Review: Last Night With the Earl by Kelly Bowen

Reviewed by Jen

The more I read from Kelly Bowen, the more I am convinced that her work is right in my lane. This second installment in Devils of Dover series features familiar characters from A Duke in the Night (which I loved!) but this holds up fine as a standalone. Honestly, I expected this installment to be the pinnacle for me. After all, it features a scarred hero, which is usually my catnip. And I did like it. There were just a couple of issues that kept if from being my all-time favorite from this author.

Eli Dawes, the Earl of Rivers, has been missing and assumed dead for years. Badly injured at Waterloo, he was ready to leave his old life behind and hide the disfigurement he endured from an artillery blast. But when solicitors tracked him down at a farm in Belgium after his father’s death, his regret and sense of duty finally drove him home to accept his title. Imagine his surprise to arrive to his family’s country estate to find it rented out to the Haywood family and their school for young ladies.

If you read book one in the series, you’ll remember this is no ordinary finishing school. Clara and Rose Haywood select only special young women with talents often deemed unsuitable for the fairer sex. Medicine, business, serious art. And no one is more serious about art than Rose, herself. Not only does she teach the classes, but she earns a good living creating boudoir paintings, designed often to show the beauty in her subjects. The art pieces–and even the school itself–are about finding valuable outside of traditional model. And it’s just one of the reasons she can so easily see beyond Eli’s scars. It’s a lot harder for Eli, himself, to do the same.

Our hero has been in love with Rose since before the war. Unfortunately, she was engaged to his best friend, Anthony. So rather than break the bro-code, he immersed himself in debauchery with nameless, faceless, other women. He shared a deep friendship with Rose, but nothing else. Now Anthony is dead, and even worse, it turns out the guy never really loved Rose in the first place. So there is nothing holding him back. Nothing but his slow road to rediscovering his worth and some big secret that Rose isn’t sharing.

There were elements I liked about both characters. I appreciated the horror that Eli endured and why he waited so long to go home. I loved that he saw the value in Rose from the very beginning and that he respected her engagement with his friend enough not to interfere. As for Rose, it was awesome that she could see the beauty in what made each person unique and that she made it a mission to help them see the value in themselves. I liked that she was educated and lived by her own choices.

What kept me from loving this book 100%? I felt like Eli’s disfigurement was overlooked a bit too easily. Yes, I know seeing past it was part of who Rose is, but I would have liked a bit more teeth gnashing and angst from Eli about it. There was a little, but not to the degree I would expect with the magnitude of his injury. I’ve seen more drama from a character over a rakish scar. And Rose? You remember how I said she had a big secret? It was decidedly underwhelming. There was a lot of build before the reveal, and then when we “learn” her issue, I felt like it was something we already knew.

I liked revisiting the school and the key players from the last book and how some of the elements ended up folding together. And though the ending was nothing I didn’t expect, it did give me the HEA I needed.

I’m still holding out for a King book, though. He is a highlight in just about every story.

Rating: B

There is also a bonus story at the end. I always appreciate content, but extras in an ebook always mean the real ending of the main story takes me by surprise. (In my Kindle: 71%.)

“Respect for Christmas” by Grace Burrowes tells the story of a renowned courtesan who is trying to put that life behind her. She encounters a baron who treats her like a person and she allows herself to fall in love for the first time in years. The only problem? He is trying to steal something from her. Yes, he makes amends, but I couldn’t invest in this romance knowing the whole time he was going to break her heart. This short was not my cup of tea.

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

Last Night With the Earl
by Kelly Bowen
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Publisher: Forever

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