A.S. Fenichel’s upcoming release, The Earl Not Taken, takes enemies-to-lovers on a back in time to the Victorian Era. Coming out on March 17th, 2020, this novel shows how sometimes first impressions don't give away the whole picture.
Finishing school failed to make a proper lady of Penelope Arrington. But as a Wallflower of West Lane, Poppy has a far more vital role—she and her three best friends have made a pact to protect each other from the clutches of dangerous, disreputable men. So when one of them is about to be married off to a duke sight unseen, Poppy makes it her mission to divine the prospective husband’s true character. If only she didn’t require the aid of London’s most unsuitable rake. Rhys Draper, Earl of Marsden, has known the headstrong Poppy since she was a young girl naïve to the ways of men. To her eternal chagrin—and to his vague amusement—they have been at odds over the memory of their embarrassing first encounter all these years. Now, with his services in need, Rhys sees a chance to finally clear the air between them. Instead, he is surprised by the heat of their feelings. If the two do not tread carefully, they may end up in a most agreeably compromising position...
This novel reminded me of a steamier Jane Austen novel! So if that’s something you are interested in, then this book might be the one for you! While I thoroughly enjoyed the friendship of the Wallflowers of West Lane and wished I could’ve heard more about their past adventures at school together, I did find some of the plot to be a bit predictable.
The protagonist, Poppy, is a headstrong woman who is not easily convinced that a man can truly love a woman. However, Rhys’s attempts to woo her and convince her otherwise are sweet to see. Poppy’s opinions and past experiences make her more than just a swooning damsel in distress. While she knows what she wants and has some agency, she still feels oppressed by the societal standards of the time. Rhys, as well, is naive to Poppy’s feelings in the beginning because he has never been taught to think differently. It is only through their love for one another that they begin to see the other gender’s perspective and attempt to change their own preconceived notions about love and marriage.
The only thing about this novel that bothered me a bit was how Poppy didn’t seem to mature very fast. For a good portion of the novel, she is pretty stubborn in her views on men and even though Rhys continually shows her that he cares about her, she becomes annoyed at the suggestion that he might love her and want to marry her. While I appreciated Poppy having her own opinions, there’s a fine line between holding to your beliefs and just ignoring what’s right in front of you.
Overall, The Earl Not Taken is a pleasant and quick read and fans of historical romance will enjoy the vintage courting rituals and Victorian elements scattered throughout this novel. However, if you’re looking for a strong female protagonist who has a bit more common sense, then this may not be the book for you.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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