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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review: The Untamed Earl by Valerie Bowman

Today the latest book in the Playful Brides series is out! Who wants a little Taming of the Shrew with their romance? This isn't exactly a retelling, more like an inspired by tale and it's pretty darn amusing!

Format: .mobi (A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. )
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 3, 2016

Lady Alexandra Hobbs, the daughter of the Duke of Huntley, has intended to marry Lord Owen Monroe since she first glimpsed him from the window of her bedchamber, back when she was just a girl. But the duke has already chosen Alex’s infamously spoiled elder sister, Lavinia, for Owen. And now there’s no turning back.

Owen has spent most of his bachelor years drinking, gambling, and skirt-chasing. He won’t see another pound from his parents, however, until he’s engaged to Lavinia. Desperate, he accepts an offer from her innocent and spirited―and absolutely beautiful―sister Alex: She will
turn him into a perfectly tamed suitor, and show him how to woo the shrew. But when Alex’s true motives come to light, will their bargain lead to recriminations―or to a romance that defies everyone’s expectations?

Drawing inspiration from The Taming of the Shrew, The Untamed Earl tells the story of Lady Alexandra Hobbs, daughter of the Duke of Huntley. Lady Alexandra has always wanted to marry Lord Owen Monroe since she first met him as a girl. Unfortunately, her father has already decided that Alex’s spoiled older sister Lavinia will be Lord Owen’s bride. Meanwhile, in an effort to stop their son’s wild ways, Lord Owen’s parents cut him off financially until he becomes engaged to Lavinia, who seems to rebuff him at every turn. Desperate he turns to Alex for help winning the temperamental Lavinia over. Alex’s help has an ulterior motive though and when the truth comes out it’s anyone’s guess which sister Lord Owen will end up with.

These characters were so much fun. Lord Owen Monroe is a character I remember from The Accidental Countess and I thought he was a good sport in that one, following along with crazy Lucy’s plans so I was curious to see what kind of man Owen was.

A Rake. A fun loving, responsibility shirking, good guy in hiding kind of character. Owen was dashing, charming and resigned to marrying Lavinia but his usual tactics fail him and let me say it was entertaining to watch him fail harder and harder with the ahem, difficult Lavinia all while falling for Alexandra. His gradual change from irresponsible rake and man-child who just wanted his parents to reinstate his allowance, to a full grown man with more at stake than just his allowance was interesting and hard to step away from. He was a fun character the whole way through, humoring Alexandra and her ideas even though it’s obvious she’s just pulling his leg. In fact, I wonder why he didn’t figure it out sooner because Owen’s a smart guy yet he kept following Alex’s advice even after it kept backfiring.

Truth be told though it was Alexandra who stole the show. She was spunky, witty, and determined. She may have fallen in love with Owen as a girl but she wasn’t delusional about the man to the point that she wove a fantasy version of him in her mind. At first I thought Alex didn’t have much of a backbone because her sister was just horrible to her and she took it more often than not, but she had her reasons that she later realized weren’t going to do her any good and she changed her way of thinking so yay for her. She was such a devious character too! She knew she couldn’t win Owen over in a face to face war against her sister so she resorted to underhanded (and often times hilarious) tactics in order to gain Owen’s time and attention. Super sneaky and I have to admit, exactly what I would have done in her place! She was definitely the entertaining part of the story.

As a couple, Owen and Alexandra had an odd courtship if you could call it that. Instead of the end goal being to end up with each other, these two spent time together in order to help Owen win over Alex’s sister! I found that that worked better though. Owen let his guard down more around Alex and she got to see the real man, not the fantasy and not the charmer bent on wooing a reluctant woman. It gave Alex’s love a chance to mature and strengthen. In the meantime, Owen got to see the real Alex too. The sneaky, kind, caring, and quarrelsome woman who brought much needed light and life into his dull existence. Slowly, a physical attraction began (On Owen’s part at least) between the two which complicated things for Owen but cleared things up for Alex. I loved the dynamic between them that existed from the very first meeting when Alex was a young girl.

What I really love about this series is that while each book draws inspiration from some of the most well known plays in history, they aren’t exact retellings; more like each book pays homage to the play it has been inspired by. The Untamed Earl may have been inspired by The Taming of the Shrew but it is its own story, its own adventure, and its own joy. Of course, no Playful Brides book is complete without an appearance by the ever plotting, bull-in-a-china-shop Lucy. Cassandra and Jane also make an appearance, which was expected since Owen is Cassandra’s brother, and Jane’s husband is Lucy’s cousin. That Lucy can hog the spotlight though, she just has that kind of personality.

Final Verdict: The Untamed Earl was flirty, sexy, funny, and charming all at the same time. Owen and Alexandra developed quite a strong friendship along with a romance and I love those the best. I can’t wait to see what Valerie Bowman has next.

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