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REVIEW: I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long

I Kissed An Earl by Julie Ann LongDear Ms. Long,

Violet Redmond is young, beautiful, and bored. It seems that no matter what she does, her popularity with the ton will not fade. Suitors flock to her side, even though she once threatened to cast herself into a well when arguing with one of them.

In the next to last book in this series (the Pennyroyal Green series), Like No Other Lover, Violet, the spoiled daughter of the Redmond family, visited a gypsy fortune-teller who told her that she'd be taking a journey across the water. The gypsy also spoke the word "Lavay." So when Violet hears Lord Lavay's name mentioned at a ball one night, and learns that he sails on a ship called The Fortuna, she finagles an introduction to the man and to his captain, Asher Flint.

Flint, on whom the title Earl of Ardmay has just been bestowed, is illegitimate and part Native American. He is described in the book's opening line as looking "like a bored lion lounging among a flock of geese," and as the story begins, he has just been charged by the king with capturing Le Chat, a notorious pirate preying on English ships. The title of Earl of Ardmay has ostensibly been awarded Flint for a heroic deed, but in actuality it is a way for the King to apply pressure. If Flint succeeds in apprehending Le Chat, he will be given lands to go with the title. If he fails, well, unspoken threats hang in the air.

Flint resisted accepting the earldom, but then Le Chat attacked The Steadfast, a ship belonging to Captain Moreheart, who had been a father figure and mentor to the fatherless Flint when he was a child. Moreheart did not survive the sinking of his ship. Now Flint is out for revenge, and he intends to capture Le Chat either dead or alive long enough to be hanged.

While dancing with Violet, Flint realizes that she reminds him of himself. Both of them are filled with ennui and would much rather be somewhere other than the ballroom. Flint challenges Violet on several levels, but then he spots her brother Jonathan and freezes. It seems Jonathan is a dead ringer for Mr. Hardesty, a sea merchant Flint knows.

Violet doesn't think much of this until she dances with Lavay and tells him that his captain mistook her brother for Mr. Hardesty. She learns from Lavay that Hardesty is well-mannered, educated, and has sailed all over the Mediterranean, but Lavay and Flint believe him to be the pirate Le Chat.

Lavay also mentions that Hardesty's ship is called The Olivia, and it is at that point that Violet is stunned to realize that Le Chat may be her missing brother, Lyon, who once loved Olivia Eversea. Not only is Hardesty's ship named after the woman Lyon loved, not only does Mr. Hardesty resemble Violet's other brother Jonathan, but "Le Chat" means "the cat" in French, and that fits with the name Lyon.

Ever since Lyon disappeared from Pennyroyal Green following Olivia Eversea's rejection of him, there's been a hole in the Redmond family-’and in Violet's heart. Violet tries to convince Jonathan to follow the clues she has gleaned from Flint and Lavay, but Jonathan laughs at the idea that their brother may be a pirate. Undaunted, Violet stows away on Captain Flint's ship, The Fortuna.

When Flint discovers Violet's presence aboard his vessel, he's both furious and admiring. Having a woman on board ship is a very bad idea – yet he can't help but recognize Violet's resourcefulness. Still, he intends to leave her at the nearest port, until he realizes that she may be right about her brother Lyon being Le Chat.

As Violet and Flint gradually fall in love, almost against their wills and certainly against their better judgments, they come to respect one another more and more. But rending their hearts is the knowledge that they are at cross-purposes: Flint wants to apprehend Lyon, possibly even to kill him, and Violet wants to save her brother's life-

I Kissed an Earl is not without flaws. The first couple of chapters were slow to engage me, since Violet came across as spoiled and rude in the very beginning of the story. She even repeated others' use of the word "savage" in reference to the part Native American Flint, which really turned me off.

Also, later in the book, when Violet was aboard Flint’s ship, the sailors on his crew seemed a bit too gentlemanly in regard to her presence there. It's not that I want to see Violet mauled, but rather that it stretches my credulity to believe that no one would ever try to cop a feel, especially when Flint had warned Violet that her presence on the ship would be too great a temptation to his men, and when no explanation was given for their subsequent self-control.

I also caught a few historical inaccuracies, from small ones such as the use of the word "tectonic" in its geological sense, to larger ones like Flint's intention to live in America although he has been given an English title.

But although I Kissed an Earl is not without flaws, there's no question that it is one of my favorite books of the year thus far. That is at least partly because the conflict between Flint and Violet – he wants to kill her beloved brother; she wants to save her brother from the man she loves – is on a scale not often seen in today's romances, and that depth of conflict gives the book heartrending poignancy at times.

