My Brown-Eyed Earl is the first in Anna Bennett’s Wayward Wallflowers series. It takes place in 1817 England, and is the perfect romantic period piece. It’s 333 pages long and it’s a fairly quick and easy read. I would describe it as a Jane Austen Novel, but with a more modern risqué writing style when it comes to the bedroom.
It follows the story of Margaret “Meg” Lacey, a 23 year old “spinster,” and William Ryder, the rich and handsome Earl of Castleton. William is suddenly saddled with the burden of two, six year old twin girls after the accidental death of his cousin. Meg is the oldest of three orphans, who had been taken in by their uncle. Now 23, unmarried, and overwhelmed by her family’s financial burden, Meg interviews to be the Earl’s governess.
To make matters complicated, William and Meg have a history. At the young age of 15, Meg rejected William’s hand in marriage and lost her parents in the same day. Her employment under the Earl is nothing if not awkward. The longer she works for William, the more their awkwardness becomes passion. They meet secretly at night and find that in 8 years after their original falling out, they have a love for each other after all. This is a story of overcoming loss, facing battles with one’s own conscience, and finding love, both old and new.
I really like the way this book is written from both Meg and Will’s perspective. It makes the readers almost an omniscient presence because we know what Will and Meg are thinking, but they are also not ready to confide in each other. Normally when I read romances, one person’s feelings are left a mystery. It’s a nice change to know both sides.
I also really loved Meg and William’s characters. They reminded me a lot of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. There’s something classic about the independent, strong woman who defies society’s rules with her single status, and the dark, brooding, rich nobleman.
Finally, I’m a huge fan of all things that are British or related to England. I read a lot of this out loud to my dog and horses in my attempt at a British accent. The dialogue and writing is perfectly crafted for the time and location.
The only thing that really took me off guard was the amount of sexual encounters in this book. While this is a romance, I wasn’t expecting so much physicality because of the modesty expected from people in the 1800s. However, Will and Meg have lots of physical, sexual encounters as they explore their own sexuality through their connection. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of. I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to tweens or younger teens, but rather something mature people of 21+ would enjoy.
The next book in Anna Bennett’s series hasn’t been released yet, but will be titled I Dared the Duke. I’ll be reading it because it will be impossible for me to go on with life without knowing the fate of Meg and Will’s relationship. Bennett leaves us with a sense that there is a lot more of this story that needs to be told.