The Untamed Earl by Valerie Bowman
Series: The Playful Brides, #5
Released: May 3, 2016
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Reviewed by Sheena
I am fairly certain there are not any words to accurately and sufficiently express just how much I adore this series. I have been locked into the Playful Brides series since the absolutely remarkable first novel, The Unexpected Duchess, and I am thrilled to say that the series has not lost an ounce of its fresh, flirty and fun dynamic that keeps me coming back for more. The heroines are witty and altogether adorable. The heroes are not always the typical historical rake, they have depth and character and are beyond indulgent. This was never more so the case than this fifth installment where Lady Alexandra and Earl Owen are so much more than meets the eye.
Lady Alexandra Hobbs, the daughter of the Duke of Huntley, has intended to marry Lord Owen Monroe since she first glimpsed him from the window of her bedchamber, back when she was just a girl. But the duke has already chosen Alex’s infamously spoiled elder sister, Lavinia, for Owen. And now there’s no turning back.
Owen has spent most of his bachelor years drinking, gambling, and skirt-chasing. He won’t see another pound from his parents, however, until he’s engaged to Lavinia. Desperate, he accepts an offer from her innocent and spirited—and absolutely beautiful—sister Alex: She will
turn him into a perfectly tamed suitor, and show him how to woo the shrew. But when Alex’s true motives come to light, will their bargain lead to recriminations—or to a romance that defies everyone’s expectations?
As my pulse rate returned to normal and my excitement abated, I settled in to read The Untamed Earl because obviously there was no putting this down! Alex is an underestimated and un-favored sister who falls decisively in love at fifteen when she sees the man she knows she wants to marry. Right away we learn that Alex is a young woman who knows her own mind and worth. Despite being compared to and marginalized when it comes to her spoiled and perfect-on-paper sister, Alex, in her quiet way plays her game of chess to win the man she loves…only…boy has he changed!
Owen is hilarious. I am used to the female quick tongue and snark, but Owen serves it up on par with the best of them. Many of my favorite parts were his “are you kidding me” commentary. An utter playboy, he finds himself in a bind when an edit from his parents threatens to leave him a penniless pauper. Simple, end his debauchery and immediately evolve into an upstanding gentleman (marry and become a family man)- or he is effectively cut off from the family fortune. And they have the perfect Lady to see him wed – Alex’s sister!
Poor Alex, she has to witness her beautiful, bratty sister marry her Earl. No way in hell is Alex standing for that! So then the real games begin, an emotionally dangerous game of bait and switch where she plays the reluctant matchmaker between her love and her sister- and she can only pray that they do not actually fall in love. I’ve read this trope before, and it is usually sweet and funny and minimally dramatic because there is a comfort level for the reader, WE know that the faux couple will not fall in love, but the characters are all angsty. Well this is not your mother’s romance people! I was on the edge of my seat. It wasn’t obviously clear that Alex’s sister, Lavinia and Owen would not fall in love. I mean yes, duh I fully expected my HEA, but the journey did not read like a forgone conclusion or sure thing. I love author, Valerie Bowman for this! Sure, it’s historical fiction but she never plays it safe. She has a knack for making familiar troupe translate as fresh and original.
I am uber close to declaring The Untamed Earl as my favorite in the series thus far. Everything clicked, the humor, the romance (sexy!) and the plot always seemed to be moving along, inciting more and more interest along the way. There are no distracting superfluous subplots that get in the way. Just a sexy, funny story that knocked it out of the park. What happens More detail But Sheena do they— silence! I’m already planning my re-read.
Heh. The Untamed Earl is a delight. Pure and simple and I encourage any fan of historical fiction to give it a try. These novels all stand alone, though pervious characters make fitting and nostalgic cameos for the Playful Brides series vets.