The characters, too, are as memorable as their relationship. Although Violet starts out spoiled and bored with life, her saving grace is her fierce love for her brother Lyon. As she journeys on the high seas in her quest to find him, Violet is forced to grow into a more mature and capable woman. Her horizons broaden, her determination grows, and her love for The Fortuna's captain deepens. Where once she casually repeated the word "savage," in reference to Flint, she now steps in to defend him from slurs and insults, as well as worse. Her bravery and her capacity for love show through as she leaves the girl she once was behind.

As for Flint, he too loses his bored, detached veneer. Beneath this exterior is a man who has acquired everything he has through struggle, and who has risked his life for his fellow sailors over and over. While every risk he has taken has paid off advantageously for him – something that is no coincidence — he is also a man who has retained his humanity even through great adversity.

Not ever having had a family, Flint is thrown by the feelings Violet evokes in him. His plan is to found a dynasty with his Moroccan mistress, who is as much an outcast as he is, but through witnessing Violet's devotion to her brother, he comes to understand what family and love truly mean.

The emotions in this book are so palpable that at times, I felt as though I was literally present in Flint's cabin with these two people, intruding on something intimate and precious. A lot of that is due to the beauty of the writing. Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes:

The kissed raced like a lightning strike along his spine and seized his lungs with a simultaneous rush of panic and joy. As though he'd willingly flung himself backward from the mast to the deck and not only enjoyed the flight but survived the fall unscathed.

He inhaled sharply and tipped back into the space shaped like him and folded his hands beneath his head, hoping to appear insouciant but in reality trapping them. He was suddenly afraid of what they might do: Plunder. Caress. Explore. Dear God, take, take, take.

He held his body motionless. His heart took painful jabs at his breastbone. His blood was a thick, hot liqueur. His mind a useless scramble.

He could hear her breathing hard next to him. Was aware her fingers were at her lips. Touching them, as if to prove to herself she'd been kissed.

He listened to her breath, the ragged rhythm of it a counterpoint to the incessant sigh of the sea, but for some reason he didn't want to look at her. He closed his eyes instead and saw her hair, shadow-dark, pooled on the pillow, the shudder of her lashes against her cheeks; he conjured the shape and texture of her lips sinking, opening against his, her breath mingling with his.

That kind of gorgeous, evocative writing is the reason I Kissed an Earl is not just worth reading but also worth keeping, and my favorite of your Pennyroyal Green series. A- for this one.

Sincerely,

Janine Ballard

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
| Sony | Kobo |

This is a trade paperback published by NAL but pre-Agency pricing.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character-driven books. Examples include novels by Shana Abe, Loretta Chase, Patricia Gaffney, Cecilia Grant, Judith Ivory, Carolyn Jewel, Laura Kinsale, Julie Anne Long, Alison Richardson, Nalini Singh and Pam Rosenthal. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, "Kiss of Life", appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com. or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

29 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention REVIEW: I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 13:48:03

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emma Petersen and Janine Ballard, dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: REVIEW: I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long http://bit.ly/97Ca5l [...]

  2. Joy
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 14:15:37

    She even repeated others' use of the word “savage” in reference to the part Native American Flint, which really turned me off.

    This would be absolutely historically accurate when describing Native Americans. I’m getting tired of characters in historicals who think and talk like modern people.

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  3. Janine
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 14:20:15

    @Joy: I realize it’s historically accurate — at least, it seems that way to me. But it still got my back up initially because, historically accurate or not, it is a racist comment. Violet was only repeating that she’d heard other people say Flint was “savage” but it still made me dislike her at first for dropping this term so casually.

    However, since Violet grows to understand how hurtful these kinds of comments can be, and since she does a lot of growing up in general, I was able to get over my initial bristling at her callous insensitivity.

    I still thought I should mention it in the review, though, because it seems like the kind of thing some readers can get past but others can’t, and therefore would want to know about.

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  4. Karenmc
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 14:29:54

    I’ve been waiting for this one. When JAL is in top form (which is most of the time), her writing is simply wonderful.

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  5. Janine
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 14:39:15

    @Karenmc: I agree, at her best (like in the scene I quoted from) her writing is sublime. Back in 2007, I wrote a review of The Secret to Seduction in which I enumerated the things that made it a keeper for me — voice, characters, chemistry, conflict, and emotional effect on me — and went into detail about how and why I felt they worked so well in that book. When she’s on, she’s really impressive.

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  6. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 17:03:12

    I’ve never read this author, although I’ve heard great things about her. I love the cover, too. I’m a proud fan of the sexy clinch. Looks like a win.

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  7. Janine
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 17:20:40

    @Jill Sorenson: She is really worth reading, especially if you like historical romances.

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  8. Jennie
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 17:31:57

    Thanks for the intriguing review. I definitely plan to read this one, as I have read the rest of the series and generally like JAL quite a lot. I must admit I was a little surprised at the “part Native American Earl”, which seems like an old romance cliche that I doubt ever occurred in reality (much like the part-Gypsy Earl/Duke/etc. hero).

