An Unexpected Earl by Anna Harrington
I haven’t read the first book in the Lords of the Armory series, but I don’t think it mattered particularly. It was easy enough to pick up that the Lords are a bunch of former soldiers who have returned to London after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and started making themselves useful to the government, investigating a shadowy group called Scepter who are definitely Up To No Good - even if the Lords of the Armory can’t quite figure out what.
Investigations lead to Brigadier Brandon Pearce, now the Earl of Sandhurst, running into a lady he is startled to recognise - Miss Amelia Howard. Twelve years earlier, when Amelia was just sixteen, Amelia’s father caught Brandon in her bedroom and he was forced into the army to silence any gossip, Amelia’s hand reserved for whatever lordling her father could catch. Now it seems Amelia is both still unmarried and in some kind of trouble, hanging about in places she shouldn’t be and trying to talk to men she definitely shouldn’t. Pearce can’t help but step in.
Amelia’s troubles are far deeper than she can share, a massive scandal in her past causing her to be utterly dependent on her brother, who shows from the beginning that he’s untrustworthy, leaving himself vulnerable to blackmail. Desperate to maintain her small measure of independence and continue to support the charity for war widows she founded, Amelia will do whatever she can to get her brother out of the hole he’s dug for himself. Even if that means asking Pearce for help.
The chemistry between Amelia and Pearce is off the charts from the beginning, the romance between them very believable. I definitely liked that Pearce didn’t try to sideline Amelia, involving her in solving the problem when she made it clear she needed to be part of it, and it was great that Amelia actually got to be there in the final confrontation with the villain, allowed to vent her feelings and have a say in what justice was meted out. I did see the villain coming (though I won’t spoil it here) because a few things in the story didn’t quite add up for me, but I admit I was shocked by the extent of the fraud which had been perpetrated.
This is a great story, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more books in the series, as while Amelia’s immediate issues were solved, the Armory didn’t get to the bottom of the Scepter mystery yet, so obviously there is more to come. Five stars for a very good historical romance with some intriguing mysteries at the core!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.