Earls Just Want To Have Fun(Covenant Garden Club) by Shana Galen
***This book won’t be released until February 2015, so enjoy the review but may have some spoilers!***
Overview by Amazon:
Marlowe is a pickpocket, a housebreaker-and a better actress than any professional on the stage. She runs with the Covent Garden Cubs, a gang of thieves living in the slums of London’s Seven Dials. It’s a fierce life, and Marlowe has a hard outer shell. But when she’s alone, she allows herself to think of a time before-a dimly remembered life when she was called Elizabeth.
Maxwell, Lord Dane, is intrigued when his brother, a hired investigator, ropes him into his investigation of the fiercely beautiful hellion. He teaches her to navigate the social morass of the ton, but Marlowe will not escape so easily. Instead, Dane is drawn into her dangerous world, where the student becomes the teacher and love is the greatest risk of all.
I didn’t just like this book, I ADORED it! Shana Galen has always written excellent stories with great characters, well researched historical facts and plot lines that leave you breathless.
Marlowe is a pickpocket who knows a life of grime, danger and survival. She has been part of a gang run by the evil Satin since she was a young child. She remembers precious little about her life before she became a thief, but her very existence relies on her cunning and skills. She lives in the Seven Dials neighbourhood, one of the very worst slums in London. The author skillfully describes what hell this area was like – the smells, the filth and the degradation of human life.
Her whole life changes in the midst of a robbery. She is called by the name ‘Elizabeth’ by a mark. It shocks her as she is dressed as a boy and while that isn’t her name, it triggers faint memories of another life. In her world, a throat can be slit over a shilling and this strange man has placed her in danger from her gang. She is curious about what this man has said, but values her life too much to investigate.
The decision is taken from her as she is abducted during a robbery. It may have been the best thing as she has blossomed into a beautiful woman and her gang leader may start to develop plans to move her beyond robbery schemes and into prostitution. She is abducted by Sir Brook and his extremely reluctant brother the Earl of Dane. She fights like a hell cat and her coarseness is funny at times. She has a vocabulary that would make a seasoned sailor blush. I loved how the author took the time to describe how dirty she was, how the smell of her made the men gag and how different she was from their worlds.
As soon as she is abducted, she is dumped into the care of Max, Earl of Dane as his brother runs off to solve a problem at Bow Street. He implores Max to keep Marlowe at their home as he truly believes she is the missing daughter of Lord and Lady Landon. To say that Max is displeased is a drastic understatement. And so the fun and games begin…
Marlowe is coarse and foul. She knows nothing of being a lady or even simple politeness. To a gentleman like Max, she is more than an oddity, rather a creature from another planet. Since Brook has disappeared, Max must deal with her. After forcing her to bathe, he sees a beautiful young woman who stirs his blood even as her table manners repulse him.
The story is so skillfully developed. Her world and experiences are explored as she learns to fit into the world of the wealthy. She experiences many simple things that in most historical romance novels wouldn’t even be a thought. The simple act of having her hair done and wearing proper lady garments are foreign to her and it’s hard not to fall in love with her as she explores this strange new land she is inhabiting. It seems that her skills learned on the street of mimicking and blending in help her begin to approach some low level of suitability, but she is a feisty and spirited woman who longs for the freedom she has had all her life.
Max has become the centre of her world. He introduces her to new food, teaches her manners, keeps her belly full at all time and most importantly he gets to know her. Max has no compassion for the poor and recently defeated a bill in Parliament that would have helped people like Marlowe, yet he can’t help himself from being drawn to her. She doesn’t banter about the weather, she takes delight in the simplest of things and wistfully dreams of learning to read. The two of them spend all their time together and without the guise of lord and lady, they get to know about each other in a very real way.
Max knows that Marlowe is all wrong for him. He is keeping her in his home, much to his mother’s horror and sister’s delight, in the event that she really is the long lost daughter. She doesn’t believe that she is and he doesn’t either, but just like Marlowe is having an adventure in the land of the ton, Max is having an adventure with a woman unlike any other that he has met. As the days go by, his attraction to her reaches fever pitch. He finds her honesty refreshing. He loves to see the wonder in her eyes. He admires her tenacity and cunning at surviving the life she has led.
But danger stalks them. Satin finds out where she is and forces her to steal from the Dane family or he will kill her. We learn that he has beaten her badly before and in that world, lives are as expendable as tissues. Marlowe must decide if she trusts Max to help her outwit Satin and his team as new morals develop and she no longer wishes to rob his family blind or see them hurt.
As they devise and develop a plot to trap Satin, they also further their attachment to each other. Max wants her and although Marlowe is a virgin, she also wants to learn about passion from him. A perfect example of why this book was so enchanting was the cockney language that permeates the story. When they start to explore each other sexually, I almost fell off my chair laughing as Marlowe refers to her breasts as ‘bubbies’. You can take the woman out of Seven Dials, but you can’t change everything. Max has no wish to change most things about her and he definitely wants to see her ‘bubbies’. The passion between the two was special. It’s hard to describe how you feel as a reader when the love scenes make you feel hot all over and yet deeply touched at the poignancy of the emotions of the characters. The sex the two share is sweet at times and sometimes burning hot. Max is eager to instruct his pupil about the ways a man can pleasure a woman. He was gentle and careful, but the feisty nature of Marlowe who experiences everything with her whole heart makes their time together truly some of the best love scenes I have ever read.
Their plan to trap Satin is dangerous and relies on the help of his brother and some of her slum friends. It’s a great story when you are so worried for the characters and emotionally drawn into their battle. I worried like crazy that all would work out. There was some touch and go moments that made this story leap off the page. Marlowe will never be safe or free unless Satin is taken down. It’s remarkable change in Max that he is willing and eager to help her. As he enters her world, the blinders are off his eyes about the lives of the poor and now he is determined to make helping to better their lot in life his personal mission. I love when characters evolve in such a profound way. It wasn’t a quick change in opinion, but rather an accumulated understanding of the deep needs within his own city and something within his power to change. That is what makes Shana Galen such a gifted author. She creates characters that are people you admire and want to spend time with.
Max doesn’t know what he wants from Marlowe. She will never agree to be his mistress and she is not suitable as a countess. It’s a dilemma that he must decide. Marlowe is about to leave his life – either as the daughter of a lord and lady or back to the thieving life she knows. The tension you feel as he makes his decision is so heart wrenching it makes you want to yell at the pages for Max to fight for Marlowe like he’s going to fight for the poor.
Shana Galen writes stories that challenge you as a reader and through all the highs and lows, the endings always somehow have bittersweet moments to balance out the happiness. This story was a wealth of information about the lives of the poor in London. It was so much deeper than taking an ugly duckling and turning her into a swan, it was the compromise and coming together of two people who need each other to be complete.