Friday, November 11, 2016
Review: Lara Blunte’s THE LAST EARL – Unusual and, at times, Traumatic Victorian Romance
This was my first by this author and I have to say it took me some time to get used to her style of writing. For much of the first half of the book, she “tells” the story through the omniscient point of view and then dashes in and out of the various characters’ minds. That and her free use of reflexive pronouns had me wondering just whose perspective I was being given. But I pressed on.
The story begins in 1856 as Lady Catherine Lytton returns from Paris to meet her distant cousin, Adrian Stowe, “the last” Earl of Halford. At the beginning, the author gave us so much backstory and so much family history with a plethora of names thrown in I had no idea who all these people were. It turns out that one night in the past, Adrian’s family was murdered by a former servant who then slit his wrists. Adrian discovered the bodies and, the next day, disappeared. Now, years later, he’s returned, a hero of the Crimean war.
Catherine throws herself, quite literally, at Adrian and becomes his lover. To me, she seemed spoiled, self-indulgent and a bit too aware of her beauty. Adrian takes what she offers and tells her he cannot marry her. (Why is not clear since when she becomes pregnant he offers to do just that.) Meanwhile, though this is the Victorian era and she is a young, unmarried woman of high birth, she frequently escapes her mother and those who are charged with her care to tryst with Adrian. And that is pretty much the first half of the book.
When Adrian leaves for Constantinople, hunting the man he thinks murdered his family—a man who is not, in fact, dead—Catherine follows. And the story picks up. Lots of action at this point contributes to an exciting second half although there are a few brutal moments that I will not describe. The writing is quite good at this point and you begin to see that these two people really do love each other.
The ending is exciting and rewarding.