Jan 5 2015 3:00pm

First Look: Erin Knightley’s The Earl I Adore (January 6, 2015)

The Earl I Adore by Erin KnightleyErin Knightley
The Earl I Adore (A Prelude to a Kiss)
Signet / January 6, 2015 / $5.99 digital

After receiving word that her sister has eloped, even ever-optimistic Sophie has trouble staying positive. She needs to secure her future before the scandal destroys her prospects, although she doesn’t relish the idea of a hasty marriage. But her longtime crush has just shown up for the summer festival in Bath. He may be the key to avoiding disgrace and getting a happily ever after…if she can bring herself to pursue him.

John “Evan” Fairfax, Earl of Evansleigh, is one of the most popular bachelors in the ton. However, his easygoing ways hide a dark past he’s determined to keep secret. Evan has always kept acquaintances at arm’s length for self-preservation, but there’s something irresistible about Sophie…and her seductive charms may well sway the confirmed bachelor to seize a chance at love.

What do you get when you combine an oboe-playing heroine with a talking problem and a titled hero with a love of Italian opera and a dark secret? You get Erin Knightley’s The Earl I Adore. The second book in her Prelude to a Kiss series, The Earl I Adore is equal parts sweet and dramatic as it follows two extremely kind characters with two extremely screwed-up families. The portrayal of music and its connection to the friends-to-lovers plotline makes the novel sing as beautifully as the Italian arias the hero and heroine fall in love to.

Sophie Wembley is in a pickle. Her family is situated in Bath for the fashionable music festival, she’s in love with a man that she’s barely spoken to, and her sister has just eloped with a man to Gretna Green. With her family near social combustion due to the scandal, Sophie’s mother is convinced that Sophie should secure a marriage before the scandal reaches society. The solution? Find an eligible suitor in Bath and woo him by any means necessary.

Of all the eligible bachelors, Sophie is smitten with John Fairfax, the Earl of Evansleigh. Known as “Evan” to the few people he’s close to in society, he is notoriously removed from society despite being prime for marriage. Evan takes one dance with Sophie at a ball and finds her to be an amicable friend—a perfect friend for his sister Julie, who at 25 is single and causing a ruckus amongst the men of Bath. Julie has no desire to be watched over, but Sophie’s sunny nature allows a genuine friendship to bloom.

Evan’s hopes of friendship don’t deter Sophie. She genuinely likes him, and if friendship is his intention, there’s no harm in Sophie getting closer to him and his sister. The Earl can’t ignore Sophie’s musical talents or the way music allows her to come alive; Evan also can’t ignore his family history, a history just dark enough to avoid marriage. Marrying someone as sweet and talented as Sophie would only hold her back in Evan’s eyes.

Unfortunately for Evan, it’s not easy to avoid falling in love with someone like Sophie. Unfortunately for Sophie, it’s not easy to admit to being in love to someone, especially someone that loves her back.

The Earl I Adore cycles back to music again and again. Sophie’s oboe playing is only the beginning. As the story unfolds, Knightley makes it clear that the book series itself centers around a musical trio of ladies that play unusual instruments—Sophie being the second to find herself falling in love. Bath comes alive in this book as it focuses on the musical festival as well. While not all events pertain to music specifically, the emotional crescendos of the book all coincide expertly with musical events.

Sophie and Evan’s courtship is not so different from these musical themes. Knightley made a bold choice by starting off their relationship as a friendship. Sophie’s crush is extant, but friendship is Evan’s perceived focus for a while. Knightley starts off with the romance as a slow, slightly comedic hum in the background.

As she stepped up, the horses shifted, moving the landau just enough to upset her balance. She gripped his hand tightly as she lurched backward, and he automatically steadied her by placing his other hand at her waist.

At least he intended it to be her waist.

The sexual tension builds as the characters banter with each other and share in their love of music; Sophie’s love is more direct, but Evan’s takes some time to coax out as the narrative progresses. Knightley’s depiction of their playing is one of romance in every sense of the word. It’s emotional and sweeping, a point of clarity between these characters. As a reader, it’s easy to see how Sophie and Evan fall for each other beyond their amicable, kind personalities.

She didn’t just hear the emotion of the music, she felt it and internalized it. He smiled, thinking of her tears of moments ago. Misplaced for that particular song, but endearing nonetheless.

He loved the way she had listened to him, soaking up his translations as dry soil absorbs the rain. “You make me want to learn more Italian,” he murmured, offering her a small private smile.

“You make me want to listen to more opera,” she replied, her dimples creasing her pale cheeks.”

“You make me want to spend more time with you.”

When the friendship comes to that crescendo, when the sexual tension reaches its breaking point, Knightley delivers. She manages to take a very sweet romance that still feels like it takes risks. Sophie may be kind and bubbly, but her talkative nature and her sense of adventure hit some surprising notes towards the end of the romance. Watching her work through Evan’s stubbornness with her genuine nature is delightful.

Despite her horrendously manipulative mother, Evan understands Sophie’s genuine nature is consistent. Sophie’s mother takes many actions that another hero would assume Sophie consented to, actions that aim to snag Evan in a compromising position with Sophie. Evan’s stubbornness becomes beneficial to the romance in these moments. If anything, the troubling scandals that surround the hero and heroine only serve to further clarify that they believe in each other—strengthening both their friendship and their love.

Sophie and Evan’s romance is coupled with the arc of their friendship and their love of music. Knightley’s usage of the characters’ shared passions and complementary personalities is top-notch. In Knightley’s writing, the story’s sweetness and drama harmonize beautifully. The Earl I Adore is a colorful symphony of a romance, one that I can’t wait to revisit again and again.


Learn more about or order a copy of The Earl I Adore by Erin Knightley, available January 6, 2015:

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John is a student, reviewer, and editor with a taste for social justice.  He's queer/LGBTQ and has always loved a good romance novel.  A current student at Ithaca College, he is majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications and trying to pick up a creative writing minor on the side. If you observe him in the wild, you may see him reading—or find him watching reruns of The Golden Girls while sipping his first/second/third cup of coffee for the day.  You can find his reviews on his blog, Dreaming in Books, and listen to his random musings on Twitter @DreamingReviews.

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2. TanyaLK
Can't wait to read this one too. PS- I'm an Ithaca alum (1997)...
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