Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: An Angel for the Earl by Barbara Metzger (3 stars, traditional)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
Damned external conflicts. Why do writers feel the need to make their books so excessively dramatic at times? I thoroughly enjoyed most of An Angel for the Earl, the latest traditional regency I've tried by Barbara Metzger, with one very notable exception. The book as a whole is truly hilarious, in a clever and rather witty sort of way instead of being merely farcical (as some of Metzger's other works have been). More than that though, the relationship that develops between the hero and heroine was surprisingly touching and definitely enjoyable.

The story is pretty much what it promises to be. The heroine is a country miss, who has been very suppressed by her unloving parents. She starts to elope with a rake, rather than be forced to marry an old man, but when she realizes how cruel of a person her husband-to-be is she fights to get away (the rake's real plan was to hold her for a ransom). During their struggles, the heroine accidentally causes the rake's death. Then, on her way back home she falls from a horse and lands in a coma. The reader finds out secondhand, but apparently the women who decides who goes to heaven and hell are undecided about where the heroine deserves to go (I think the death of the rake as well as the heroine's sin of disobeying her parents are mentioned). Their ultimatum is that if the heroine's spirit can convince the hero to repent being a wastrel before her body dies, both of them will end up going to heaven. It's great fun to watch the hero and heroine interact, with the hero becoming helplessly wrapped around the heroine's ghostly finger as they undergo adventures and the heroine stubbornly brings out the hero's good heart. The hero learns what it really means to be a "gentleman" as he rescues animals, waifs, and trades out gambling for fixing his estate. Even the resolution was more than satisfactory. The real problem, for me at least, lay in one of the last conflicts in the story. The hero has frequently money problems (for one thing, the estate he inherited has many debts). Since neither the hero nor the heroine expect the heroine to come out alive, the hero reluctantly decides to marry a heiress and goes as far as arranging the marriage with the heiress's father, internally devastating both the hero and heroine. And it's such a stupid plot device, used to extend the story and add considerable tension when it isn't needed. It would not have made a big difference financially if the hero waited a month or two to find a heiress after the heroine died, and I don't know why he wouldn't have gone to the heroine's body right away to see if there was anything he could do. Obviously things end up working out, but the conflict really pissed me off.

So that's An Angel for the Earl in a nutshell. For the most part, a hilarious and lighthearted romance between a rake and an almost ghost. At the same time, though, it is one of the few books that managed to frustrate me to the point of throwing my kindle against a couch. Despite all the positive aspects, it's a book I ultimately can't recommend and certainly won't ever read again.

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