Pembrooke, Kate. Not The Kind of Earl You Marry (The Unconventional Ladies of Mayfair #1). Forever/Grand Central Publishing, 2021. pp. ISBN 9781538703755 $8.99
When any romance opens with a declaration that a gentleman in question is the last person a lady would ever marry—no beneath that, because she would NEVER marry him—you know they’re going to end up together. Not The Kind of Earl You Marry doesn’t disappoint. Someone is framing the Earl of Norwood, William Atherton, to create a scandal to knock him down a peg or two politically, and has posted his engagement notice to bluestocking Charlotte Hurst, and then planted seeds of gossip indicating they are marrying in haste because she is pregnant. Norwood’s sisters and Charlotte’s brother are in the know but are happily going through the motions as if it were a real engagement, while Charlotte and Norwood’s respect and attraction for one another are growing as she shops for a trousseau, comes out of her shell to attend the theatre and balls, learns to drive his curricle and team of bays, and more.
Humor, respect, banter, and blossoming passion make this a thoroughly enjoyable story, but strong feminist roots add depth: Norwood is progressive and believes in setting up government infrastructure to support women having more autonomy and control over their own finances, even through marriage. He introduces Charlotte to his close friend Lady Serena, who has taken on war widows as her charity of choice and brings Charlotte on a tour of a housing facility in progress, where Charlotte realizes a lady doesn’t need to wait meekly for opportunity to come along, but can set her mind to making her own opportunities. Thus is she drawn into the circle of the Unconventional Ladies of Mayfair. This is a terrific start to a promising new series.
Attentive to period detail down to fashions, customs, turn of phrase and even publications of the era, the novel also boasts a prodigious vocabulary–I had to look up a fair number of words that I mostly could discern from context but wanted to be sure I was not misreading–and delicious formal writing. Readers familiar with the times will nod at references to Almacks social club, Grosvenor Square, the locked garden shared by Berkeley Square’s residents, and Gunther’s Tea Shop. In the regency world, a fake betrothal is akin to fake dating, and and being left alone without a chaperone is a sort of forced proximity; fans of these tropes will be richly rewarded.
I received a free advance review copy of NottheKindofEarlYouMarry from #NetGalley.