Today’s post is all about the start to a fantastic new historical romance series: The Wicked Quills of London by Eva Leigh. I’m sharing a review and excerpt of the first book in the series, Forever Your Earl, along with a Rafflecopter giveaway of the novel plus a $25 egift card to the book retailer of your choice. It’s a win-win-win, y’all, so read on.
As I mentioned earlier this week I’d been in a bit of a romance novel funk for a good month or so. Forever Your Earl was the start of the turnaround, so I’m passing on my review of this bright, spirited book in hopes that it will make its way onto your shelf/ereader.
Eleanor Hawke is a self-made woman. She’s the proprietor and owner of the successful scandal rag, The Hawke’s Eye, infusing society gossip with her wickedly clever writing and scathing social commentary. Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford is always good fodder for a story, so when shows up at her office offering exclusive access to his, um, “exploits,” Eleanor is stunned. This kind of unfettered access to one of London’s most notorious rakes could make The Hawke’s Eye a must-read for every member of the ton. Of course, Daniel has his own (read: secret) reasons for placing himself so firmly in the public eye, which Eleanor suspects but can’t quite figure out.
It’s a great set-up for getting two attractive people in the same place at the same time over and over again and watching the sparks fly. There is fantastic chemistry between Eleanor and Daniel, spurred on by Leigh’s rapid-fire, witty dialogue–think Tessa Dare with an overtly feminist twist. She tackles the class differential between Daniel (Earl) and Eleanor (commoner) head-on and weaves in overt references to male privilege using Eleanor’s sharp retorts, insightful observations, and a (thankfully) brief stint as an undercover reporter at a questionable gaming hell (I’m just not a fan of girl-in-pants stories).
Despite their difference in station the relationship between Eleanor and Daniel is clearly one of intellectual equals, which I love. If, like me, you’re getting a little sick of wide-eyed debutantes, I think you’ll find Forever Your Earl a welcome change of pace. Daniel is, naturally, a rake with hidden depths–the best and only kind of rake worth loving. His eagerness take on the spotlight is a ploy to hide his city-wide search for his dearest friend, whose post-war PTSD has sent him into hiding in London’s seedy underbelly. Daniel’s noble intentions are supposed to make us fall in love with him, but really it’s his interactions with Eleanor that prove he’s a man of substance. Eleanor is a strong woman who knows her own mind, and only men worth having are attracted to a woman like that.
There’s so much right with this historical romance novel it would be criminal to pass it up. So don’t!
“Though London presents itself to the world as the apotheosis of all that is moral and upstanding, it might shock our readers to learn that the appearance of virtue can be a very clever disguise. It is the opinion of this humble periodical that wickedness and deception are far more common than our readers may apprehend. Thus the necessity of this most respectful scrap of writing—that we may, through the revelation of the scandalous activities of our Town, provide necessary guidance. But leading a life of probity may be difficult, especially when presented with temptation…”
—from The Hawk’s Eye, May 2, 1816
A man rich in wealth and scandal walked into Eleanor Hawke’s office.
Eleanor was no stranger to scandal. Anything immoral, disreputable, shocking, or titillating made its way into the pages of her newspaper—particularly if it involved the wealthy and elite of London Society. She detailed all of it for her thrice weekly publication, The Hawk’s Eye. Nobody wanted to read about ordinary shopkeeper Mr. Jones who might or might not be spending time with the humdrum widow Mrs. Smith.
No, The Hawk’s Eye sold strictly on the basis that it published the latest scandalous doings of Lord This and Lady That. All, of course, under the pretense of decrying the lack of morals in this fair city, and that these lurid activities ought to serve as object lessons to the young and impressionable.
And it was Eleanor’s job as owner and publisher to see to the moral education of London.
Which was utter rubbish, naturally.
But scandal put bread on her table and kept the rain off her head, and she readily immersed herself in it—the spirit of free enterprise, and all that.
Still, when Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford himself walked into the offices of The Hawk’s Eye on a Wednesday afternoon, blocking the gray light as the door opened and closed, it was both shocking and inevitable that he should do so. Unsurprisingly, he clenched several copies of her paper in his hand.
Lord Ashford marched through the cramped warren of rooms, writers’ heads lifting from where they bent over their desks to watch in open-mouthed amazement as he passed. Eleanor’s private office lay at the end of the corridor, giving her an ample view of the scene as it played out before her.
The earl stopped in front of Harry Welker’s desk. The young writer stared up at the Lord Ashford, the men separated not just by the expanse of battered oak, but circumstance and birth.
“H…how might I help you, my lord?” Harry asked, his voice cracking.
“Tell me where Mister E. Hawke is.” Lord Ashford had a deep voice, rounded by generations of excellent breeding and noblesse oblige.
“Mister Hawke, my lord?” patent confusion in his voice.
Lord Ashford pointed to one of the papers he carried. “It says here that The Hawk’s Eye is owned and published by one E. Hawke. Where will I find him?”
“Nowhere, my lord,” Harry answered. “There’s no Mister Hawke here.”
The earl scowled, clearly not used to being denied. “This scurrilous rag cannot publish itself.”
“It doesn’t,” Eleanor announced, setting aside her quill and standing. “If you’re looking for Miss Eleanor Hawke, I’m right over here.”
Lord Ashford looked directly at her, and for the first time, she had a sense of what a rabbit might feel like when sited by a wolf. But she wasn’t the only one at a disadvantage. The earl couldn’t hide the shock in his expression when he discovered that the publisher and owner of the paper was, in truth, a woman—which gave her a small measure of gratification.
He turned from Harry without another word and walked straight toward her. And she could only stand, pinned by his gaze, as he approached.
The closer he got, the more she realized how dangerous the earl was. Perhaps not in the traditional sense—though she’d heard and written about the duels in which he’d fought and won—but certainly in the realm of masculine allure. Her few times seeing him were from a distance: the theater, the races, at a public assembly. She knew him by sight, but he didn’t know her, and they’d never met. And in those instances her vision had been good enough to recognize that he was a fine specimen, well-formed, handsome—everything a rich and notorious nobleman should be.
About the Author
EVA LEIGH is the pen name of a RITA® Award-nominated romance author who writes novels chock-full of smart women and sexy men. She enjoys baking, Tweeting about boots, and listening to music from the ‘80s. Eva and her husband live in Central California.
Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a print copy of Forever Your Earl, and a $25 e-gift card to the book retailer of your choice!