The Formidable Earl by Sophie Barnes
This is book 6 in the series; I’ve read a couple of the others and could follow along reasonably well what was happening here. You may have to take some things at face value if you don’t want to go back and re-read the previous books.
Ida Strong’s father died a traitor. She’s hiding in her aunt’s brothel until she inherits the money set aside for her, on her twenty-first birthday, at which point she will… do something that’s never actually explained. She doesn’t seem to have a plan. Any plan she did have would have been derailed the moment she was recognised by Simon, the Earl of Fielding, and her identity promptly spread over all of London.
I can’t begin to express my utter distaste for Simon, but perhaps you’ll begin to share it when I tell you that when Ida protested him ordering her to hide away in his spare townhouse, he threatened to have her locked up in Bedlam.
Yes. The infamous insane asylum.
Instead of maybe suggesting he could post guards on the doors or servants inside the house to watch over her and protect her from those who want her silenced, he threatened to send her to Bedlam. This is straight-up a villain move. It’s horrifying.
I came VERY close to a DNF right there, but I prefer not to critique a book without complete knowledge of it, so I read on, thinking that it had better be a particularly epic grovel.
Reader. There was *NO* grovel. NONE.
Ida tells Simon after the Bedlam threat that he’s the most awful man she’s ever met (you got that right, sister) and then… just… forgets about it. He does a bunch of other rotten things, including literally saying to her face that he can’t marry her because of her reputation when it is ENTIRELY his fault that her reputation was ruined IN THE FIRST PLACE. Something he never even acknowledged.
Ida was brave and gutsy and apparently, utterly unable to remember Simon’s awfulness for more than five minutes at a time. I’ve never met a woman this bad at holding a grudge. There were moments when I was cheering for her, like when she stood her ground and refused to be Simon’s mistress because she firmly believed she and her future children deserved better. And then the story would switch to Simon’s POV again and I wanted to throw the book out of the window because he was such a spineless, craven worm. He let her languish in prison because he was too cowardly to put enough pressure on his uncle to make the man cave in and retract a false accusation, and because of it, she nearly ended up transported. As a romance hero, he failed in just about every possible way, and consequently, I’m afraid this is getting a one star from me.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.