Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-6335-5
Historical Romance, 2018
An earl mired in melancholy is no match for a determined woman…
Whoever wrote that thing on the back cover should have been the one paid to author Brave New Earl. What I end up with is an utter mess filled with all the tropes that vex me to no end. If I were paranoid, I’d suspect that this book is written specifically to give me an aneurysm. Jane Ashford is a wildly inconsistent author, especially when she aims for comedy, and this story is packed with all the fun stuff that either make me wince in pain or fear for my blood pressure.
Benjamin Romilly, the Earl of Furness, is a widower who still mourns his dead wife Alice. In fact, he loves nothing more than to shut himself up in his room every day to… I don’t know, brood and lick the windowpanes because he’s trying really hard to be this tormented hero. Unfortunately, this means that he cannot stand the sight of his son Geoffrey, because the brat resembles Alice, and hence he neglects the brat completely. That’s okay, because in romance novels, deadbeat daddies are hot and besides, we all know it is solely the woman’s job to take care of the kid anyway. Our heroine Jean Saunders is one of Alice’s cousins and when she hears about Geoffrey is running wild, she decides that she’d head over there and drag the boy away to be placed under her care. Naturally, Benjamin isn’t keen at all because nobody is going to take any object from his house without his permission, and this includes that spawn of his dead wife whom he couldn’t stand the sight of.
If the plot sounds like the clash of two imbeciles, you’re right. Benjamin is a complete gaping orifice found in a jackass’s rear end, and throughout this story he treats the boy in a way that makes me both wince for the boy and want to break something hard on our so-called hero’s head. Meanwhile, Jean has good intentions, but she’s an idiot because she thinks that she has all the right to walk up to the house and grab the boy. Worse, she has no idea at all how to take care of anyone, and she hasn’t even thought of what she wants to do beyond dragging Geoffrey out of the place. Even worse, she’s a messy, emotional wreck who constantly doubts herself, gets her thoughts derailed by horny thoughts about how Benjamin is (how one can fall in love with a man who treats his son this badly, I have no idea), and cannot stand up to the so-called hero at all. The last thing this story needs is someone like Benjamin constantly in a position of power over the heroine, because this means the garbage really rises to the top here.
And while I do pity Geoffrey, oh my god, his behavior in this story alternates between Ted Bundy in the making and contrived, manipulative matchmaker plot device. Furthermore, the story focuses way too much on the farcical “humor” of the main characters plus the monster kid bickering, squabbling, and generally getting all histrionic on me. As for the romance, it all boils down to Benjamin somehow becoming okay again because he now has a new wife to shag. He’d no doubt revert to being that deadbeat asshole from hell again when Jean eventually accidentally kills herself by tripping over a skirt or something, so hurrah for the happily ever after.
If the whole thing weren’t excruciating enough, there are abrupt point of view switches to make me feel like I’m a seasick passenger in a storm-tossed boat without any paddle.
I clearly really don’t have the fortitude for Brave New Earl.