Series: First Comes Love, #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on May 28th 2019
Genres: Historical Romance
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
What does a Wickedly Wonderful Widow really want? One noble suitor is about to find out. . .
Adeline, Dowager Countess of Wake, is all on her own after her husband’s sudden death. The good news? Losing him allowed her to find herself. Finally, Adeline is free to do, go, and be as she pleases. She cherishes her newfound independence and is not looking for another man to wed. But seeking out a new lover? Well, that is a whole ’nother story. . .
Lord Lyon, son of the two-timing Earl of Marksworth, wishes to have a respectable, loving wife someday. When he meets the beautiful and self-reliant Adeline, Lyon is instantly smitten. But Adeline would rather have the handsome suitor in her bed than to take his hand in marriage. It’s a scandalous proposal—and one that’s hard for Lyon to refuse. Unless the fire of his passion can melt Adeline’s resolve. . .and he can find a way to be the Wickedly Wonderful Widow’s lover for all time?
The Earl Next Door is the first in a new series by Amelia Grey, and the first book by her that I’ve read. This historical romance is created on a unique premise of Adeline Wake, a widowed countess who is newly moved to a home where she is also starting up a boarding school for young “unfortunate” girls when she meets neighbor Lyon Marksworth, Earl of Lyonwood, in a not so “meet-cute” exchange. What transpires between them in this initial meeting shows the young Earl that Lady Wake is a feisty and sparks an intense curiosity in Lyon.
This is a bit of a slow burn as interactions between Adeline and Lyon are limited, but it does build out traits of the main characters, rounds out their circle of family and friends, and shows some history on what inspires and motivates them. In particular Adelines marriage and Lyons relationship with his father. When friendship begins to form, sparks fly between these and it’s electric.
Unique in this story is that Adeline is NOT interested in a second marriage while Lyons looks forward to his first and only – but only with Adeline. It will take some convincing for her to see his way. I found this a very enjoyable read and in particular liked the secondary cast in Lyons aunt Cordelia and his father. I look forward to reading the next book in the First Comes Love series.
Buy this book: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250217608
Perhaps he should have stated who he was when he first entered the drawing room, but he’d thought it wasn’t necessary. He was only too well aware of how many private pleasure houses were hidden among the cozy streets of respectable London and how easily and quietly they were established. He’d certainly availed himself of more than a few over the years, which was why he’d promised his aunt he’d deal with the one she believed was moving in next door to him and down the street from her.
Lyon could now see that Lady Wake’s earlier per- plexed expressions and her sense of outrage had flashed warning after warning, which he’d ignored. That the countess didn’t immediately engage him with welcom- ing smiles should have been a swift indication all wasn’t as it seemed, but he was already in an irritable state of mind when he arrived at her house and unwav- ering in his thoughts not to be persuaded from his mis- sion by a tempting woman.
He’d returned home from a laborious meeting with his unprepared solicitor, wanting only to get ready for an evening at White’s so he could get caught up on the latest news and indulge in a game or two of billiards, a few hands of cards, and an expensive bottle of brandy. Instead, he’d come home to find his aunt in his drawing room wringing her hands in misery over the possibility of unmentionable women setting up a forbidden business in their quiet neighborhood. And insisting he must do something about it at once.
Given all that was put before him, including the countess’s attire, what else could he have possibly done other than assume she was a paid woman preparing to fulfill some lucky man’s fantasy for the evening?
“The mistake was mine. I thought this was the kind of house where a man is always free and welcome to come and go as he pleases without hindrance, and not have to reveal his name or wait around to be an- nounced. If I had known you were a lady and not an angel of the evening, I wouldn’t have acted so freely.” “An angel of the evening?” She puffed out a breath of exasperation. “What rubbish. Clever words or phrases won’t hide what you thought when you entered or how you spoke to me. Now that you know who I am, you are still free to speak to me as before.”
That she would suggest he continue to speak so openly with her surprised him and was downright refreshing. Most of the ladies he knew would have fainted when he made the remark about paying her fee for the evening and pray to never hear such a vile com- ment again.
“Nevertheless, I will give you the respect you de- serve and watch my language now that I do know, my lady.”
He watched her breathing ease and calmness settle over her as they each assessed the situation. That her recovery was quick and solid was a testament to her strength.
“I heard you were out of Town when I moved into the neighborhood a few days ago,” she continued in a calm and confident voice.
“I returned last evening.”
“That doesn’t absolve your actions tonight. You should have checked with someone before you came charging over with uncivil actions, assumptions and untrue allegations.”
Lyon’s jaw clenched tighter. No doubt about that. He should have questioned his aunt more about her suspi- cions, but he wasn’t about to explain that to the count- ess and implicate his aunt and her friend. “I was reasonably certain I had good cause to act as I did.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No.” What else could he say?
“And earl or not, sir,” she added valiantly, “you are an ogre as I’ve found most of your ilk are.”
He couldn’t argue with that either.
“Before you go, I’d like to know what made you think this was a house of pleasure for men.”
Lyon shook his head slowly. She was unbelievable. Asking him to explain what she’d just slapped him for. He wasn’t going to get caught in that snare again. “I’d rather not say, my lady.”
“Of course you don’t want to, but you must. I need to know what caused you to act as you did. Others could make the same mistake.”
Something settled in Lyon’s chest. A feeling that he’d never had before. Lady Wake was no shy or simpering female. She was courageous, impassioned beyond belief, and probably too strong-willed for her own good.
That intrigued him. It made him want to answer her with candid freedom, but every fiber of his being as a gentleman warned against such talk with a proper lady.
Yet, after only a brief hesitation, he responded, “If you insist.”
“It was brought to my attention that there have been some peculiar things going on over here while I’ve been out of Town.”
“Peculiar?” Concern resurfaced in her expression. “What do you mean? There is no reason for us to stand on ceremony, my lord. We are quite familiar with each other now. Speak to me as you would a madam and tell me what made you think my home was a house of ill repute.”
“Very well. An abundance of deliveries of bed- chamber furniture going into the building behind this house.”
“Why would that be strange, sir?” she asked him crisply. “Beds are necessary for everyone.”
“And women coming and going at all hours of the day and night.”
“Ah, yes,” she said on a breathy sigh as the mean- ing of his words became clear to her and she relaxed once again. “Now I understand. Beds and women. What else is a man to think of other than pleasure?”
Lyon felt the only thing he could reasonably do at this point was lift his brows, and say, “For that I can offer no apology.”
“It’s true, there have been many beds delivered. The building behind this house is being furnished as a boarding school for girls, my lord. The women who have been seen coming and going will be their tutors.
Currently, some of the women have different jobs they must return to each day. They are free to leave at what- ever time they deem necessary to make their other duties and commitments.”
“A boarding school?” he repeated, wondering why the hell his aunt didn’t know that. She was usually one of the first to hear the latest gossip.
“Yes. So whatever tawdry vision you’d imagined would be taking place between these walls tonight or any other won’t be happening. My home is not what you thought it was, and anyone else who assumed the same will have to look elsewhere for his decadences.”
The countess opened the door for him.
Lyon felt his expression softening, his admiration growing. For a number of reasons, including the truth of her words, there was no repairing their inauspicious meeting.
He nodded without further words, turned, and walked out of her house.