Captivating the Cynical Earl by Catherine Tinley
Jack Beresford, the Earl of Hawkenden, is an enigma. Abandoned and ill treated as a child he has had to work hard to save his family’s fortunes since his abusive father’s death. The only other person he has had to confide in and share the burden with is his younger brother Tom. For years they have presented a united front to the world, now Tom has announced that he has contracted a speedy marriage to an unknown young woman. Jack is appalled, thinking the worst of a woman who has ensnared Tom, and when he believes that he sees her at an evening party, he waits until she is alone. Lady Cecily Thornhill is taken aback by his verbal attack, especially as she is not completely sure of the wisdom of her best friend Nell’s hasty marriage. Jack’s mistake preys on her mind as well as his when he realises that he has confronted the wrong woman. A small and unintentional house party forces all sorts of situations, realisations and revelations.
This lively and well handled romantic novel set in the early Regency period contains some memorable characters. Drama and dialogue dominate this narrative of mutual misunderstandings. Jack is a character who is reluctant to express his true feelings; his tendency to overthink the motives of others leads him into lots of trouble. This is a carefully written and memorable novel of slow burning romance, which is special given that some of the characters almost believe that love has little place in marriage. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this novel.
The book opens in March 1819 with Tom announcing to his elder brother Jack that he has recently got married. Jack is shocked and feels betrayed that in this most important decision Tom has not consulted him, not even told him. Meanwhile Cecily is worrying about her widowed mother’s financial state; while her guardian is sensible and generous, Lady Fanny Thornhill, Dowager Countess of Kingswood is light minded, extravagant and has had many affairs. Her ambitions for her only daughter mean that she is in London before the season properly begins, spending money they do not really have. Cecily is an attractive young woman who has a sense of responsibility as well as an interest in business affairs. When she encounters Jack she is definitely attracted to him, which makes his anger towards her feel even worse. Tom invites his new wife and her best friend Cecily to the hunting box, or relatively small house, Hazledene. Nell can now chaperon the unmarried Cecily, and it seems a good opportunity to assess their relationship. It is only when the stubborn Jack turns up with two friends that they realise that this will be an oppressively small place in which to stay, especially as it is filled with childhood memories for Jack. He is also fighting a strong attraction to Cecily, which conflicts directly with his intention to marry a woman simply to have an heir. As time passes and local people get involved, the stress of proximity creates more drama and crisis within the complex relationships in the house.
This is a romance novel which brings up certain points about assumptions of men and women in relationships of the time. The setting, of a house in the country, is well drawn, so that the reader can visualise the place. I enjoyed reading this book with its well drawn characters, especially Cecily and Jack, with satisfying developments. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an uplifting historical romantic read.