Review – Who’s That Earl by Susanna Craig

About the Book:

Will scandalous secrets stand in the way of a second chance at love?

Miss Jane Quayle excels at invention. How else could the sheltered daughter of an English gentleman create lurid gothic novels so infamous someone wants their author silenced forever? Fortunately, Jane has taken steps to protect herself, first by assuming a pen name, and second, by taking up residence at remote Dunnock Castle, surrounded by rugged scenery that might have been ripped from the pages of one of her books. Her true identity remains a secret, until one dark and stormy night…

After years of spying for the British army, Thomas Sutherland doubts the Highlands will ever feel like home again. Nevertheless, thanks to a quirk of Scottish inheritance law, he’s now the Earl of Magnus, complete with a crumbling castle currently inhabited by a notorious novelist. When the writer turns out to be the woman Thomas once wooed, suspicions rise even as mutual sparks reignite. As danger closes in, can Jane and Thomas overcome their pasts to forge a future together?

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                                                   Who’s That Earl: (Love and Let Spy)

My Review:

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Seven years ago, soldier Thomas Sutherland was stationed in Sussex while awaiting his next assignment.  While there, he became acquainted with Jane Quayle, and though their time together was short, they quickly grew close, and Thomas decided to court her.  On the very day Thomas approached her father, two events happened that separated the couple.  Jane had a disastrous family situation occur, and Thomas was immediately shipped off to Domenica.  Neither of them knew what had happened to the other, so each went on with their lives.  Jane became a successful novelist, under the pseudonym of Robin Ratliff, and moved to a remote Scottish castle in Glasgow, which she leased from the absent earl.  Thomas stayed undercover in the West Indies as a spy for the crown, until his superior informed him that he unexpectedly inherited a title and lands.  Thomas prefers to continue as a soldier, but his spymaster insists that he return to Scotland to fully examine his inheritance before he makes any decisions.

Though Jane has leased Dunnock Castle as Robin Ratliff, she dons yet another masquerade while there, as widowed Mrs. Higgenbotham, assistant to the reclusive author.  This has been her home for five years, and she is quite comfortable here.  Her lease is coming up for renewal shortly, and she knows that there is a new earl, and she hopes that he stays away, just as the previous earl did.  As fate would have it, the new Earl of Magnus is none other than Thomas.  He hopes to inspect his property, hire a dependable steward, and return to his career as a soldier.  In the meantime, he doesn’t wish for those acquaintances who still remember him to know he’s the new earl, so he only uses his given name.  Knowing only the name Higgenbotham, and assuming it’s a man, Thomas travels to his castle to meet him, thinking he could possibly be the steward he’s seeking.  Imagine his surprise when he discovers Mr. Higgenbotham is a very lovely woman, the one he courted so many years ago.

The masquerade is on, as Jane continues to present herself as a widow, while Thomas concocts a story that he is there on an assignment from the new earl.  While there is definitely wariness between them, I was surprised that neither actually held any bitterness toward the other for the way they parted.  Later in the story, as we learn the truth of all that happened to Jane on that fateful day, the reasons become clear.  While dancing around each other, Thomas and Jane still feel the attraction from years ago.  In fact, they continued to think of each other over the years, contemplating what-if scenarios.

As Jane and Thomas become passionately involved, Thomas also really looks at his estate, and sees how badly the earl is needed.  He begins to envision staying on, improving his property and the lives of his tenants, all with Jane at his side.  Jane, however, learned a bitter lesson years ago  — depend on no one but yourself.  Her fierce independence makes her unwilling to put herself and her fortune in the hands of any man.  While Thomas loves Jane, he is honorable enough not to try to hold her when she doesn’t want a commitment.  I loved him for that.  He also has a protective streak, determined to protect Jane from a threat posing danger to her.  He also lets her know that he’s always there if she needs him.  While I admired Jane’s fortitude, and understood her reasons, I also couldn’t wait for her to see past her own stubbornness, and to grab the happiness waiting for her.  WHO’S THAT EARL is a playful and fun read, albeit with some sad circumstances, and is a delightful way to escape for a few hours.  I am always up for a second chance at love story, and this one was very satisfying.  I should also note that Thomas’s former spymaster, while somehow knowing everything about his men, also has a surprising matchmaking streak, which bodes well for upcoming books in the Love and Let Spy series.    ~Rose

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