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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sex And The Single Earl by Vanessa Kelly

Sex And The Single Earl by Vanessa Kelly
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (496 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Their marriage was convenient…Simon St. James, fifth Earl of Trask, knows he could do worse in the marriage of convenience department. Sophie Stanton may be a bit of a social liability, with her ungovernable ways and flighty nature, but Simon has responsibilities as an earl that far outweigh happiness in the household. And as for happiness in the bedroom…he has to admit he sees Sophie’s potential in that arena.

Their passion was not!
But Sophie isn’t some bargaining chip to be traded, and she’s not about to let Simon St. James tell her how to live her life—even though she has nurtured a crush on the handsome young earl for as long as she can remember. If his idea of courtship is telling her what to do, then she is not interested, or at least she is trying not to be. But when his scolding words turn to scorching kisses, suddenly Sophie starts paying attention.

A man with a calculated and logical plan is so fun to watch as he grapples with the realization that all his arrangements hinge on a person he actually has no control over and whom he thought was a shoe-in. Men who are in total Zen with statistics and paper can be complete numbskulls when it comes to dealing with women.

Simon, Earl of Trask has an agenda. He’s figured it all out. All his ducks are in line and he’s banking on a long standing assumption that the fawning girl he’s known since she was a kid would be amenable, biddable and be brought to heel. What an arrogant, misguided fool. That’s what makes his character so interesting. He might be an earl, prominent in society and have a practical dream which goes against the norm for the time, but that doesn’t make him smart with his own emotions or the emotions of others. He’s shut down a portion of himself to deal with the realities of his title, thrust upon him when the original heir died. When he gets scared, he says some really stupid things, things which really made me want to kick him in the shins. He’s a guy who reacts with strong passions and that’s when he loses that filter between his brain and his mouth. Simon is a complicated man but he has a soft side, a sexual side and a wall around his heart which he thought impenetrable. His sudden insight that there is a person with the key to his emotional fortress totally has him flummoxed. That’s not supposed to happen. No man feels that way about his future wife, it’s unheard of! Which is why I enjoyed watching this self-possessed man be brought to heel by the power of love.

Sophie is a mixed bag. She alternately is impulsive, headstrong and passionate in her belief wrongs must be set aright. She has mooned over and dreamed of Simon for all of her life. He’s played such a strong supporting role during major milestones of happiness and grief as she’s grown that she fears he’ll never see her as the woman she’s become. Probably because when she’s around him, she resorts to an established pattern of behavior. As I see it, it’s hard to grow into the new roles we evolve into, especially when others are blind to the changes. And we never completely lose some of the initial personality traits we exhibit when we’re younger because those end up being our building blocks of the people we become. If you strive to change yourself completely to the expected dictates of society, you lose the vital parts that make you, you. That same dilemma is what haunts Sophie. She has changed, but not in what matters. She is trying to stay true to her beliefs and act upon them but they are driving Simon up a wall. She is at times courageous and na├»ve, blithely unaware at times of the domino effect of her actions and also vulnerable to the machinations of manipulative people.

The manipulation comes from a secondary character who throws a good dose of conflict at both Simon and Sophie. As much as I ended up despising her for her actions, I find myself withholding judgment. I am actually interested in finding out if Ms. Kelly is planning on a sequel. You see, the villainess was observed closely by Sophie at one point; a few descriptive remarks make me suspect that the woman was actually in trouble. I also think she was being coerced into going to the lengths she did. I sense a deliberate desperate attempt to undermine Simon’s plans and I wonder who would be behind such a dastardly plan. Who knew of his intentions? And what do they hold over the woman to ensure her complicity? It’s a complex possibility which is not addressed in this story but I interpreted them as hints of hidden intrigue, hints which would set up a wonderful premise for Ms. Kelly’s next book. I hope that it is so, because it lends added depth to this story – a hook if you will. If not, then I might take the author to task for presenting a teasing and misleading glimpse at a potential undercurrent all for naught.

Other secondary characters, like Sophie’s and Simon’s relations are a wonderful supporting cast. I really liked Annabel, felt sorry for poor James and rolled my eyes at the character of Mr. Puddleford. I thought the family dynamic at the end was profound, romantic and quite heartwarming.

The dialogue clearly indicates a good handle of the vernacular of the day. The tone and atmosphere is spot on and time seemed to fly as I read Sophie’s exploits. When Simon has his way with Sophie it’s quite steamy and very seductive. I enjoyed the descriptions of his barely holding on – it’s that torturous restraint which kicks up the sensual heat and makes their consummation all the more powerful. Simon’s shock at his reaction to Sophie made me smile. Serves him right; the relations between man and woman are one place no one should hold back.

I would recommend Sex And The Single Earl for historical romance buffs that enjoy a heroine who doesn’t simper or cow tow to her man and a hero who finds love and redemption in his woman’s arms.


Vanessa Kelly said...

Xeranthemum, thank you for the fantastic review! I'm thrilled!! As for Bathsheba, you're pretty darned close to the mark. Stay tuned.

romancemama said...

I won an ARC of S&tSE, and I concur wholeheartedly. This is an absolute keeper of a book and I cannot wait for the next one! (I'd love to see Bathsheba reform!)