The Earl of Stanbury’s return to his ancestral home is a less than a happy affair. The horrid old house holds nothing but painful memories, most especially of a father who despised him and the lover he left behind. Con plans to settle his affairs and be quit of the place as quickly as possible. For him, the Continent offers a measure of escape and he has every intention of returning there. He never expected the man he loved more than life itself, Bryan Ellison, would still be working at Harrowcot Hall.
Despite all the hurt and misunderstandings between them, Bryn has never stopped loving Con. The two shared their boyhood together and then their youth. Love came later, but it was deep and abiding. Only Con’s scheming father separated them and now, 13 years later, they finally have a chance to put right all the wrongs of the past. Con must come to terms with the shadows of his past and only then will he be able to accept the love that Bryan still offers.
The Return of the Earl was a thoroughly enjoyable Regency-esque romance between two men who were never meant to be apart. The pacing is excellent and I found myself finishing the book and wishing for more. The author’s voice was inviting and descriptive and she did an excellent job of settling you in a time and place. I think Con’s view of his childhood home is so well summon up with the following:
No, like a malevolent spider, it nestled in a shallow valley in the middle of these landscaped grounds…A vicious, grey animal, tensed and ready to spring on the attack any moment.
We are told right from the start that Con despises Harrowcot Hall and that disgust is palpable. The depth of his feeling is almost painful to read. He’s a good man forced to endure a measure of hell by returning, even if some of that pain is of his own making. His only source of happiness is Bryn, who is solid and stable and patient as Con untangles love from hurt and returns to himself. Their romance is sweet and soft and absolute. You believe in them from the beginning and, even though the problems between them are a series of somewhat overly simple misunderstandings, you can’t wait for them to reconnect. There are some mild typos, only a few that I noticed, and I feel we could have used deeper insight into Con’s years away from the Hall. We’re told that he’s cold and unfeeling, but more information on the years he spent alone would have added to his character.
I found The Return of the Earl to be a gratifying read. The characters are intriguing and the writing is wonderfully descriptive. The romance is engaging and believable. There are a few minor issues, but certainly nothing that would dissuade me from recommending this one. The Return of the Earl is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy afternoon or just when you need some warm and fuzzy romance.