Content warnings and trigger warnings: Poor family boundaries, some manipulative behavior, having to set boundaries in new ways, discussion of period typical misogyny and sexism, some unhealthy relationship dynamics that are later resolved. Discussions of attractiveness.
I’ve never written a review about a book involving this particular marginalized group and I’m thrilled to do so today because I am desperately in love with ‘An Earl Like You’ by Caroline Linden.
It does something I’ve not seen in a great deal of romance novels: have a plain heroine who does not magically become pretty when she is loved, but rather is appreciated as she is and for who she is as a person. Also, privileged characters who realize they’ve been misjudging her because of those marginalized identities who come to change their minds and love her for who she is.
I apologize for any errors I make in addressing what is commonly known as pretty privilege as this is a new frontier for my work and would be happy to get any suggestions on improvement from others. The main character is also from a different class than the others, but I want to focus on the pretty privilege aspect of the book.
The basic plot is very much based on a trope. Impoverished high society man inherits from his father, finds out that there is no money at all for what is needed and finds himself in the spot of trying to gamble his way to making his sister’s dowry. Though he does his best, its obviously not a success.
Enter a vaguely unscrupulous businessman, who wants to find a loving, worthy husband for his daughter. He buys up all the young man’s father’s debts and gives him an ultimatum: court his daughter, with love and honor, never telling her why and win back all his debts or possibly go to debtor’s prison.
Now, I almost put this book down, because I was so worried it was going to be another one of those “I hate you until like halfway through the book where I realize I love you but now everything’s a mess” books and those always kind of hurt my soul. But this book surprised me.
One, its heroine is distinctly described as plain. Her significant other comes to find her beautiful, but there’s no magical transformation when she is loved. There’s no 90’s rom com makeover. She is just her lovely self. She’s kind, caring, loves animals and wants to do the best for everyone. She’s shy in some ways, but she also is strong and compassionate.
And it charms our hero. He begins to fall for her slowly over time. He agrees to the arrangement with her father, gets a dowry together for his sister and it all looks good.
Except, of course its not. I won’t spoil all the twists and turns for you, because they are truly delightful. But I will say this. I haven’t been so pleased with a book where a wallflower who no one notices turns into someone everyone notices in years. Because its not about how she has to change to be loved. Its how everyone eventually learns to appreciate how amazing she is.
Also, her father does some messed up things in the course of trying to find her happiness. And not only is there a confrontation about the fact, but there are consequences and reconciliation. I love it! Healthy boundaries and families who love each other and make mistakes. Talking about honesty and good communication in relationships. It made me want to shout my love of this to the skies.
The book is charming, the characters are engrossing, I found myself wanting to yell at Hugh, the hero, over and over through the book in the best possible way. I want to read everything by this author now and I highly recommend you pick this one up as well.
5 out of 5 stars and I’m going to keep this one for recommendations to people about healthy relationships in romance. It warmed my heart to the core.
Until next time,
Not just a buzzword
*I received an ARC for an honest review and I plan to keep this one for all my future happy ending reads.