Monday, January 30, 2012

Mad About the Earl by Christina Brooke

In her debut novel, Heiress in Love, Christina Brooke introduces an interesting (very possible) organization: The Ministry of Marriage, which is tasked with pairing and marrying off the children of the Ton.

Mad About the Earl is Rosamund Westruther's story. (It's her turn to be matched up!)

I really like Rosamund as a character. She has an interesting background: Although her mother is still alive, at an early age, she and her brother were taken in as wards by the Duke of Montford. She's the sister of a marquess and has very lofty connections in society. And she's perfectly beautiful and perfectly mannered.

In the story, we discover that Rosamund's mother is evil. (There is no other word for her.) She delights in tormenting her children and displays her indiscretions shamelessly.

Rosamund's childhood (and mother) have shaped her character. To the world, Rosamund is seen as her mother's daughter and the world expects her to follow her mother's footsteps. At one point, even her brother believes her to be as indiscreet as their mother.

Her beauty is both a blessing and a curse to her. She knows how to use her beauty to accomplish her goals but she also realizes that this is the cause of her mother's jealousy and why unwanted men flock to her.

She's an "it" girl with hats and ribbons are named after her. She could have anything she wants -- except for the one thing she truly, desperately wants -- Griffin deVere, the Earl of Tregarth. Perhaps the most imperfect man in the whole of England.

Like Rosamund, Griffin's physical appearance is both a blessing and a curse to him -- he's big and bulky -- and doesn't fit the mold of what a gentleman ought to be. His size suits him perfectly, allowing him to intimidate people and push them away.

And he tries to push Rosamund away, too -- their first meeting is memorable: he's filthy and smells of the stables. She's perfectly decked out in a new riding outfit. He thinks she mistook him for a stablehand -- but she knows exactly who he is but refuses to be cowed by his appearance.

I loved Rosamund instantly. She breaks the stereotype. She's perceived as shallow and a bit ... frothy -- but she has a core of steel and an unwavering devotion to the people she loves, which includes Griffin.

Griffin doesn't understand why Rosamund would want him. He's been told all his life how unworthy he is. He tries to delay the betrothal, hoping she would find someone else to marry.

What he doesn't know is that Rosamund is determined to marry him. In Griffin she sees the promise of a life and marriage unlike the one her parents had. And she wants that.

Christina Brooke's story tackles the issue of society and its perception of people -- while Rosamund was enjoying the Season, everyone thought she had favored and fallen in love with Captain Lauderdale. In fact, Rosamund felt nothing of the sort. She had been clear from the beginning that all she wanted from the captain was his friendship. But the Captain, knowing she was the daughter of Lady Steyne, expected her to behave like her mother -- blatantly offering her an affair after her marriage.

There is an attractive dynamism to all of Brooke's characters. I am eager to find out more about Xavier, Rosamund's brother and Cecily, her cousin. Brooke has also created perhaps my most favorite valet EVER: Sweet William Dearlove. In some instances, he steals the scene from Griffin. ^_^

Brooke's next installment in her Ministry of Marriage series is A Duchess to Remember and features Cecily. It comes out June 2012. Yay!


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