Forever Your Earl, the first in the Wicked Quills of London series, is a delightful Regency romance from Eva Leigh, who also writes science fiction, steampunk and fantasy romance under the name Zoë Archer. Forever Your Earl has a classic Regency premise—a woman from the working class falls in love with an Earl—but Leigh shakes up the formula by giving us a heroine in her 30s who is financially independent and experienced in the ways of the world. The book is filled with an abundance of witty banter and dry humor, along with high emotional and sexual chemistry between the two leads, who are on equal footing despite their class differences.
Eleanor Hawke owns and runs a printing press that publishes a scandal sheet called The Hawk's Eye, which reports on the secret lives of London’s elite. Daniel Balfour, the infamous Lord Ashford—one of Hawke’s most gabbed about subjects—invites Eleanor to shadow him on some of his more rakish adventures for reasons of his own. In order to pull this off, Eleanor must dress as a man (and on one occasion, like a woman of "questionable reputation"). Through Hawke’s journalistic endeavors, readers are treated to a glimpse of life at a Regency-era chophouse, a masquerade ball, Vauxhall Gardens, a gambling hell and many more fascinating London locales. Daniel is under pressure to marry a noblewoman and produce an heir, but he finds the headstrong Eleanor quite intriguing. However, even as the pair is drawn closer together, Daniel is desperate to keep one important secret from the very disarming Eleanor.
This book has two standout pleasures. First, for Regency fans, Eleanor’s guided tour through a rake's life is great fun, and second, the sharp, funny—but often heartfelt—banter between the characters is a delight. These two characters start off on a footing of mutual interest that rapidly becomes mutual respect. Both Eleanor and Ashford are clear communicators, and although they both have secrets, they avoid easily preventable understandings. Theirs is an adult romance in the sense that the sex is explicit and hot, and it's adult in the sense that the characters are flawed but emotionally mature. Forever Your Earl is a light read with enough emotional substance to keep the stakes high.
Read Eva Leigh's guest post about Forever Your Earl.
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