Wicked Angel

Yankee Earl by Shirl Henke
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-5241-5
Yankee Earl is a tale that is enjoyable while being disconcerting. The book is carried on the back of the “ton forced marriage” plot. The entire book is dedicated to the two principals trying to get out of marrying each other even while they are attracted to each other. While well written, I had had enough long before the resolution.

The Yankee Earl is Jason Beaumont, the heir to the Earl of Falconridge. Jason was born and raised in America and his grandfather is blackmailing him to stay in England and accept the title and all it entails. Jason is a seaman by trade, having built his own ships and then captained them until the war broke out. He was just getting into privateering when grandfather somehow captured him (this was never really explained) and used his crew going to jail as the blackmail.

Now, Jason is being forced to marry. Grandfather is fostering a young boy, Jason’s cousin, who was stowing away on the ship. The threat is for Jason to never see the boy again…or some such silliness. Jason is upset that he must marry, something he is willing to do eventually, but with HIS choice and in his time.

The intended is Rachel Fairchild, eldest daughter of one of grandfather’s closest friends and neighbors. Rachel is the oldest child, a girl on the shelf with hoydenish ways. But grandfather thinks she will suit Jason and be his love match, just like his wife was to him.

Rachel thinks otherwise. Rachel is unconventional for the times. She is tall, smart, interested in the running of the estate and completely unconcerned with what anyone thinks of her. (Yet despite this, she is readily accepted without censure at parties, etc.). Rachel runs around in men’s clothing while on the estate so she can ride and be out in the fields. This is how she meets Jason – he is riding and someone shoots at him. As he is trying to get away, he almost runs her down and she ends up flat on her back in the mud. Not exactly an auspicious beginning.

Once the betrothal is announced, the two plot to end any chance for the marriage. They hatch several plots, none of which seem to work well. Finally, they decide they must marry, and then Jason will ship out with his cousin, leaving Rachel free to live her life on her estate, managing to her heart’s content. Oh, by the way, they will not consummate the marriage, so they can get an annulment later if they choose.

Much of their plans are complicated by an unknown someone attempting to kill Jason and their intense sexual attraction to each other. Nothing new here, is there?

Yet, I found myself returning to see what was going to happen. There are many humorous scenes that made me smile. The sexual tension builds nicely and yet both keep their heads and are not ruled by their lust. The mystery of who is trying to kill Jason lasts a little longer than necessary, but is slightly surprising when resolved. (Meaning I had guessed who early on, then changed to someone else and was slightly surprised it was the original person I had guessed.)

Yankee Earl is a follow-up to Wicked Angel. There are a few characters that seem to be the bridge – such as Jason’s friend Drummond. He mentions characters from the previous book. Not having read it, I don’t know how much of Jason’s past is portrayed in that book, but there may be something in it.

Jason is a good hero, with lots of his past alluded to but left to one’s imagination. He grew up in America, lived with the Shawnee, and has a mother who apparently loves him. Yet, he gave it all up to be an Earl for his grandfather and he had to be coerced into doing it. Much of his character doesn’t ring true.

Rachel’s reasoning for her demeanor is left unstated. It is alluded to that she was not the prettiest girl, but of course, has now blossomed into a lovely woman. There are a few unsavory noblemen who want her, but just for her money. Why her father allowed her to develop all her hoydenish habits is not really explained.

All said, Yankee Earl is a story that is enjoyable on the one hand and yet has so many incongruencies, it leaves one wanting. And when I am left with that feeling, I can do nothing but give the 2 heart warning – think twice.

--Shirley Lyons

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