Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review - - Good Earl Gone Bad

Good Earl Gone Bad
By Manda Collins
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: October 6, 2015


Lady Hermione Upperton is elated to have reached her goal of membership in the Lords of Anarchy Driving Club, the first woman elected to the notorious group, but what was to have been her moment of triumph is turned into humiliation. In Hyde Park, shortly before Hermione is to drive in her first procession as a club member, the matched grays she purchased with her own money are claimed by Lord Saintcrow, who won them the previous evening from Hermione’s father, a compulsive--and unlucky--gambler. 

Fortunately, Hermione’s friends possess the loyalty and affection that her father lacks. Later, Leonora, now happily married to Lord Frederick Lisle, and Ophelia Dauntry accompany Hermione to the home of Saintcrow, all three disguised as ladies in heavy mourning, hoping to persuade Saintcrow that the horses were not the Earl of Upperton’s to wager. But Saintcrow is quite literally deaf to any reasoning; he is lying dead on the floor of the library.

Japer Fawley, Earl of Mainwaring, although less foolish and without Lord Upperton’s obsessive need, is almost as fond of gambling as the older man is. The evening before Hermione and her friends visited the Saintcrow home, Mainwaring, concerned about how far Upperton would go when he was prey to gambler’s fever, manipulated Hermione’s father into a card game in which Upperton staked his daughter’s hand. When Mainwaring calls on Hermione, expecting her father to have seen to it that the lady was home in readiness for a proposal, he learns about her visit to Saintcrow and goes in search of her. Even so intrepid a heroine as Hermione is pleased to see him after the shock of finding a dead body.

Mainwaring speeds the women on their way, and after removing evidence of Hermione’s presence, reports the death to the magistrate. He believes that Saintcrow’s murder is connected to the horse theft ring he is investigating for the Home Office, but his most immediate concern is Hermione’s reaction to their upcoming nuptials. Initially antagonistic, Hermione eventually accepts the necessity of the marriage and even concedes that Mainwaring’s household will be preferable to her father’s. Also, she cannot deny the power of Mainwaring’s kisses nor the real bond of friendship that has developed between them. But family fireworks and external danger must be dealt with before this earl and his countess can find their HEA.

I said when I read A Good Rake is Hard to Find, the first book in the Lords of Anarchy trilogy, that I thought it was Manda Collins’s best book yet, but I think that this one is even better. My heart belongs to Freddy, but Hermione and Jasper are more complex, layered characters. Intelligent, independent, and unconventional, Hermione is also flawed and vulnerable. She is stubborn and at times persistent to a fault. Her feelings for her father are a complicated mix of anger, resentment, disappointment, hurt, love, and understanding. She sees his weaknesses clearly, but she remembers the man he was before her mother’s death. I particularly appreciated that Hermione is not a feisty contemporary heroine in historical dress. She is a woman of her time, frustrated by the limits society imposes on her as a woman, using her considerable gifts to challenge those limits, and refusing to be cowed by a father’s betrayal, a lover’s demands, or a reluctant dowager’s harsh words. I adored her.

Despite Mainwaring’s rationale that “he was very likely saving Hermione from marriage to any one of the other men who sat at other tables . . ., their eyes bloodshot, concentration on the cards they held before them,” I had difficulty moving past his gambling for Hermione. He proposes the stake, and he loses himself, albeit briefly, in the gambler’s moment. But I did love the Benedick/Beatrice tones in the exchanges between him and Hermione, and he does show that he values Hermione for who she truly is. And I admit this passage left me sighing:

          Unable to look away, he stepped into her, liking the way she held her own with him. “The         truth is, I was afraid he’d lose you to someone else,” he admitted. “And I couldn’t have endured knowing you belonged to anyone else.”

Collins always does an excellent job of balancing mystery and romance in her books, and this one is no exception. Body count is low, but the nefarious ways of the hydra-headed Lords of Anarchy continue.  (I wonder if I am alone in seeing a nod to Mary Stewart in some details of the horse theft ring.) The Lords of Anarchy trilogy is a winner, and I highly recommend both this book and the previous one to readers who enjoy romantic suspense in historical romance.

The conclusion to the trilogy, Good Dukes Wear Black, will be available April 5, 2016. I am eager to see Ophelia Dauntry throw off her caution and to learn more about the somewhat enigmatic Duke of Trent.



  1. I need to start this series - sounds wonderful.

  2. Love Manda's books. I've put this on my "wish list".

  3. I just finished reading Good Earl Gone Bad and couldn't put it down until I finished reading it! I love all of Manda's stories and this one is now one of my favorites!