Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ARC Review & Guest Post: The Untouchable Earl by Amy Sandas

Series:     Fallen Ladies #2
Pub. Date:Nov 1, 2016
Publisher:Sourcebooks Casablanca
Length:416 pages
Source:NetGalley

The Untouchable Earl is my first read by Amy Sandas. I was sucked in by the blurb as this sounded like a historical of a darker nature than what is common these days. The story appears to take place contemporaneously with Luck is No Lady, so I don't think you have to read these two books in order. You should be fine if you are starting with the second book as I did.

Lily Chadwick is a heroine that has fallen on hard times after the death of her parents. After the death of her mother, her father devolved into drinking and debt, leaving his three surviving daughters in dire straights after his death. Lily is the middle sister and she finds herself somewhat plain, wishing she shared more attributes with her sisters. Lily also has a secret, dark desires that stem from her stealthy reading of erotic novels. She despairs of finding a husband that will actually make her happy and satisfy her passionate nature. For a virginal heroine, Lily did not come off as a shy heroine, at least with our hero. In society, she acts the demure lady... but the chemistry with our hero seems to overwhelm her. I do wish she would have shown more grit and backbone when she is stolen off the street and sold to a pleasure house, but she seemed to lack the confidence. I also didn't connect as fully with her characters as I would have liked, but I can't put my finger on exactly what was missing.

Our hero, Avenell Slade, Earl of Thorne, is a uniquely tortured hero. He seems to be suffering from something akin to sensory processing disorder, where he cannot abide touch on most of his upper body. This affliction caused his father to reject him as a young boy, which has left Harte a bit switched off emotionally. He is always stoic and serious, like he has ice encasing his heart. I have to say that he didn't treat our heroine very well on the surface, so you had to do a lot of looking beyond his outward demeanor to glimpse the yearning underneath. I would have liked more of the story to have been told from his POV, with some inner monologues to establish a stronger character connection.

The relationship between our couple, as it developed, was unconventional for a lady of noble breeding. While there was good chemistry and an almost magnetic pull between Lily and Harte, there was not enough emotion to sink my teeth into. Harte was trying to overcome his problems, and I know he must have been in horrible turmoil, but I would have liked to feel it a little more. There was some very nice sensuality in their encounters, despite Harte's inability to be touched. So although our couple is engaging in intimacy rather quickly, their romance was more of a slow burn that built right up until the end.

So Lily is stolen by an unscrupulous moneylender , Mason Hale, and sold into a pleasure house owned by his sister, Madam Pendragon, who will auction Lily's virtue to the highest bidder. Despite Hale's motivations, I did not like him or Pendragon at all. I also felt like this aspect of the plot was dropped in favor of the romance. I wish the scheme could have carried throughout the story to provide some action and suspense, or at least develop Harte's motivations and personal situation further so we could understand his character. Instead, the desperation that should have been felt by both Hale and Pendragon felt contrived and they came off as cold and heartless.

I enjoyed the glimpses into the story of the older sister, Emma, and her tumultuous relationship with Mr. Bentley, who I believe owned a gaming hell. So I am definitely curious to go back and read her story now to see exactly what was happening.

Overall, I did enjoy the story and I will be reading this author again... but, as outlined above, I would have liked a little more in some respects. I voluntarily reviewed and advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca.

About the Author

Amy's love of romance began one summer when she was thirteen and complained of boredom. She ended up with one of her mother's Barbara Cartland books and an obsessive interest that expanded from there. Her affinity for writing began with sappy pre-teen poems and led to a Bachelor's degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities.

She writes in the early mornings while her young kids are still asleep and dreams of a future when she can write all day instead of going to her "other" job. In the evenings, Amy is a full-time wife and mother who enjoys pizza, wine and dark brooding heroes...namely, her husband.


My Favorite Scene to Write

by Amy Sandas
            This book was so much fun to write from beginning to end. I adore Lily with her kind spirit, endless optimism, and secret yearnings. And the dark, enigmatic Avenell is a hero that will forever haunt my subconscious. Their passionate craving for each other burns all the hotter for the obstacles between them. For that reason, writing their love scenes was challenging and rewarding.
            But one scene that stands out as a personal favorite is a little interaction that occurs relatively early in the story. Though Lily and Avenell have been introduced and have circled each other at social functions—with almost obsessive interest on her part and desperate avoidance on his—, there remains a necessary distance. She thinks he despises her and he fears she could be his greatest weakness.
            Then a chance encounter forces them into a degree of proximity they never would have instigated on their own. “And something incredible happened.”
            Here, you can see what I mean.

She lifted her skirts in both hands and turned to run up the steps to the Mawbrys’ front door. With her gaze lowered and her thoughts in turmoil, she didn’t see the gentleman stepping out of the house until he was directly in front of her and it was too late to stop her momentum. 

Lily collided full-on into Lord Harte. 

With uncanny reflexes, he grasped her upper arms to keep them both from tumbling down the stairs. 

And something incredible happened. 

In one flashing fraction of a second, Lily felt the explosion of the white-hot awareness she had experi­enced the first time she had seen him, but this time, it was multiplied a hundredfold. Her arms where he gripped them felt inordinately hot from his touch, sparking a fierce reaction that spread throughout her limbs. The surface of her body where it pressed against him was branded with sensations she barely understood. It was as though she had been ignited in a conflagration of sudden life. Like a phoenix being birthed from flames. 

The earl immediately set her away from him with more force than was necessary. 

Lily stumbled, fighting for balance after the abrupt loss of support. With a gruff sound of annoyance, he reached out to grasp her elbow again until she reclaimed her equilibrium. As soon as she did, he released her as though even the minimal contact was offensive to him. 

She looked up…and sucked in a swift breath at the hostility in his dark eyes. The heat left her body in a sudden whoosh. Her thoughts whirled. She could only gape at him. 

“Watch where you are going, Miss Chadwick.” His voice, rich and decadent, cut effortlessly through her jumbled senses. 

He remembered her name. 

For some absurd reason, that acknowledgment ignited a sharp point of pleasure in her chest. Before she could reply—or arrange her thoughts into any sort of organized pattern—he stepped around her and continued down the steps to his waiting carriage. 

Lily watched him go. 

Since her coming out, Lily had danced with dozens of young gentlemen. She had been annoyed by roam­ing hands, too-tight grips, and clumsy feet. She had been treated gently, carelessly, and on occasion, a bit improperly. But she had never experienced the insane rush of sensations she had felt when her body made contact with Lord Harte’s. 

Now, as before, he seemed to dismiss her completely from his mind as he strode down Mawbry’s steps to his carriage. But she noticed something interesting. 

His hands. 

They stretched tensely then curled into tight fists before extending again, the pattern repeating over and over as he walked away. After he climbed into the darkness of the vehicle and waited for the footman to close the door behind him, he looked up at her from the deep shadows. 

The angles of his face were hard and forbidding, his mouth set in a firm line, but his eyes…they focused in on her, consuming her despite the distance between them. 

Lily’s lips parted to draw a swift breath. The flame inside her fanned to a full blaze. She could swear she saw a sort of hunger in his eyes. 

Hunger, and a poignant suggestion of pain.

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