Could you build a relationship on blackmail? A story of redemption and second chances, The Unwanted Earl tells a love story that definitely isn’t run-of-the-mill.
Conrad Lofton is not a typical romantic hero. He’s clumsy, allows himself to be pushed around by his mother, has an aversion to the outdoors matched only by his great fear of birds and oh yes, was the villain in the first book of this series. He’s a man who’s made some terrible mistakes in his life and mistreated many people. Despite that, I found myself rooting for him from the very beginning.
He wants to change for the better. He’s realized his faults and knows that he has a long road ahead of him before he can be a better man. What really won me over to his side however was his mother.
Lady Lofton is a superb antagonist. She’s controlling, uncaring, cold, and belittling. Due to her own great dislike for the outdoors, she denied her son a proper childhood, as well as teaching him rudeness and cruelty. Yet even she received one short scene in which I felt genuinely sorry for her and life she had created for herself.
The heroine, Amelia, is the exact opposite of Conrad. She loves the outdoors, she loves crowds and parties, she loves to talk, and is lively and spirited. The contrast between the two leads was the backbone of the book and often amusing.
However the story does for the most part lack much conflict. As we see the story from both Amelia’s and Conrad’s point of view, we are never in any real doubt of their feelings for each other. The biggest rift in their relationship originates from a misunderstanding that was cleared up in the very next chapter. I couldn’t help but feel that the fact their engagement began because Amelia blackmailed him into it, should have greater impact on the story and the way the two interacted.
I also felt a little jolted from the story when there was the occasional event that felt historically inaccurate, usually the actions and attitudes of the servants, who often behaved far more freely than would likely have been allowed in that era.
The book does have some excellent humor though. Conrad’s various run-ins with nature and animals were always highly amusing. Lady’s Lofton’s standoffs with Amelia’s own high maintenance mother were another highlight of the book.
Despite being the second book in a series, The Unwanted Earl can definitely be read as a standalone novel. A few incidents are referenced from the previous book, but are explained sufficiently that a new reader doesn’t feel left out of the loop and the book is self-contained for all important purposes.
It’s a sweet and unique love story that kept me interested even when the plot felt occasionally thin, with well-rounded characters that made me care about the outcome. If you’re in the mood for a nice, low-key romance, you couldn’t go wrong with The Unwanted Earl.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.