Apr 25 2014 1:00pm

First Look: Lily Dalton’s Never Entice an Earl (April 29, 2014)

Never Entice an Earl by Lily DaltonLily Dalton
Never Entice an Earl
Forever / April 29, 2014 / $8.00 print, $7.99 digital

Lady Daphne Bevington would do anything for her maid Kate-including masquerading as Kate and sneaking around the wrong side of London to settle the poor girl's debt. Yet her innocent ruse takes a scandalous turn when “Kate” runs into a handsome gentleman on a secret quest of his own. A moment of passion could cost Daphne her reputation, but how can she ignore the stranger's searing kiss?

Lord Cormack Northmore is determined to find the immoral peer who ruined his sister. So when he learns that the irresistible woman he knows as “Kate” is the Season's most sought-after debutante, Cormack plans to use her connections to help him set a trap. Now, the closer Cormack gets to uncovering the villain who haunts the ton's ballrooms, the more he realizes that the lovely lady is in danger herself. Will he abandon his quest for revenge-or risk losing his one chance at love?

In Lily Dalton's Never Entice an Earl, after six years away, Cormack Northmore is relieved that his family's estate appears much the same. Cormack went to India to make his fortune in the saltpeter industry so he could replace the family money inadvertently lost by his father. One thing that is different at Bellefrost, is that his beloved sister, Laura, is dying, having just given birth. Before she takes her last breath, Laura presses a medallion into Cormack’s hand.

Two years later, in London, Daphne Bevington and her younger sister prepare for their debuts. Daphne, however, has determined not to marry as penance for the guilt she feels over the death of her father. Her family knows of her determination, but not the reason for it. During the preparations, Daphne’s maid and close friend, Kate, relates the story of her family’s financial difficulties to Daphne, including the fact that the man who owns the note on her father’s loan for his store has decided to call it in. With her parents unable to come up with the large sum so much earlier than they were originally told, Kate has agreed (unbeknownst to her family), to work off some of the money by performing another task—taking part in a tableau at a men’s club. When Kate becomes ill from tainted sausage, the only solution that Daphne can come up with results in her sneaking out and going in Kate’s place.

Upon her arrival at the address she sneaked out of Kate’s bag, Daphne discovers that the “extra job” Kate unwittingly agreed to involves a very skimpy costume and dancing on a stage—in a very seedy, questionable location, the Blue Swan. Thankfully she and the others have masks on, considering Daphne spots someone she knows in the audience—one of the would-be suitors she and her sister have been dealing with.

Also in attendance at the Blue Swan—Cormack, on the trail of the man who wronged his sister. The medallion that Laura gave to Cormack represents a shady secret group called the Invisibilis, which apparently had one of their “meetings” near where Laura lived at the time she became pregnant. Vowing to avenge the wrong done to his sister, Cormack ends up at the club after learning that members of the group often frequent it. While there, he notices a young woman (Daphne) on stage who seems very much out of place, and when one of the audience member grabs her, Cormack comes to her defense.

Shortly after his act of chivalry, the club gets raided by constables, sending everyone running out the doors. When Daphne loses the coach she had paid to wait for her, the assailant from earlier pulls her into alley. Luckily, Cormack sees this newest attack, and rushes to Daphne’s aid. In an effort to conceal her identity, in spite of finding her rescuer very intriguing, Daphne tells Cormack her name is Kate. Though he learns her true name and station soon enough, Cormack’s mission of vengeance and Daphne’s vow to remain unmarried provide a bumpy path for the two as they try to deny their attraction.

Both Daphne and Cormack are portrayed as individuals with social consciences. Daphne considers her maid, Kate, her best friend, in spite of their social class distinctions, and often questions the plight of those below her on the social ladder. But Daphne finds herself falling into the trap of considering Cormack’s occupation as a merchant as a detriment and impediment to considering him as a suitor.

Cormack, on the other hand, seems to have a tighter grasp on his ideas regarding social class, which makes sense considering the number of years he spent overseas in a culture much different from his own. When offered the opportunity of “something extra” from the maid providing his bath water, Cormack declines.

Jackson often called him a prude, but he’d never been one to avail himself of such a la carte services. While he could be just as randy as any other hot-blooded man, he preferred his liaisons to be of a certain quality, with women of passion, motivated by mutual attraction rather than monetary need. If such opportunities came less frequently, so be it. He found them infinitely more satisfying than those requiring an obligatory coin and the further exploitation of a girl in unfortunate circumstances. She could tidy the room, or shine his boots, and he’d compensate her just as generously and hold his conscience clear.

Never Entice an Earl is a fun, enjoyable, fast-paced and entertaining read that all historical romance fans should enjoy, and gains extra points for a nice surprise at the end.

Learn more or pre-order a copy of Never Entice an Earl by Lily Dalton, out April 29, 2014:

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A reviewer and editor at Bitten by Books since 2008, Carol also serves as the Director of the Urban Fantasy track at Dragon Con, and in 2013 co-authored The Jane Yellowrock World Companion with Faith Hunter. When not reading, reviewing, or working at conventions, Carol spends as much time as possible with her three amazing grandsons.

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