sense into him for being stubborn, but he figured himself out eventually and redeemed himself in my book. I really liked him. The romance was good. Lydia and Edward were great together, though I didn't really feel the depth of their emotions, partly because they were so guarded with them. But, I still thought they were lovely together. The plot was well paced. I wasn't totally hooked, but I was kept interested the entire way through. I enjoyed the story and the ending was perfect. Meet the Earl at Midnight was a wonderful historical romance. I really liked this book. It was sweet, romantic, and enjoyable. Romance lovers, this is a book worth checking out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
If you like banter and loads of sensual tension then this story is for you. A different take on beauty and the beast with a different kind of heroine.
Pleased. I was not expecting to be as intrigued as I was. I enjoyed this story very much. I stayed up until very late in the morning to finish it. Not predictable. I look forward to reading other books by her.
Edward and Lydia are two strong and well written characters. He is a reclusive scientist and adventurer with a title. She is a commoner and a free spirited artist who longs to sell her drawings. They are brought together in unusual circumstances and find they are attracted each other but is that enough to keep them together… This is the first book I've read from Gina Conkle. I liked her writing style and the way she presented her characters. The plot had a couple of minor flaws but I found the book enjoyable and would recommend it to others. I usually like my books a bit more on the erotic side however Gina wrote a wonderfully sensual scene for Edward and Lydia’s first romantic coupling.
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.
I can't express my complete enjoyment of this book. Gina Conkle is a gem. I look forward to more of this talented authors likeable characters and her great gift of sensuality.
I borrowed this one from the library because it lookd good. It was. I enjoyed it!
In her novel Meet the Earl at Midnight Gina Conkle does an original take on the beloved fairytale Beauty and the Beast in a Georgian setting. Her out of the box witty and rapid paced interaction between the hero and heroine and well played out sexual tension make for a delectable experience not to be missed!
I found myself enjoying this book page by page. If you like a lot of romance /flirting with sexual undertones but not overly sexed , this is a good read.
I really enjoyed the way she seamlessly combined humor and their romance that alternated between sweet, hot and something in-between. The warm wool blanket dropped to the floor, and Lydia set her hand in the earl’s firm grip. She stuck her foot outside, but awareness wasn’t with her. That cavernous black doorway claimed her attention, and therein was her problem. Trouble came in mere seconds, as it usually did for her. The step was slick. She slipped. The sole of her leather shoe slid off the step’s edge. “Oww!” she yelped as her foot banged the graveled drive hard. Legs buckling, down she went, like a graceless sack of flour. What’s worse, she slammed into the earl, her shoulder punching his midsection. “Ooomph!” Lord Sanford grunted but moved quickly to save her from falling all the way to the ground. Her face mashed against leather and linen. Strong hands held her arms. At least she didn’t knock the earl down. Grabbing for purchase, her fingers touched warm wool…buttons…skin. Her face pressed into fabric, she murmured, “I’m so very sorry.” Lydia tried to right herself, but relief turned to horror: she was a mortified eye level with the pewter buttons of Lord Sanford’s breeches. MEET THE EARL AT MIDNIGHT by Gina Conkle is a wonderful Georgian romance reminiscent of one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast. This fractured re-telling is the story of Lydia Montgomery, our feisty heroine, and the "Phantom of London" Lord Edward Christopher James Sanford, the ninth Earl of Greenwich,, our scarred and emotionally bereft hero. Edward was an enigma who shunned society. Like the Beast, Edward only showed his true self to those close to him and he rarely left his castle. The tale begins with a clandestine meeting that snared my attention right away. Lydia's wily stepfather and brother had been caught embezzling from Lord Greenwich's business, Sanford Shipping, where they were both employed. In lieu of pressing charges and having Lydia's family put in debtor's prison for their crimes, Edward agrees to an exchange involving forgiveness of their thievery for Lydia as Edward desperately needs an heir. But, no one told Lydia of any of this prior to the meeting. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. 4 1/2 Wine Glasses!
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.
Gina Conkle's Meet the Earl at Midnight is the first book in the Midnight Meeting series that brings a new twist to the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. The intriguing Lord Sanford, Earl of Greenwich is said to be in hiding with a disfiguring disease, he whom has made a bargain for one Miss Lydia Montgomery; did I mention the a Earl only needs her body! You can't do anything to stop falling for the mysterious dark Lord Sanford with the disfigured one side of his face and secrets. However Lydia will astonished you with how strong she is, Lydia wants to move forward with her artwork and at the same time wants happiness & love..... Take a step back in time-enjoy
MEET THE EARL AT MIDNIGHT by Gina Conkle is a unique Georgian Historical Romance set in 1768 England. #1 in the "Midnight Meetings" series. What a beginning! A new and unique take on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. A beautiful, romantic tale of love, passion, secrets, beastly reputations, scandal, and happiness. This is the tale of Lydia Montgomery and Earl Edward Greenwich and a meeting at midnight. Edward, is disfigured, Lydia, has such un-lady like behavior, but she is determined to tame the Phantom of London, one way or the other. Fast paced and filled with intrigue, passion, and romance. Can Lydia and Edward overcome their stubbornness and find their HEA? You must read MEET THE EARL AT MIDNIGHT, you will not be disappointed. Wickedly delicious! Received for an honest review. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: MILD REVIEWED BY: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
But the hero was a jerk and the storytelling didnt make a lot of sense the whole time.
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.
This is the first book I have read by Gina Conkle but it sure won’t be the last!! Meet the Earl at Midnight was an amazing book full of so much more then a quick romance. The two main characters, Edward and Lydia are two very different but similar people in many ways. They are from different stations in life, however neither really care what society says about them. Edward is “The Phantom of London.” He gains that title, among others, after he has a horrific run in with pirates. Edward is an Earl in London and cares not for his title and standings in society. He is in love with science and all that it has to offer, that is until a need to have an heir starts to become unavoidable. Lydia is the step-daughter to a man that works for the Earl. She is also the pawn in a man’s world after her step-brother tries to steal from Sanford Shipping and then tries to cover it up. Lydia is quick on her feet. She is stubborn, beautiful and has a great sense of humor. She is shocked to find out what her step-father has planned for her and is not overly happy about any of it. Lydia is an extremely talented painter who wants to sell her paintings and become famous. I loved the banter between Edward and Lydia. They had me giggling and shaking my head at them and their humor throughout the book. For two people who had just met, they sure seemed to be able to tease and jest with each other easily. I loved Gina’s writing! She is a very talented author who captures your attention from the very first page and you cannot put her book down. I read this book in less than two nights and was left smiling at the ending. You are able to feel as if you are truly apart of her book, characters and their story. I could feel all of Lydia’s emotions as if they were my own. What an amazing ride Meet the Earl at Midnight is! Thank you Gina for allowing me the opportunity to read and review your book and thank you for a wonderful book!