Loving the Earl

Sharon Cullen
Loving the Earl
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Publisher
Loveswept
Release Date
November 2013
ISBN
9780345540065
Genre
Historical Romance

SUMMARY
In Sharon Cullen's sizzling novel of scandal and seduction, a headstrong beauty is pursued across Europe by London's most notorious rake.

Having vowed never to wed again, widowed viscountess Claire Hartford is about to do the unthinkable: travel unaccompanied across the continent in search of a lover. Her adventure begins sooner than expected, when she meets a magnificent cloaked stranger on her ship's gangplank. He is Lord Blythe, a man whispered about in London's ballrooms and drawing rooms, a scandalous rogue hell-bent on seduction.

Nathan Ferguson curses the day he agreed to look out for his best friend's wayward sister. The charismatic earl is traveling to Paris to uncover the truth behind his father's death, but his desire for Claire threatens to be his undoing. From France to Italy, on a journey of passionate discovery and danger, Nathan is honor-bound to protect her—from himself most of all. What can he offer Claire? Only love, as he sets out to prove to the woman of his dreams that she belongs to him—body, heart, and soul.

Book Review by Mary Chen (reviewer)
Apr 29, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
63 people found the following review helpful
This was a gem of a read!

At first glance, the story comes off lighthearted and silly. Lady Claire Addison, widowed Viscountess Chesterman, sought to escape the clutches of her loving but protective family and travel to the Continent, to experience her long-awaited adventure. En route to her first stop, Paris, she encounters her older brother's best friend Nathan Ferguson, Lord Blythe, who happened to be tasked with ensuring her safety on this trip. My first compliment to the author is in not making their prior acquaintance a mystery to be revealed much later on, as that often necessitates unnecessary angst in the case with mistaken--or unknown--identities. Rather, Claire recognized Nathan on sight, and he found out her identity as the one he was tasked to look after soon after. But of course, no good trip is ever without danger, as highwaymen, thieves, and painful pasts catch up to Claire and Nathan. Can they overcome their own insecurities and come to embrace love?

I have to admit, Claire's personality bothered me in the beginning--her intrepid persona seemed at odds with her status as a respectable widow and one who is not in the first blush of youth. Her naiveté, while hilariously charming, did make me question the extent to which she knows about the world, which apparently is a minuscule amount (She was tricked out of most of her belongings, after all). It was likely the sensation of finally being free from a cage that allowed her personality to burst forth uninhabited; the lightness of spirit she exhibits as an unconscious rebellion against the staid mask she wore during the constant abuse of her husband Richard. But even through that horror, Claire emerged victorious, resilient and with a zest to experience the life she's been missing, albeit swearing not to ever marry again.

Nathan is an honorable hero who is at once comfortable and at odds with himself. His quest was to discover the truth of his father's death, and along the journey from France to Italy, he came to question his own goals in life. Sure, he struggled to restore the family coffers by doing something no other titled gentleman would do--own a gambling hell--but now that he's rich, what other purpose does he have? Claire's sweetness and understanding convinced him that angels like her do exist, but an internal fear that stemmed from his manipulative mother withheld his courage to grasp at love.

A point of interest is the juxtaposition of Nathan and Claire's unhappy pasts to the general tone of jolliness and fun, a dash of darkness in a pot of sweet syrup. While in some works I would consider this an uneven tone, in this it served to bring out the complexity of the story and the characters. These two are not just two people traveling together who found lust and love. Rather they are two individuals who have been trying to complete the missing puzzle in their lives when suddenly realizing that it was another piece they've been missing all along. For all their insecurities that stemmed from internal unrest, they were honest and heartfelt with each other, and learned to truly love. And while the mystery of Nathan's father was easily apparent to the discerning reader, it served a greater purpose in bringing the end surprise to our protagonists, which also wrought some tears from my eyes.

To summarize, I came to this with a little trepidation and the book surprised me with its depth, intricate fluctuations in tone, and mesmerizing characters whose hearts are as expressive as their persons. Sharon Cullen writes with a subtle flourish that not only captures the elegant beauty of France and Italy, but the sweet journey of two people finding more than they sought on a grand quest for individuality and metaphysical freedom.
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