One Good Earl Deserves a Lover:
The Second Rule of Scoundrels
The Second Rule of Scoundrels
By Sarah MacLean
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Lady Philippa Marbury, fourth daughter of the Marquess of Needham and Dolby, is not the typical aristocratic miss. A scientist more interested in books and plants than in balls and clothes and on dits, she is brilliant but socially awkward. She is about to be married to Earl of Castleton, a man she accepted because he was good and kind and he liked dogs. He also admired Pippa’s intelligence and was happy to for her to use her knowledge in the running of estate. Also, he had asked her.
Pippa has no illusions about how most people view her odd ways. Curious by nature and always more comfortable when she can act from full knowledge, she is concerned about her ignorance of the physical aspects of marriage. Like any good scientist, she believes that research will give her the answers she needs, but for this particular research, she requires an assistant, one who possesses the knowledge she lacks. Cross, the mysterious part-owner of the infamous Fallen Angel, London’s most notorious gaming hell, who is known as an expert in coitus, is perfect for the position.
Cross knows that despite her deceptively ordinary appearance, Lady Philippa must be mad. Nothing short of insanity could explain why the daughter of one of the most powerful peers in the land would be in his office in the Fallen Angel using words like “ruination” and “coitus” and demanding that he be her “research assistant.” Jaded as he is, Cross is shocked, and only his experience as gambler allows him to hide his reaction. He wants Pippa, a name he thinks fits her uniqueness, far away from his hell—for her sake and for his own. His awareness of her physical presence and the memories she evokes of the world from which he is an exile disturb him more than he’s willing to admit even to himself.
Cross succeeds in sending Pippa home with her ignorance of coitus unchanged, but an unexpected and secretive meeting at Pippa’s betrothal ball intensifies their interest in one another. Cross can’t afford the complication of Pippa. He has a sister to protect and a dangerous blackmailer to thwart. Pippa must stop thinking of Cross. In a matter of days she will be the Countess of Castleton. And yet . . .
The pairing of a bookish heroine and a wounded hero with a rakish history ensured that I would find this book appealing, but it is Pippa who sent the novel soaring to the top of my rating scale. A misfit in spectacles who is not really understood even by those who love her, she is a total delight—remarkably intelligent, unconsciously funny, honest, and authentic. Cross has the perception to appreciate her, to see her beauty, internal and external. I sometimes find it difficult to imagine a hero and heroine really being happy together a decade or more past the final page. I wonder what connection they will find during periods when passion becomes more flicker than flame. I have no such concerns about Pippa and Cross. I believe their intimacy encompasses their minds and spirits as well as their bodies.
One Good Earl Deserves a Lover is a difficult book to categorize. The title suggests a light-hearted romance, and I appreciated the ambiguity of the “one good earl.” In many ways, the story is a romantic comedy. There are some deliciously funny scenes that left me laughing out loud—the initial meet scene in Cross’s office, Pippa and Castleton’s dance at their betrothal ball, Pippa’s interview of Sally Tasser. But there are also scenes of great poignancy and even darkness. The allusions to Milton’s Paradise Lost are sometimes amusing, a few times melodramatic, but in a real sense the owners of the Fallen Angel know hell is more than slang for a gaming house. The mix makes this story more complex and more richly textured than most romantic comedies.
This second book in the series can be read as a standalone since the story of Pippa and Cross is complete within its pages, but readers who enjoyed the first book, A Rogue by Any Other Name, will be pleased to see more of Penelope and Bourne. And Temple and Chase, the other two partners in the Fallen Angel, play large enough roles to leave readers eager for their stories. I’m happy to say that MacLean accomplishes the latter without making these characters seem to be nothing more than sequel bait.
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Sarah MacLean’s books, but this one is my favorite, at least for the moment. I admit that I am eagerly anticipating Temple’s story, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, scheduled for release on August 27, 2013, and I’m even more eager for Chase’s story to see if my suspicions are confirmed. I suppose I have to wait until 2014 for that one.
Bookish heroines (and bookish heroes) are among my favorite characters. Do you share my fondness for such characters? Who are your favorite bookworms in romance?