How to Entice An Earl
by Manda Collins
(St. Martins, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0312-54926-8
***
The third in the trilogy about a set of cousins, How to Entice an Earl is a good wrap up to the series. While it is not my favorite, Madeline Essex’s story gives us a heroine with spunk and a hero who is brave but with vulnerability. Their story is entertaining.

Madeline’s two cousins Juliet and Cecily both had romances that resulted in finding their true loves and both felt that the dance card they found that belonged to Amelia Snowe, the darling of the ton, played a role in their meeting their husbands. Madeline has the dance card, but her soon to be husband is a friend, Christian Monteith, the new Earl of Gresham. Gresham has been friends with her cousins’ husbands and of their family for quite some time. It is only recently that they start to notice their attraction to each other. When Linton, Madeline’s brother, gets involved in some less than stellar activities, Madeline decides to “help him.” This brings her in contact with Gresham, who is looking into these same activities as a member of a governmental investigative arm of the War Department.

Madeline finds herself at a brothel where a friend of her brother is killed. It looks like her brother might be involved and he flees. Now Madeline is determined to join forces with Gresham to find out who is out to smear her brother’s name and, it appears, out to kill him. Gresham is enamored and finds that he cannot say no to Madeline.

Their romance is sweet and at times passionate. There is adventure after adventure and at times these adventures are a bit implausible. Madeline attends a gaming hell, finds herself following her brother’s mistress and goes to a brothel dressed as a man. And her reputation does not get tarnished. Her cousins and at times their husbands, support her in some of these endeavors. Gresham finds he is at first appalled but then gives in. Attitudes about what was scandalous at the time are very progressive. At times, much of this felt too modern to be in the Regency time period.

I liked how the author resolved the case with the brother and with Amelia, who grows up during the tale. The danger element was a bit forced, and the reason seemed a little lame when all was said and done. The romance and falling in love was part of the texture of the plot, but at times, got lost in the drama of her brother’s life. The romance and relationship between Madeline and Gresham was very matter of fact, mainly because the foundation was friendship rather than lust. Overall, however, the story is entertaining and the characters stay true to form throughout. I look forward to reading more of Manda Collins in the future!

--Shirley Lyons


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