Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman
Series: Bow Street Bachelors #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 29, 2019
Genres: Historical Romance
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Introducing the Bow Street Bachelors—men who work undercover for London’s first official police force—and the women they serve to protect. . .and wed?
WILL A FALSE MARRIAGE
Shipping heiress Georgiana Caversteed is done with men who covet her purse more than her person. Even worse than the ton’s lecherous fortune hunters, however, is the cruel cousin determined to force Georgie into marriage. If only she could find a way to be . . . widowed? Georgie hatches a madcap scheme to wed a condemned criminal before he’s set to be executed. All she has to do is find an eligible bachelor in prison to marry her, and she’ll be free. What could possibly go wrong?
LEAD TO TRUE AND LASTING LOVE?
Benedict William Henry Wylde, scapegrace second son of the late Earl of Morcott and well-known rake, is in Newgate prison undercover, working for Bow Street. Georgie doesn’t realize who he is when she marries him—and she most certainly never expects to bump into her very-much-alive, and very handsome, husband of convenience at a society gathering weeks later. Soon Wylde finds himself courting his own wife, hoping to win her heart since he already has her hand. But how can this seductive rogue convince brazen, beautiful Georgie that he wants to be together…until actual death do they part?
What do you do when you have a large inheritance coming your way, a cousin trying to put you into a compromising position so you have to marry him and no male in your family to protect you? You marry a condemned man in Newgate, of course. It will be so easy, marry and become a widow within a week and move on to run your deceased fathers shipping business. Totally easy. Well except Georgie married someone pretending to be an inmate and then her plan goes up in smoke when she realizes he is the second son of an impoverished house.
Benedict Wylde’s father gambled away their entire fortune and left the estate penniless and in debt when he died. Back from the war, Ben is helping his brother with any money he can earn to keep it all afloat. As such he was undercover in Newgate, trying to unravel a plot to free Napoleon from his island prison. He was not expecting an heiress to come in and marry him. She is pretty though, smart and possibly a little wild. Benedict can’t wait until she finds out that she not only did she not marry a condemned man but one who is part owner in a gentleman’s club on Bow Street.
Ben and Georgie suit each other nicely. He sees the woman she is and how she was made to run the shipping company her father started. She’s only ever been pursued for her money, but as he gets to know Georgie, he decides this marriage of convenience might not be such a bad thing, he is definitely attracted to her. Now he just has to convince her that he wants her and not her fortune. To lessen the scandal, the couple agree that Ben will court Georgiana in public for the season, with a proposal at the end, then they will go their separate ways. Well, this is a romance, so we all know that really isn’t going to happen but it is fun to play along for a while.
Both main characters are extremely likable and have a nice banter about them. The side plot of trying to find the Napoleon sympathizers and a stolen submarine was a little bit fun and added some side notes to the story. I did feel a little like I got a history lesson on shipping while reading this and some of the details felt thrown in instead of weaved into the story, but that is a small complaint.
Overall this was a fun marriage of strangers to lover’s tale and a nice set up for a few more books involving the trio of war heroes turned gentleman club owners. It has some nice dialogue and moments, I would have liked a smidge more humor and possibly less attempted sexual assault, there are other ways to build tension. The romance aspect was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.
“Juliet thinks Mr Pettigrew is extremely talented.”
He sent her a droll glance. “Yes, but I bet Juliet also thinks rainbows are made from magical fairy dust and that dragons live in Scotland,” he muttered.
“Who’s to say she’s not right about the dragons?”
“Basic common sense? Complete lack of empirical evidence? Zero credible sightings for hundreds of years?”
“It’s rather ironic, don’t you think, that someone is planning to rescue the French emperor with a British-made submarine designed by an American?”
London, March 1816.
There were worse places to find a husband than Newgate Prison.
Of course there were.
It was just that, at present, Georgie couldn’t think of any.
“Georgiana Caversteed, this is a terrible idea.” Georgie frowned at her burly companion, Pieter Smit, as the nondescript carriage he’d summoned to convey them to London’s most notorious jail rocked to a halt on the cobbled street. The salt-weathered Dutchman always used her full name whenever he disapproved of some- thing she was doing. Which was often.
“Your father would turn in his watery grave if he knew what you were about.”
That was undoubtedly true. Until three days ago, en- listing a husband from amongst the ranks of London’s most dangerous criminals had not featured prominently on her list of life goals. But desperate times called for des- perate measures. Or, in this case, for a desperate felon about to be hanged. A felon she would marry before the night was through.
Georgie peered out into the rain-drizzled street, then up, up the near-windowless walls. They rose into the mist, five stories high, a vast expanse of brickwork, bleak and unpromising. A church bell tolled somewhere in the darkness, a forlorn clang like a death knell. Her stomach knotted with a grim sense of foreboding.
Was she really going to go through with this? It had seemed a good plan, in the safety of Grosvenor Square. The perfect way to thwart Cousin Josiah once and for all. She stepped from the carriage, ducked her head against the rain, and followed Pieter under a vast arched gate. Her heart hammered at the audacity of what she planned. They’d taken the same route as condemned prisoners on the way to Tyburn tree, only in reverse. West to east, from the rarefied social strata of Mayfair through gradu- ally rougher and bleaker neighborhoods, Holborn and St. Giles, to this miserable place where the dregs of humanity had been incarcerated. Georgie felt as if shewere nearing her own execution.
She shook off the pervasive aura of doom and straight- ened her spine. This was her choice. However unpalat- able the next few minutes might be, the alternative was far worse. Better a temporary marriage to a murderous, unwashed criminal than a lifetime of misery with Josiah. They crossed the deserted outer courtyard, and Georgie cleared her throat, trying not to inhale the foul-smelling air that seeped from the very pores of the building. “You
have it all arranged? They are expecting us?”
Pieter nodded. “Aye. I’ve greased the wheels with yer blunt, my girl. The proctor and the ordinary are both bent as copper shillings. Used to having their palms greased, those two, the greedy bastards.”
Her father’s right-hand man had never minced words in front of her, and Georgie appreciated his bluntness. So few people in the ton ever said what they really meant. Pieter’s honesty was refreshing. He’d been her father’s man for twenty years before she’d even been born. A case of mumps had prevented him from accompanying Wil- liam Caversteed on his last, fateful voyage, and Georgie had often thought that if Pieter had been with her father, maybe he’d still be alive. Little things like squalls, ship- wrecks, and attacks from Barbary pirates would be mere inconveniences to a man like Pieter Smit.
In the five years since Papa’s death, Pieter’s steadfast loyalty had been dedicated to William’s daughters, and Georgie loved the gruff, hulking manservant like a second father. He would see her through this madcap scheme— even if he disapproved.
She tugged the hood of her cloak down to stave off the drizzle. This place was filled with murderers, highway- men, forgers, and thieves. Poor wretches slated to die, or those “lucky” few whose sentences had been commuted to transportation. Yet in her own way, she was equally desperate.
“You are sure that this man is to be hanged tomorrow?” Pieter nodded grimly as he rapped on a wooden door.
“I am. A low sort he is, by all accounts.”
She shouldn’t ask, didn’t want to know too much about the man whose name she was purchasing. A man whose death would spell her own freedom. She would be wed and widowed within twenty-four hours.
From This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.
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