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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Earl's Enigma by Rachel McNeeley

The Earl's Enigma by Rachel McNeeley
Publisher: BookStrand
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (193 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Government spy Franklin Gates returns home to claim his estate and send his step-mother, the person who knows his terrible secret, to one of his other properties.

Mary Ann Steeples, the one woman he can’t forget, is determined to win Franklin's heart. She has passed up many proposals waiting for him. Now that Franklin has returned, he still resists the attraction that flared between them when her twin sister and his best friend courted.

Franklin must discover the truth about his past before contemplating any marriage. Unfortunately, the person who knows the truth is a woman he never wanted to see again.

Even as his desire for Mary Ann increases, Franklin is certain she is not the wife he needs. He fears she is too much like the step-mother he hates. But Mary Ann will go to any length to show him he's wrong. Even if she endangers her life.

Full of secrets and excitement, The Earl's Enigma is scary, funny, and chock full of unrequited love. This Regency story grabs the reader’s emotions and holds on tight.

Mary Ann Steeples, intelligent, opinionated, stubborn, a risk-taker, and incurably in love with Franklin Gates, Earl of Wharton, has no desire to marry any of her many suitors. However, she fears the antics of her youth have foiled her chances to ever win Franklin’s love.

Franklin, a long-time spy for the government, comes home after many years of absence. His secret kept him away. His return stirs up a “hornet’s nest” at his ancestral estate. His truly wicked stepmother plans to play havoc with his life -- AGAIN. When he was seventeen, her machinations wrecked his world, but he is older and wiser now.

As Earl of Wharton, he knows he needs to marry and have an heir. He tells himself he wants a biddable, pleasant young woman for a wife, but his heart longs for Mary Ann, who is anything but biddable. More than that, she has too many traits like Olivia, his stepmother.

There is an element of humor, as some of the secondary characters don’t hesitate to put in their two-cents about the connection between Franklin and Mary Ann. Many of the happenings are predictable, but Olivia, the stepmother and Audary, the longtime caretaker of Wharton deliver some scary surprises along the way.

The subplots add texture to the main plot as Franklin and Mary Ann work through a maze of problems before finding their happy-ever-after.

Rachel McNeely’s lovely descriptions are vibrant and realistic giving the reader a sense of place. An occasional editing blip, e.g. “I” used for an object pronoun, took me out of the story momentarily at times, but then I was back into the happenings wanting to know what troubles the hero and heroine would have to overcome next.

This Regency romance entertains and stirs up some heated emotions.