Friday, April 25, 2014

ARC Review: Meet the Earl at Midnight by Gina Conkle

Meet the Earl at Midnight by Gina Conkle
Click here to pre-order the book on Amazon, release date: May 6, 2014
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

Edward and Lydia are an unconventional set of main characters. He loves science more than anything else and she loves art more than anything else.

And Gina Conkle's novel has a very unconventional way of storytelling: I imagine it like a house full of closed doors where many questions are posed at every opportunity. The doors open eventually, but they lead to more closed doors.

The story begins at midnight, when Lydia is woken up and brought by her stepfather to a meeting in an unsavory part of town. There, Lydia comes 'face to face' with Lord Edward Sanford, known in the papers as The Phantom of London, Enigma Earl, The Greenwich Recluse, etc. It is when her stepfather and stepbrother's perfidy and her role in rectifying the situation by marrying the mysterious Lord Sanford are revealed.

Why would Lord Sanford make such a bargain? Why her? Why the rush? These are some of the questions raised at the start. Add to that: Is Lord Sanford truly a hideous beast? What happened to him? Lydia also has some secrets to tell -- and she is biding her time to reveal them. When Lydia arrives at Lord Sanford's estate, more questions are asked: Who is Claire Mayhew, Sanford's very beautiful housekeeper? What is her relationship to Sanford?

Note, though, that this is not an exercise in futility because Gina Conkle reveals the answers at the perfect moment. The whole set-up makes this a compelling read as the questions propel you from one page to the next.

As Lydia familiarises herself with her new home, it also gives her the chance to know her soon-to-be husband better -- and she likes the man she uncovers: Edward is deeply devoted to his work studying plants, but he has sacrificed science for his family when his father and older brother both died, leaving him to take care of his mother and sisters. He is a man torn between his passion and his duty -- but he now believes he has come up with a win-win situation, which involves marrying Lydia.

"My father and brother finessed their way through life ... politics, shipping ... both were skilled with people, where I lack all patience," he said quietly, speaking only to her. "My passion, my purpose is science. I've buried this too long."
- loc 2085

It was all going according to his schedule -- until Lydia walks into his life and throws everything off-kilter. She invades his personal spaces and takes up his precious time -- and, while Edward is supposed to feel invaded and imposed upon, Edward actually (albeit grudgingly) enjoys Lydia's companionship. What began as an impersonal/business arrangement becomes deeply personal as our hero and heroine slowly fall in love with each other.

Everything that I've said so far is just the tip of the iceberg: there's even more to love, read and think about in Gina Conkle's Meet the Earl at Midnight. When Edward's mother arrives, our hero finally reveals why marriage and begetting an heir have suddenly become an urgent matter for him. In that moment, Lydia realises all that she stands to lose if she doesn't make her move soon.

I am impressed with the layers of detail and story that Meet the Earl at Midnight contains: it's a Beauty-and-the-Beast love story, but it's also a story about what we sacrifice for the sake of love. Conkle raises a lot of thought-provoking questions in the story -- ones that challenge not only the hero and heroine, but also the reader. When Lady Sanford, Edward's mother, approaches Lydia with her offer, what would I do in Lydia's place?

The primary reason to leave was her art; the singular reason to stay was a man.
- loc 2809

This is not a story with external/physical barriers and obstacles, but one where the conflict lies within the hearts of Edward and Lydia -- and they struggle with it because the experience of this kind of love is new to them.

"I find I want to kiss you, my lord, but I'm baffled by that, since I'm also angry with you at the same time."
- loc 2094

* * *

How could he forget her instructions days ago to deposit all her art supplies in the ballroom? Probably because that brain-muddling embrace outside the gallery scrambled clear thinking. He recalled the distraction of burying his face in the softness of her hair. Her presence seeped into him the same way her simple lemongrass scent invaded his senses. Right now, breathing heavily from exertion, he'd swear her scent surrounded him.
- loc 2347

Meet the Earl at Midnight is an insightful story with endearing characters. A truly wonderful book from Gina Conkle. ^_^ It will be released on May 6, 2014.

To find out more about Gina Conkle and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I requested this ARC from Netgalley. Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and Gina Conkle for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.


  1. lovely review! I haven't read this author yet, but it does sound like a good romance. It sounds like it has a interesting conflict involved.

  2. Great review Tin!
    Gina C. is a new to me author, but not for long.
    Seems like Edward and Lydia are going to make my afternoons go by fast.
    I need to get this book and read about all their secrets, I do enjoy secrets!
    Have a nice day!

  3. Hi, Renee! Hi, Dalila!

    Gina Conkle has a Viking HR published, but this is her first book from a major publisher. I think you will both love Lydia -- she's a "modern" woman with very strong opinions. ^_^

  4. Hi Tin,
    Thanks so much for the lovely review of Edward and Lydia's story. They were a blast to write. My favorite part was their banter. I think you really captured the essence of the story and just wanted to say I appreciate you reading their story and sharing your thoughts.
    Have a great day-



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