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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: The Earl's Defiant Wallflower by Erica Ridley

Format: .epub (provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Publisher: Intrepid Reads
Release Date: December 1, 2014

Oliver York returns from war to find his father dead, his finances in arrears, and himself the new Earl of Carlisle. If he doesn't marry an heiress—and fast!—he and his tenants are going to be pitching tents down by the Thames. He definitely shouldn't be trading kisses with a penniless debutante... no matter how captivating she is!

Miss Grace Halton is in England just long enough to satisfy the terms of her dowry. But a marriage of convenience isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. Back in America, her ailing mother needs medicine only Grace’s dowry can afford. Which means the dashing earl she can't get out of her mind is the one man she can't let into her heart.

After returning from the war a broken man, Oliver York finds that his father has died, making Oliver the new Earl of Carlisle and leaving him with an estate full of problems. Penniless and trying adjusting to life as a peer, Oliver must now find an heiress to marry unless he wants to find himself and his tenants out in the cold. He can’t afford to get to know an American with no money and he definitely can’t afford to fall in love with her.

American Grace Halton is in desperate need of money to care for her ailing mother back in America. Her grandparents have made it very clear that if she wants her modest dowry, she’ll have to marry an Englishman that they approve of. Grace is desperate to help her mother so she agrees. Only, she finds her attention and affections being engaged by a penniless earl who will bring nothing but trouble if she gives him an inch.

I’ve read Erica Ridley’s books before and enjoyed them and the premise of this new series, The Duke’s of War had a theme I enjoy: Warriors who come home and have to face the challenge of reintegrating back into the normal world. I love me some tortured heroes and not much else does it for me like a warrior who has to readjust.

At first glance, Oliver doesn’t seem like he’s too badly damaged from his time as a soldier. He’s mostly overwhelmed at the immense responsibilities that were dropped onto him when he came home. He was happy being plain old Oliver York but now he’s an earl, has inherited a rundown estate in desperate need of repairs and he must find a rich bride as soon as possible. I felt for the poor guy, he had no chance to adjust at all. One thing was abundantly clear though: He had a deep sense of loyalty and responsibility and while he wasn’t pleased with his new status, he took his responsibility to his tenants and even his servants seriously. Just his attitude and behavior towards his surviving friends from the war alone told me all I needed to know about Oliver.

Grace wasn’t all that different to Oliver in that she was willing to do whatever it took, including selling herself in marriage to a total stranger in order to secure funds for her sick mother. She was brave to endure her grandparents’ awful behavior and to show up to ball after ball even though it was very clear from the beginning that the British looked down on her for being American and for her family being involved in trade. Poor Grace had two things against her but that didn’t stop her from trying to find a rich peer to marry her.

Oliver and Grace’s similar personalities should have made them a boring couple but they weren’t to me. I liked that they understood one another’s need to sacrifice themselves to save others. They respected one another and developed a genuine affection before anything else happened between them. Had they just been physically attracted to each other then they would have lost points in my book but they didn’t, I felt that they connected on an intellectual level as well as a physical one. They could confess their deepest thoughts and feelings to one another and know that they would be understood which I loved about them. Red hot passion is great don’t get me wrong but I felt that these two had a pretty great bond without an over abundance of sexual tension. Not that it wasn’t there though; it just didn’t dictate their every move or word.

I did have a bit of a problem with The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower though, its abrupt ending. I had a problem with the speed and method in which the conflicts were “wrapped up.” For the entire story, it’s made abundantly clear that Oliver needs an heiress to fix his estate and Grace needs money to get back to America to care for her mother. These were not small issues by any means, yet in a matter of pages, BOTH Oliver and Grace’s money problems are magically solved by an unexpected party’s change of attitude. I feel that Oliver and Grace should have had a chance to settle into their marriage and face their money problems together BEFORE any kind of fairy godmother appeared. It just seemed that there was such a buildup of anxiety and worry for Oliver and Grace should they marry the wrong person, which they did, yet when it came time for them to face the consequences of their actions, those consequences were softened to non-existent. It would have been great if, as a couple they figured out how to get the money they needed. It seemed like Oliver didn’t have a problem with the working class that Olivia came from, so why not go into trade and make their own money? It’s not like they weren’t already gossip fodder by that time.

Anyhow, in almost every good story that I’ve read, there’s always at least one secondary character that grabs my attention and doesn’t let it go. In this case, it was Oliver’s friend and fellow soldier Xavier. When Oliver described him as “dead inside,” “listless” and mute I assumed that Xavier was merely existing day to day, going about his business in a zombie like state but no, this man is literally lifeless. He has to be moved and seated as if he were an invalid or a child. He physically just exists, like there is no one inside his mind, like he’s mentally checked out of the world. I’m assuming Xavier will get a book of his own soon so I’m fascinated by how the author will “bring him back to life” so to speak.

The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower is a solid start to a new series even with the abrupt ending. Interesting characters, solid storyline and a gentle romance makes for a fun reading experience.

Final Verdict: Pick it up if you haven't already. Oliver and Grace set the stage for what should be an interesting series. 

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