Review – What an Earl Wants by Kasey Michaels

Cover image, What an Earl Wants by Kasey Michaels

From Goodreads:

Gideon Redgrave, eldest child of the late Earl of Saltwood, refuses to be humbled by the scandal that once tore his family apart. He’s built his life in London society around one rule: trust no one. So the last thing he wants is to play guardian and role model to a headstrong boy . . . or to engage in a battle of wills with the boy’s spirited half sister, who is fighting Gideon for custody.

Beautiful and bold, young widow Jessica Linden proves to be a formidable and passionate adversary. But the more they lock horns, the more Gideon realizes he’d prefer to have Jessica on his side . . . and in his arms. Especially now that a new threat—sprung from his father’s supposedly defunct secret society—is poised to destroy the Redgraves once and for all.

I can’t quite explain exactly why I enjoyed this story so well as I did.  When I started reading it, I worried that I would hate it, for the first two chapters; then I started to love it.  You see, both of the main characters engage in a bit of posturing in the first few scenes, and my initial impression was that I could not like them nor care about their story.  But, goodness, I was wrong.  Throughout both my first read last month and a quick re-read to prepare for this post, I was drawn in to the story and emotionally invested in the characters.

This story has quite a few elements that usually guarantee my happiness as a reader.

  1. There are dogs.  Actually, they are puppies.  And I loved them.
  2. There is an irreverent grandmother who has slept with just about everyone she knows and left them all terrified.
  3. There is a lot of showing rather than telling.  You know Jessica and Gideon are intelligent characters because they act like intelligent people.
  4. There is a very stupid young man.  I love those, almost as much as I love puppies.
  5. Gideon’s siblings are glorious.  When reading the first book in a series, it is always encouraging to know that the characters who will be featured in the subsequent books are interesting.  I am particularly interested in reading Kate’s story (Gideon’s sister).

I am ambivalent about intrigue plots in series novels.  On the one hand, it is sometimes annoying when an intrigue plot is not resolved within a single story–the novels that deal with the beginning and middle points of that intrigue plot always seem a trifle unfinished, and can’t really be read as standalone books.  On the other hand, it is always a trifle annoying when a series novel invents a new intrigue plot for every single book in the series (*cough* Stephanie Laurens *cough*).  What in the hell world are these people living in that there are murderers and kidnappers and white slavers and traitors and God knows what else lurking around every corner just waiting to snatch them up in a dangerous, but ultimately easily overcome plot?  Such a thing really pushes the limits of plausibility.

I’m quite happy to say that this book, while it introduces an intrigue plot that will be carried forward in the subsequent books of the series, does so carefully.  It makes sense on both a plot development and character development level that the intrigue is not solved in this story and will be developed further along with a new set of characters.  I like it when things make sense.

This book had me at the puppies, of course, who make their appearance in chapter three.  But it kept my interest with its subtlety, sly humor, and emotional punch.  There was one scene towards the beginning that raised my hackles for a moment, because it reminded me, just a bit, not so much of dubious consent but of the different ways in which men and women can look at a sexual transaction, each participating in the same situation but with wildly different internal responses and expected outcomes.  In a way, even though that scene was very uncomfortable for me to read, I loved the book all the more for including it (and for giving each character the room to analyze and recover from it).

What an Earl Wants was released on November 27, 2012 as a mass-market paperback and e-book by Harlequin HQN.  If you are interested in the book, please click on the cover image shown above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about the author, Kasey Michaels, please visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Harlequin HQN via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

You know… Puppies!  (And a question: why do people get so crazy in the comments of YouTube videos featuring animals?  Honestly, people!)

Seriously… (in other words, one of the best things I’ve seen on the Internet this week:)