What a Wicked Earl Wants, by Vicky Dreiling
(Note: I will be cross-posting this on my other book blog...yes, I have started another one. It isn't because I love blogging so much as that I have to find a place to put all of my book experiences! Anyway, there it is.)
From the back cover...
WILL A RAKE'S WICKED WAYS Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, believes in being a gentleman, whether it's fishing a soggy stranger out of the Thames or assisting a fetching lady into his bed. If the stranger becomes a friend and the lady a mistress, all the better. He certainly welcomes the opportunity to help Laura Davenport, a dazzling young widow with a rebellious stepson. Her gratitude, he hopes, will take an amorous form. But from the moment he sets foot in her drawing room, he gets far more than he bargained for ... LEAD THE LADY ASTRAY? It was a moment of desperation. On the brink of losing her stepson, Laura turned to the notorious Lord Bellingham for help. Suddenly she, a vicar's daughter, is in the precarious position of resisting his tantalizing advances. How Bell earned his wicked reputation is clear; the surprise is how much more there is to him than the gossip sheets could possibly reveal. Now every moment with this dangerously desirable man puts Laura's good name at risk-and promises pleasure unlike any she has ever known ...
You all know that I love romance novels. To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. I have always enjoyed reading Vicky Dreiling's romance novels, but What a Wicked Earl Wants jumps into a whole new category. This book, though it definitely has Vicky's trademark humor at times, is much more serious and centered in its storytelling than any book she has written before.
Though I love all of her characters (and, until now, Hawk from How to Seduce a Scoundrel was my favorite fantasy hero), the people created in this book are much more complex than any she has drawn before. I have read other reviews, and many people say the same thing. There isn't a character in this novel that doesn't have a distinct personality and a solid purpose in the story. Most impressive of all, however, are the heroine and hero.
Encountering Laura Davenport and Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, has been a great experience, because they are so realistic. Laura is a vicar's daughter who has always sacrificed herself for the good of others and continually, due to her upbringing, shames herself for any "selfish" desires or needs. She is only in her late twenties, but she is a widow who has resigned herself to living alone for the rest of her life and only playing the role of mother for her stepson, a wayward young man who ends up making a profound transformation. Andrew Carrington, the hero, is equally authentic and well considered. Some have complained that his transformation is unsatisfying, but I didn't feel that way. He certainly wrestles with his demons, but I do think that he comes to some comfort and peace in the end. And I don't think that Laura would expect him to be "over it" by the end of events depicted in this novel. In fact, that is why I liked the ending so much. It is happy, but it is also an ending where I can totally see "what happens the next day." Neither character would expect that life is suddenly going to be beautiful and without struggle...because that just isn't life, and both of them have learned that lesson well before the ending of this book.
So, yes, the characters are strong...but so is the storytelling. I loved that Vicky took several familiar plot devices used in historical romance novels and turned them into meaningful experiences for the character and the reader. What I liked best is how she took problems that many of us face today (co-parenting, step-parenting, women's issues, guilt, etc.) and seamlessly integrated them into the story in a realistic way. Though the problems encountered in the story are universal, they were portrayed well in terms of the novel's Regency setting. In other words, I didn't feel as if I was reading contemporary problems set in a contemporary setting. Rather, I felt as if I was reading about timeless issues in a historical setting, and it made me really think about things in a new light. In other words: To see Laura struggling with the issues of guilt, shame, and religion was proper to the historical time period, but I also think that the connections with modern women and our struggles with these same issues are important to recognize. The societies might be different, but the core issues still haunt us.
And--THANK YOU, VICKY--Bellingham is a masculine hero without being violent or turning into a Christian Grey. It was so nice to read about a man who admitted his faults and his strengths unapologetically without either a) looking weaker for them; or b) turning into a monster because of them. In short, this book made me happy to read historical romance. (No, uninformed readers, historical romance--real historical romance--is not the Fifty Shades of Grey mommy porn. You won't find any sex until well over 200 pages into this novel.)
What a Wicked Earl Wants is a book that represents the historical romance genre so well. It is about people, relationships, coping with universal problems, and, of course, a happy ending. Still, I even though we get our happy ending at the end of this book, I still feel that it was darker overall than Vicky's other novels--and that isn't a criticism. It was a completely appropriate approach to the story told, and I think she pulled it off beautifully.
Five stars!!! Buy HERE!!!