Unmasking The Earl by Elizabeth Keysian
I LOVED the heroine of this book. Cassie was full of sass and bravery, occasionally reckless but never stupid. Yes, her decision to ask a notorious rake to teach her how to seduce a man might seem a little on the dimwitted side, but she really is desperate.
Cassie is in love with her childhood friend Julian, who unfortunately views her as his aggravating little sister. Desperate to get his attention, she is willing to try any means necessary.
I started the book thinking 'yeah, yeah, I've read this one before... she winds up falling for the rake and reforming him' and then the book threw a complete curve ball, because that's not what happens AT ALL. Said rake's manservant Ned Ganstridge appears bound and determined to stop Cassie from getting herself into a scrape she can't get out of, and really, he is awfully bossy for a servant... as well as far too handsome for his own good.
Of course, Ned turns out to be the titular Earl, masquerading as a servant to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his sister. Cassie is a distraction he doesn't need, but he can't just leave her to ruination. For her own good, he has to help her out. Falling for her really wasn't part of his plan.
I really enjoyed Unmasking The Earl. Ned can be autocratic, but the worst of his excesses are actually understandable when you bear in mind his anxiety about his sister, and Cassie didn't just meekly sit back and take his orders. One of my favourite scenes was when Ned desperately needed her help and Cassie quite firmly laid down the law and told him that she'd leave him in the mess of his own making if he didn't behave himself. I just about applauded.
However, the book did fall into a trap I particularly hate in historicals; when the supposedly 'honourable' hero takes the innocent heroine's virginity before proposing marriage, and then fails to immediately do so. That is not honourable. It doesn't fit the definition, and it made Ned look like a massive hypocrite. Because of that, I can't give the book any more than four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.