Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-36949-2
Historical Romance, 2017
Charlotte Wyncroft finally gets to visit London! The only daughter of a committed military man, she spent most of her life moving from one military base to another, and now, finally, she has her chance to experience town life. She has plans, ideas of grand adventures, and more… only to realize that her father pretty much strong-armed her uncle into taking her in for a few months while he goes off to be part of the team that oversees a smooth transition of Napoleon to Elba.
Her aunt is not keen at having to take in some stranger while she has to usher her own two daughters around the town, and resentment starts to run high when Charlotte invariably catches the attention of Adam Fanton, the Earl of Shalford, whom Mrs Buxted have earmarked to be her eldest daughter Henrietta’s future husband. Henrietta, a spoiled and selfish brat. is also not amused when Charlotte’s popularity with the opposite sex begins to eclipse hers. Oh dear, will Charlotte be able to navigate through the whole mess to find a happy ending with Adam?
Waltzing with the Earl is actually a traditional Regency romance in style and spirit, right down to the tropes and the very mild sensuality level. My track record with that genre is spotty, as I like some level of spice in my romance stories. This one, however, manages to win me over shortly after I begin reading it.
It starts out pretty bumpy, though, as Adam appears to be a caricature at first. He is so haughty, so dismissive of all women in the Ton as vapid and unworthy of his attention, that I can only wonder what his mental damage is. Was he laughed at by girls when he was a kid? Also, the story is so full of overused tropes that it is as if the author is paid by the number of clichés she got to cram into this one. Of course, the pretty Henrietta is spoiled, and – gasp – she is flirty, which in the G-rated hemisphere of traditional Regency genre is tantamount of throwing orgies with men and barnyard animals every other day. The second sister is kinder, of course, while Mr Buxted is cheerfully oblivious to running of his household or the more unpleasant side of his daughter. Absent-minded or work-obsessed men who prefer to be minimally involved with the family – we are talking about both Mr Buxted and Charlotte’s father – are ideal daddies. Or maybe it’s just that daddies can’t ever be wrong.
Meanwhile, Charlotte is the feisty one who wants to live without so many rules, but because she’s not flirty, she’s still a good kind of hoyden. On the other hand, the flirty brother of Adam is getting his own story next, because while flirtiness is a sin in a woman, it is a virtue when applied to men, one that makes women pause in the act of stoning flirty hos to death to declare their desire to live vicariously through said flirty hero’s girlfriend.
In other words, this is that story, with those characters.
But the author is sneaky. There is a lively, bouncy verve to her narrative style, one that succeeds in blending humor and emotional moments in a most engaging manner. The humor works, and it is very easy to smile and think that the world is actually quite a lovely place while reading this story. Despite starting out as cartoon characters with one-dimensional traits, both Adam and Charlotte soon develop into more well-rounded characters. They aren’t always the most sensible characters, but I find myself charmed by their interactions. So absorbed am I in the story that I fail to catch that moment when these two begin to feel more real to me. I just know that, somehow, they go from being adorable frenemies into a charming couple bumbling around as they fall for one another.
Charlotte may be feisty and sassy, but the author wisely makes sure that our heroine is also smart and has a good sense of awareness about herself and the world around her. She is certainly not a doormat. There are times when she can be a little too precious to me – especially when she talks out loud to her horse and what not – but on the whole, I like her. Her personality makes Adam’s more over the top “All women are vapid! I will never find one worthy of my affections!” nonsense bearable, and I think it’s easy to conclude that she brings out the better parts of his personality to the forefront. Their exchanges can bring a smile to my face, and I find that their chemistry is very believable.
Waltzing with the Earl is a very predictable and formulaic read, so a part of me is reluctant to rate it very highly. But still, it hits all the right spots as much as it ticks every item on the checklist, so I suppose it’s okay for me to be more generous than usual and give this one four oogies.