Joint Review: First Earl I See Tonight

Reviewed by Jen & Sara

Jen: This is my first book by Anna Bennett and though I had a few small issues, I found it an easy, pleasant read that I enjoyed overall.

The heroine, Fiona, is being blackmailed. Apparently, someone knows the truth of her sister’s parentage and will expose the secret unless Fiona pays him off. Before I get too far, I’ll say that my problems began here. I felt like it strained credibility that a wealthy family would raise a baby left on their doorstep and it took way too long to establish the particulars of the family dynamic. A) That they raised this orphan as their own. (I thought maybe she was the father’s bastard at first.) And B) the Mama in the story is actually Fiona’s step-mother and not even the woman who took the sister in.

Anyway, Fiona loves her sister so much that she is determined to pay the blackmailer, but the only way she can do it is by getting married and using part of her marriage portion. So she proposes to David Gray, the Earl of Ravenport. Gray is an impoverished nobleman who showed her kindness once. But he is skeptical about marriage since his betrothed dumped him. The woman took one look at his ramshackle estate and threw him over. He is determined to bring the property back to greatness, though, for the sake of his grandmother.

Gray invites Fiona, her family, and some friends to the property for an impromptu house party. He figures Fiona will get one look at the place and bolt. But she is made of sterner stuff. The more time they spend together, the closer they grow. Still, Gray fights his growing feelings because he is determined he will never fall in love.

This brings me to issue number two. Gray’s reticence stems from a childhood trauma. Yet he was all ready to marry this other chick he thought he might love like five minutes ago. Which is it? Did your issues with your parents destroy you or are you butt-hurt because your last fiancé dumped you? Inconsistent.

Gray and Fiona do end up falling for each other, but the villain intercedes. And that brings me to my last complaint: the villain and his resolution. I thought his identity was inconstant with the way he was portrayed up to the reveal. And the resolution was very weak. Gray threatens him and he goes away? This guy has information that could destroy everyone, but a threat does him in? Convenient and unbelievable.

All these complains may make it sound like I didn’t like the book, but that’s not really the case. I liked Fiona and I enjoyed watching her break down Gray’s walls. I liked how real she felt and her lack of artifice. The romance developed well and this was a couple easy to root for. You just can’t let yourself think too hard about the details.

Sara: Yes! I agree with you 100%.

This was my first book by Anna Bennett too and I also found that while I was fond of the characters and found the romance between Fiona and Gray sweet and endearing, the details and plotting were less than satisfactory.

Much like yourself, I found that the author asked readers to suspend a ridiculous amount of disbelief in regards to Lilly’s upbringing within the Hartley household, the end to the villain’s plan and Grey’s commitment to never love again. In all of these areas, areas that are key to the overall character development and plotting of First Earl I See Tonight , there is either a lack of information, information that doesn’t make sense/ isn’t consistent or resolutions that are too convenient.

I also found that the author wasn’t consistent with the peripheral characters. For the first portion of the book Mrs. Hartley, Fiona’s stepmother, is obsessed with having her step daughters marry well, but is nevertheless a pleasant woman. She is a woman who believes in appearance above all else, but to me, seemed more a product of her culture and time than mean spirited. However after the midway point of the book, Mrs. Hartley is suddenly a lot meaner. She’s mean about Fiona’s mother’s jewelry, she purposely reminds Lilly that her and Fiona do not share a mother and, at the book’s end, lashes out at Fiona regarding her character and her drawing. A similar thing occurs with Fiona’s father. The reader is led to believe that the reason Fiona doesn’t talk to her father about the blackmail scheme is because she worries about his heart. Yet, when Grey first meets with Mr. Hartley, he’s described as appearing, “strong enough to hold his own in any pub brawl.” The character’s just don’t seem to match up.

I also didn’t understand that reintroduction of Gray’s ex fiancee, Lady Helena. Near the end of the book, Lady Helena shows up, assumes that Gray wants to reconcile and makes a large and humiliating spectacle of herself and Gray. Thing is, there didn’t seem to be any reason for this extra drama. It wasn’t necessary and didn’t really add anything to the story and it didn’t really make any sense in relation to the plot either. It was just another inconsistent choice in a series of inconsistent choices made by the author.

I didn’t hate First Earl I See Tonight. Like I mentioned, the two main characters, Fiona and Gray, were great and the overall idea of the story was interesting. Unfortunately, the inconsistent characters and problematic plot choices kind of ruined this book for me.

Sara’s Rating: C-
Jen’s Rating: C

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

First Earl I See Tonight
by Anna Bennett
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks

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