A Switch of Roles in If Wishes Were Earls

if wishes were earlsIf Wishes Were Earls by Elizabeth Boyle
December 31, 2013, Avon (Historical Romance)

My rating: Vacation by the beach

I’ve been in need of a historical romance break for a little while now, and so in a departure from my more usual science fiction/fantasy reviews, this post is about a fun, light Regency romance that has a dash of mystery and crime in it.

Harriet “Harry” Hathaway is one of three young friends from Kempton, a village with a curse – involving old maids and the peculiar dangers of marrying a Kempton woman. This is the third in a series about these young ladies, and although I skipped the second, I enjoyed the first. Harry, our main character, has known Lord Roxley since he moved to the neighborhood when he was eleven to live with his aunts. She is the youngest of five children, and the only girl – so when young Roxley meets her for the first time, she’s dressed in boys’ clothing. As a young adult, she’s been trained in comportment, etiquette, and all the rest – so she no longer wears pants – but she still puts her foot in her mouth, defends her own honor, and – my favorite – seduces Roxley.

My absolute favorite part of this book is Harry. She is confident, determined, intelligent, and forward. And she has decided to marry Roxley. So she sets out to seduce him. Roxley, of course, has only recently realized that Harry is actually a beautiful young woman, and not just his rambunctious, fun, childhood friend. Over the course of the novel, Harry pursues Roxley, and he tries not to succumb to temptation – a delightful reversal of roles in a historical romance, that makes this novel stand out.

Roxley is not the only obstacle to Harry’s ultimate happiness – smarter than he seems, and with a sketchy family history, he has been targeted by a greedy sociopath, who is convinced that Roxley has Marie Antoinette’s stolen diamonds (there’s truth to this fiction – evidently the stolen diamonds did end up in London). In order to get the diamonds, the mysterious villain has bankrupted and blackmailed Roxley. As he tries to figure it out on his own, Harry keeps up her campaign to marry him. The romantic tension kind of fizzles out to leave center stage to the theft/espionage plot, but that arc is also fun.

The narration sometimes gets mixed up, with one character narrating when another’s perceptions/feelings intrude, which detracts from the interest provided by multiple narrators. I was never sure if I liked the flashbacks, which tell the story of Harry’s and Roxley’s romance. The ending was tied up extremely neatly, with no surprises in the plot or the resolution, but overall this novel was a fun read with an unusual romantic storyline, and absolutely delightful characters. I recommend this fun, light, sweet, and subtly spicy read that has both romance and adventure for fans of historical romance, especially for fans of authors like Julia Quinn and Tessa Dare.

Read-alikes

Although the 8th in a series that should be read in order, this historical mystery featuring Sebastian St. Cyr involves the theft of the Hope diamond, another royal French treasure that found itself in England in the early 19th century.

What Darkness Brings

Another young woman determined to have her way, Callie decides to break all the rules and live an exciting life, since playing by the rules never got her anywhere fun. She engages a rake as her partner in rule-breaking in this fun historical romance by Sarah MacLean.

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

Tessa Dare’s A Week to be Wicked has a similar (though also rakish) hero who acts sillier than he truly is.

A Week to be Wicked

Julia Quinn’s excellent story about childhood friends who fall in love will delight readers who enjoy romance between two characters who have known each other forever.

Just Like Heaven

Readers will find a true reversal of roles (and cross-dressing) with romance, intrigue, and adventure in Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders.

The Masqueraders

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