Title: Waiting For An Earl Like You
Author: Alexandra Hawkins
Genre: Romance (Historical/Regency Romance)
Date of Publication: 3rd January, 2017
Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
LOVE ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT IT SEEMS.
Justin Reeve Netherwood, Earl of Kempthorn—a.k.a. Thorn—has never cared much for his neighbor’s daughter. But his twin brother, Gideon, befriended the wild, reckless, and wholly inappropriate Miss Olivia Lydall in youth, and two have been close ever since. So when Olivia finds herself in a state of romantic conflict and seeks out Gideon for advice, he’s only too pleased to oblige. Only problem: The man Olivia is speaking to is Thorn. And now it’s too late for him to tell Olivia the truth…
Thorn always believed that Olivia was too smitten with Gideon for her own good. So what’s the harm in steering her away from him? But Thorn’s charade turns out to be anything but harmless once he begins to see Olivia for who she really is: A woman full of spirit and passion…and someone he can’t live without. But how can Thorn claim Olivia’s heart when their deepening connection—and burning desire—is built on lies and deceit?
I adore the regency romance subgenre – it has a lot of my favorite tropes: the marriage of convenience, the abundance of roguish rakes thrown together with the oft-overlooked spinster/wallflower/bluestocking, the self-made American upstart seeking a prim & proper heiress, etc. etc. But my goodness, it can be rife with some really unpleasant sexist, misogynistic messages and unfortunately that prevented me from enjoying this particular story.
The synopsis is misleading, for starters – it suggests that Olivia innocently approaches Thorn believing he is Gideon and that Thorn takes advantage of that mistake. Nope, our ‘hero’ deliberately approaches as Gideon, knowing full well she wouldn’t give him the time of day as himself, and flirts with her before stealing a kiss. This happens not once, but MULTIPLE times. The synopsis also suggests that he falls for her while he’s masquerading as his brother, presumably because he gets to know the ~real Olivia~ and yet their major interactions involve him swaggering up, acting familiarly with her and taking liberties with her. There isn’t much opportunity for him to ‘deepen their connection’ when he’s solely occupied with pressing kisses upon her.
We’re lead to believe that Thorn is contriving to keep Olivia and his brother apart for Gideon’s own good, and yet no solid reason is given for that. The brothers behave more recklessly and buck society’s conventions more than Olivia does, so his motivation to deceive her as to his identity doesn’t even have an altruistic basis. If there was a misunderstanding that made him believe Olivia was a gold-digger or to suspect she’d lead Gideon astray, that would make his charade more understandable, but we’re just supposed to take it for granted that he has a good reason to behave as he does with no basis for it. So he’s extremely hypocritical for trying to keep Olivia and Gideon apart, while throwing himself in her path and trying to seduce her at every turn when he doesn’t care for her at all.
There are a couple instances where Thorn behaves decently to Olivia and made me warm to him (even though that’s a very low standard to hold him to – NOT being a jerk), but then he reverts to type, for instance, when he rips the bodice of her dress because he thinks it’s hideous!
There was a harsh tug and the sound of ripped fabric. Olivia gasped against his lips as the night air seeped between them and cooled her flesh.
“A fitting end to your ugly dress,” he said smugly. “Have your maid toss it in the rag bin in the morning.”
She glared at him in disbelief. “You kissed me so you could get close enough to ruin my dress?”
Then he condescendingly tells Olivia that if she’s a good girl, he’ll take her shopping and advise her on a more flattering gown. Surprisingly, she’s not thrilled at the notion!
“Do not behave like a silly goose, Olivia. You could benefit from my advice.” He frowned down at her. “Don’t forget to get rid of that dress.”
“I will do what I please.”
“Careful, Olivia. Wear that dress again and you will not like the consequences.”
“How will you punish me? With a kiss?”
“Perhaps. Or I might spank you.”
What a bastard! That might seem like flirty banter, but my view of his threat is colored by a) the fact that he just DESTROYED HER CLOTHING in the most arrogant, douchey manner possible because she wasn’t dressed stylishly enough for him and b) the fact that when she was a CHILD, he actually did spank her for the mortal sin of climbing a tree!
Muttering a curse, he had grabbed her by the waist and hauled her off the tree limb. When her feet had touched the ground, he had done the unthinkable. He delivered a hard smack to her backside and told her that he would use his father’s horsewhip if he ever caught her dangling from another tree. His fury and rough handling had frightened her. Her backside burning from his hand, she had kicked him in the shin and ran back to to her father’s lands.
We’re not given Olivia’s age on this occasion, but Gideon is six years older than her – since she’s described as a young girl, she may have been about ten at the time, which puts Gideon at around 16. What business does a teenage boy have dragging a child out of a tree and HITTING HER?!
What’s worse is that we find out later that Thorn has a history of masquerading as his brother around Olivia – he was her first kiss when she was twelve and he was EIGHTEEN. He’s legally an adult kissing a prepubescent girl, W. T. F. :O Not only was he always overbearing and ill-mannered even as a teen, but he’s been trampling all over her ability to consent her whole life!
His brother stared at him in disbelief. “She believes I kissed her.”
“Well, I could not kiss her,” Thorn countered. “She would have slapped Lord Kempthorn. She actually likes you so she is more forgiving when you misbehave.”
“When I kiss a lady, I want to be the one who does it. Not you.”
Thorn nodded, accepting that he deserved his twin’s anger.
Oh, okay, so he knows he’s wronged his brother – but no thought to the lady involved in this mess! Because she is, after all, Thorn’s property and belongs solely to him, which is why he can feel free to interfere with the possibility of her forming relationships with other men who might actually have some respect and treat her with the courtesy she’s due! Not the man who responds to her rightfully setting him in his place or sassing him by lunging at her and trapping her in his arms, caressing her against her will and then blaming her for provoking him.
Overall, I have a ton of issues with the ‘hero’ of this novel and loathed him too much to be able to invest in the romance which is central to the plotline. I pitied the heroine for being shackled to him and even buying into his toxic behavior, thinking she deserved the way he treated her. In terms of positives, I will say that on a technical level, the writing is skillful, the characters are lively and three-dimensional and it is a quick read (thankfully).
Personal Rating: 1 out of 5 kitties approves this book.
Disclaimer: I received a digital ARC free from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.