Review: This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman (2019)

Bow Street Bachelors, Book 1

Heat Factor: Warm

Character Chemistry: Have you heard? He’s not romantic, and that makes him extra desirable

Plot: Convoluted

Overall: A promising beginning, but there was too much going on for me to really settle in

Georgie is extraordinarily wealthy. When her father died, he left her his fleet of merchant ships; instead of resting on her laurels, she has spent the last 5 years running the business and fighting off fortune hunters. After her odious cousin attempts to compromise her, she decides that what she needs is a husband. Preferably a dead one, so that he won’t gain control of her money and run the business into the ground. Widows can’t be compromised and no one blinks an eye if they do things like live alone.  

The solution? Marry a condemned convict. Due to a confluence of circumstances, she ends up getting married to one Benedict Wilde, who is scheduled to be transported to Australia the next morning. 

Imagine Georgie’s surprise, then, when she runs into her husband at a ball. Because, as it turns out, Benedick Wilde is not a petty criminal at all, but was actually in prison while working to uncover a nefarious plot. He’s actually an impoverished second son – the biggest fortune hunter of them all. An aristocrat, if a slightly scandalous one. 

Benedict needs money. Georgie still needs a husband who can’t access her money. They both want to avoid a scandal. What’s a secretly-married couple to do? Why, have a fake relationship, obviously. Here’s the plan they hatch: Georgie will pay Benedict to court her during the season. They will get married (again), and then live separate lives. Everyone gets what they want. What could go wrong?

Well…the first thing that goes wrong is that there’s a bunch of extra plot beyond the fake relationship. 

There’s a bit where they decide it’s also a good idea for Benedict to teach Georgie about sex. They’re already married, after all. 

But also, there’s the nefarious plot that he’s working to uncover. Georgie helps because she wants adventure in her life. 

But also, Georgie gets kidnapped, in a side adventure unrelated to Benedict’s sleuthing. 

But also, Georgie and Benedict steal a submarine and bring it to the Royal Navy, so that it can’t be used to rescue Napoleon.

But also, both Georgie and Benedict have tons of angst about whether or not the other person cares for them, because this relationship is obviously fake and the other person deserves better. 

As you can see, it’s a lot. Because there’s so much plot, I felt that the characters didn’t really settle into themselves or a consistent dynamic. For example, the idea that Georgie wanted adventure in her life was introduced about a third of the way into the book; this component of her character is necessary to explain some of the later decisions she makes, but it seemed to come out of nowhere based on the way she is portrayed early in the story. It was really too bad, because the opening sequence was particularly well done, and Georgie and Benedict have excellent banter as well as several thoughtful conversations about gender and wealth. 

One thing that I found particularly interesting while reading This Earl of Mine was the question of romance, and what is and is not “romantic.” Bateman includes a side plot about Georgie’s sister, Juliet, who wants to marry Simeon, a poet; their mother does not approve of the match. Simeon writes really bad poetry, but more importantly, he serves as a foil for Benedict. Benedict and Georgie have an explicit conversation about how he’s not like a hero in a romance – he won’t woo her with courtly (read: chaste) kisses and flowers and poetry, but rather with **manly** things like sweaty animal sex. Benedict will never write Georgie a sonnet, unlike poor, hapless Simeon, who also does things like stand mournfully in the rain making sad puppy eyes at the front door of the townhouse. (Georgie to Simeon: “There is nothing romantic about the ague, I assure you.”)

That “not romantic” stuff got me thinking…romance novel heroes are NEVER what we think of as “romantic” in the sense of reading poetry or sending flowers. That’s what foppish fellows do, and our heroes are different from those foppish fellows. It’s like the romance novel equivalent of the “cool girl.” (Yes, I know that beta heros are a thing. I’m making generalizations here.) There’s this idea in society that women want flowers and poetry and romantic gestures but that’s not what we get at all in this particular medium that is all about feminine wish fulfillment, and Bateman makes this fraught dynamic explicit. 

By the way – the hero is NOT an Earl. Just so you know.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

Like the tropes that show up in this book? Here are lists of other books we’ve reviewed which feature the same tropes:

Marriage of Convenience

Secret Relationship

Fake Relationship

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