Monday, March 28, 2011
Monday Review Contest: Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon
It's Monday again, which means sometime today, if you work in an office, you'll drag yourself into the building, find your desk, have a cup of lukewarm coffee, curse the fluorescent lights, and spend the hours from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. reading email and goofing on the Internet before buckling down and working a solid half hour before lunch.
It's also Monday Review Contest time here at A Romance of the Body, and that means I get to go out and have a facial, a 90-minute massage, a mani pedi and a date with my real husband, Colin.
Ah, a girl can dream, right? Escape is one of the many reasons readers enjoy romance novels, and over the weekend I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rose Gordon's historical romance novel, Intentions of the Earl. Set in 1812, the story revolves around Brooklyn Banks, a young woman from the United States who travels to England and meets Andrew Black. As a Regency-period novel, this book involves, of course, the traditional arc: boy meets girl, boy works to seduce girl, girl tries to preserve her honor, magic gnomes enter the story and create conflict, boy is an 19th-century nobleman with the sensitive emotional and sexual development of an enlightened 21st-century man, and in the end, the gnomes make everything better.
OK, that's not quite the plot.
In fact, Gordon has written a lush novel, one that puts the reader squarely in the frame as Andrew Black rises to a challenge (literally, when he's aroused by Brooke): to earn back his earldom's prized estate after losing it to debt, he must seduce - and disgrace - the daughter of John Banks for reasons not revealed to Andrew until the end of the novel.
Most of the book involves Brooke's proto-feminist sensibilities and Andrew's internal struggles as he attempts to be a rake and fails, falling in love with her. Benjamin Gateway serves as the antagonist and the issuer of this challenge, with the goal to force the Banks family to return to the former colonies with tails tucked between their legs. The twist at the end that explains the relationship between Andrew and his challenger is a doozy, as are a few other plot twists, but all are believable.
While the plot is interesting, it's Gordon's writing that makes the book that much stronger. The sexual allusions and tension aren't just described - they are felt. Gordon's writing draws the reader into the minds and bodies of Andrew and Brooke, not simply describing but also explaining the emotional impact of each movement. While "show, don't tell" has been beaten into the minds of all good little creative writing students from 8th grade through MFA programs, Gordon demonstrates that a strong writer can "tell" - and make the scenes all the better for it.
From a design angle, Intentions of the Earl has one of the most attractive and interesting book cover designs I've seen on a Regency-era romance novel. It's a bit incongruous, as the lighting makes the image seem very modern, yet at the same time it's not your typical "bodice ripping" cover. To be frank, the cover caught my eye and led to my purchasing the $2.99 eBook; while you can't judge a book by its cover, in this case the contents delivered far more than even the gorgeous design.
These characters have lingered with me all weekend, and this is a book I'll read again and again as its understated elegance beckons. This is as much a character-driven historical novel as it is historical romance, and Gordon has written one of the best Regency-era books I've ever read. I look forward to reading more of Rose Gordon's work.
Enter to win a free Kindle copy of Intentions of the Earl - all you have to do is leave a comment on this post!
That's it! One winner will be randomly chosen to receive a copy of the book - I'll use the Kindle book gift program to do it, so make sure you either have a Kindle or that you've downloaded the Kindle free app to read books on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android or Blackberry.
Good luck! Winner will be announced here on Friday, April 1.