Title: First Earl I See Tonight
Author: Anna Bennett
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: October 2018
Length: 338 pages
Series?: Debutante Diaries #1
Genre: Historical Romance
An heiress with a daring proposal. An earl who’s determined to resist her. And a love that just might be written in the stars…
Recently jilted by his fiancée, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray didn’t have his hands full renovating his crumbling country house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from a headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate will change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment he spends with her tempts him to change his…
A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining her sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a husband…if only she can convince him that romance will play no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for Fiona. Gray can’t help but be dazzled by her genuine warmth. Yet as their feelings deepen, Fiona’s deadline looms. Will her secrets destroy them, or is true love their final destiny?
Fiona Hartley is a kind-hearted young lady who seems prone to mishaps and accidents. It seems to deter men’s interest in her. She is an incredible artist and can often see past the façade many put on for appearances.
She loves her father and sister so much that she’s willing to risk so much to save them. Someone is blackmailing her. If she doesn’t pay up, a family secret will be revealed that will ruin Fiona’s younger sister, who is just coming into her own and quite eligible on the marriage mart.
How can she pay a blackmailer with no money? So she decides to marry in order to acquire the funds she needs. Upon her marriage, Fiona’s dowry will be paid out and she can pay the blackmailer! Fiona sets her sights on David Gray, Earl of Ravenport. Fiona has considered and eliminated a number of men of the ton and has finally settled on the Earl of Ravenport, carefully selected after he was kind to her after one of her mishaps at a ball.
Gray is in need of funds himself in order to renovate his crumbling home, called the Fortress. After receiving a written proposal from Fiona, which Gray has no intention of entertaining, he invites Fiona, her sister, and stepmother to stay at the Fortress for a week in hopes that it will scare Fiona away. But Fiona isn’t like the rest of the ladies of the ton and rises to the challenges set forth.
Gray inherited his earldom when he was barely double digits. He has endured a lot of trauma from childhood and then his parents’ deaths. Now he’s essentially penniless. He is a fairly cold person and has vowed to never love. Not again. Gray’s primary goal is to renovate the Fortress for his grandmother, who is losing her sight. He wants her to see it restored before she can no longer.
It’s a marriage of convenience for both Fiona and Gray, but Fiona is determined to turn it into a love match after a while. Gray is adamant that they won’t suit, but slowly warms to Fiona.
The one glaring issue I had with the entire plot is that the blackmailer selected Fiona as the target. She was an unmarried woman who didn’t have access to any actual funds. Why not select her father, the head of the house, business, and coiffers? The explanation that he was ill won’t deter a blackmailer who is bent on ruination.