One of my most favorite regency romance series is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. It currently stands at 7 books (the latest came out on Tuesday). I have re-read the series multiple times because I can’t help myself. And so I am taking the opportunity of this most recent release to review each book individually. I will go in order of the series, one review per day for the next seven days.
I Kissed An Earl (Pennyroyal #4)
Published in July 2010 by HarperCollins/Avon.
Violet Redmond’s family and fortune might be formidable and her beauty and wit matchless—but her infamous flare for mischief keeps all but the most lionhearted suitors at bay. Only Violet knows what will assuage her restlessness: a man who doesn’t bore her to tears, and a clue to the fate of her missing brother. She never dreamed she’d find both with a man whose own pedigree is far from impeccable.
“Savage,” is what the women of the ton whisper about the newly styled Earl of Ardmay—albeit with shivers of pleasure. Born an English bastard, raised on the high seas, he’s on a mission to capture a notorious pirate. But while Violet’s belief in her brother’s innocence maddens him, her courage awes him…and her sensuality finally undoes him. Now the man who once lost everything and the girl who has everything to lose are bound by a passion that could either end in betrayal…or become everything they ever dreamed.
The first time I read I Kissed An Earl, I re-read it immediately. That’s how much I enjoyed this book.
I love Violet. Yes, she is sometimes incredibly stupid in her decision-making. She is stubborn and impetuous and she acts before she thinks. But oh my, how she feels. She embraces the moment, she pushes people to react, and she does what is in her heart even if others refuse to believe in her. She also stands up for the people she loves. She is willing to risk so much of herself for them. It is incredibly admirable. Her flaws are necessary to throw into relief all the very good about her. Long has written a character that you want (need?) to see succeed.
And in the Earl of Ardmay (Asher Flint) Violet has met her match. By making Flint the captain of a ship, Long has presented Violet with a partner who is used to getting his way and who demands that Violet pay attention to the larger consequences of her sometimes thoughtless or reckless decisions. But by making Flint vulnerable in his position as a new Earl (and a bastard), he longs for acceptance and Violet provides that for him. As much as she needs him to help her locate her brother, he needs her to help him locate himself. Underlying it all is the fact that within the Remond family, Violet feels that no one truly sees her (which is what causes her loud, brash persona). Flint sees her almost immediately.
Early-ish in the story, Long describes how Violet feels as she gazes at Flint across a room: “She took the opportunity to study his profile. It was a strange, painful pleasure to run her eyes over the strong, singular lines of his face. What is happening to me? She felt as though she’d been given wings but denied flying lessons.” This quote — the title of this post — captures perfectly the way that Violet and Flint are in love but know not what to do about it.
There is so much to love in I Kissed An Earl. Even if Violet and Flint don’t admit it to each other for a long while, they are almost instantly attracted to one another and it takes only a very short time for them to fall in love. But they are at odds in their mission and that keeps both of them from acknowledging these things. Yet there are such sublime moments when Long describes their longing and their battle to remain unattached. Violet, in one scene, asks Flint about his lover whom he hopes to make his wife: “”Oh. Are you in love with her?” Out that question had come. She didn’t want to know. Oh, that was a bloody lie. She wanted to know desperately. No she didn’t.”
Eventually, of course, they do decide to be together, even if it is temporary (and they know not how it will all play out once they find Lyon). And in that, Long shows us the sadness of this decision as much as the joy:
She was in utter disarray. She didn’t care. She didn’t care about wrinkles or her hair. She was a woman who could kill, who could eat bread rocks, who could survive being pounded by a monster wave and living in a vole hole. She’d been undone completely by this man, turned inside out. She wanted only him, and suddenly life was simply and unbearably beautiful and sad. She’d given everything. She was glad. But Violet felt as anchorless and alone, suddenly, as Asher Flint must have felt his entire life.
Like all Long novels, the dialogue is fun and the pacing perfection. In one of my most favorite scenes in the novel, Violet and Flint are having dinner in France with a former lover of Flint’s who has recently married. The former lover is jealous of Violet and angry at Flint and so says thinly veiled terrible things about Flint in front of all the guests. Violet, as she is wont to do, immediately and without forethought, comes to Flint’s defense with her own pointed and clever insult. I laughed out loud and wanted to pump my fist. To see a regency romance heroine be so rude and rightly so to another member of the elite was satisfying. And for her to do it in such a way as to progress the romance, even better.
Some of my favorite quotes from this novel:
- One day she might grow accustomed to his smiles, but for now each new one was like stumbling across an undiscovered constellation. She felt unequal to them.
- The earl seemed like a landmark. Like something she’d always known.
- She was smiling a little too often in his presence, and he in hers, and suddenly she felt as aloft, as softly glowing, as that moon. Dangerously, deliciously unmoored.
- Her eyes were in shadow. But he could see her mouth curve a little. And even over the rush of the sea, he could hear her breathing. Which mean her heart was beating faster now. He liked being the reason for this.
- But he could feel the pleasure and triumph radiating from her. I made her happy. Oddly, the realization that this made him untenably happy also made him irritable.
- It was all a blur now, a languid grappling tangle of bodies. She may have kissed his eyelid. She did kiss his temple. She licked his collarbone, tasted salt and skin before his lips reclaimed hers. She wanted to bite him. She didn’t.
- He dropped each syllable heavily, wearily, ironically. “…and yet I cannot sleep at night for wanting you.”
- How foolish I am, she thought, with sudden frightening clarity. He was so much more real than everything else around him. I only feel real when I’m near him.
- Good God, what a poor thing she’d been before, a half person. She didn’t know what this made her now.
- His whole life would now be a paste imitation of life without her. Violet was the only person with whom he’d ever truly belonged.
I give I Kissed An Earl 4.5 out of 5 stars. (trigger warning: the .5 off is because I did not like the running theme of “I can take you whenever I want you,” a threat that Flint laid at Violet’s feet when he first found her on his ship and brought back up when it helped him manage her behavior. I just hate the implicit threat of rape even if I understand why a ship captain would use it.)
Purchase it: Amazon
Up next: What I Did for a Duke.