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  9. Janine
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 18:25:42

    @Jennie: Yes, that’s a good point. Flint’s earldom seemed superfluous for the most part. He really wasn’t your typical earl at all. I don’t know why Long gave him a title, unless it was because of the conventional wisdom that books with titled heroes sell better.

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  10. bettie
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 21:16:05

    I would pick up this book for the title alone, but the review puts it on my Definite TBR list.

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  11. Janine
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 21:20:56

    @bettie:

    Funny, the title didn’t work that well for me; since it hearkens to a contemporary song, it doesn’t make me think “historical.” But I would read Julie Anne Long’s next book even if it was untitled. And I really, really hope her next one is the Lyon Redmond book, because I don’t know how long I can wait for that one!

    I’ll be curious to hear what you think of I Kissed an Earl, Bettie, and that goes for everyone in this thread. I hope some of you guys come back and post your opinions after you read it.

    The book releases tomorrow, by the way.

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  12. Jennie
    Jun 28, 2010 @ 22:05:45

    Yeah, I’m not big on clever, play-on-words titles in historicals. It seems that Julia Quinn started that trend. It wouldn’t keep me from reading a book, but I could do without it.

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  13. Marcella
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 02:58:54

    Wow, stunning cover.

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  14. Lizzy
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 05:28:16

    Just got this one, but haven’t read it yet. Glad to hear it’s good — I really needed my faith restored after JAL’s last one, Since the Surrender, which I found decidedly lackluster. Still, she’s one of my favorite romance novelists — Like No Other Lover and The Runaway Duke are absolute keepers.

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  15. Karenmc
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 09:02:15

    Janine, your Secrets of Seduction review is great – I also loved that book.

    And I’m with Lizzy on Since the Surrender, so it’s great to be seeing positive reviews of I Kissed an Earl (horrible title, BTW).

    Doggone it – now I want to re-read me some JAL, but I just started the new Joanna Bourne, and my big plan this summer is to get through the backlists of Kinsale and Ivory. Historicals will be the death of me.

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  16. Sarah
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 09:47:16

    Really enjoyed what I’ve read of this series already so now I’m making this a must-read. Thanks for the wonderful review. Is this the final book in the series?

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  17. Janine
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 11:44:15

    @Marcella: I think the cover is pretty good (It’s nice to see Violet on top) but it doesn’t fully capture the feel of the book to me.

    @Lizzy: I actually liked Since the Surrender but I think this is an even stronger book.

    I haven’t yet read The Runaway Duke. I thought Like No Other Lover was beautifully written, but I didn’t connect with Cynthia as much as I often do with Long’s heroines.

    @Karenmc: I envy you having all of Kinsale and Ivory ahead of you! They are two of my all-time favorite writers in the genre.

    @Sarah: I went to Long’s website to try and find out how many books she had planned in this series, but I didn’t see the information there. Still, I feel certain enough to say that this is not the last book in the Pennyroyal Green series. If Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea don’t get a book, I’ll eat my shoes. And actually, there is quite a bit of set up for Lyon and Olivia’s book in this one — so much so that I am finding it difficult to wait for it to come out.

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  18. Miki S
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 20:00:41

    The getup the heroine’s wearing not withstanding, I absolutely love this cover. I try not to buy romances that PUSH the heat, especially historicals, but – whew! I just love the whole layout (no pun intended) of that cover.

    If only she didn’t look something from a Mississippi river boat…

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  19. Elyssa Papa
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 22:05:34

    The Secret to Seduction is hands down my favorite Julie Anne Long book. Like you, Janine, I will read anything JAL writes. I think she’s just a fabulous writer, and some of her constructions and how she does things is pure art to me. I am hugely jealous of her talent, and like you, I really want Lyon’s book. (Is there any idea at all if he and Olivia have a chance of reconnecting?) I also liked the title but I was hoping for some book trailer to do a play on the Perry song. ;)

    I was going to wait a little before purchasing the JAL but I think I’m going to buy it sooner than I had anticipated because of this review. Damn your wiley ways, Janine!

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  20. Janine
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 23:55:11

    @Elyssa Papa:

    So glad to find others who loved The Secret to Seduction in this thread. It’s quite possibly my favorite too, but I remember that not every Long fan shared my appreciation for that book.

    some of her constructions and how she does things is pure art to me

    Agreed. And if you want Lyon’s book now, wait until you read this book! You’ll be dying for it!

    Please come back and let me know what you thought of I Kissed an Earl.

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  21. SonomaLass
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 09:50:11

    The only other JAL I’ve read was Like No Other Lover, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, it was a little “history light,” but if I know that going in, it doesn’t bother me. I loved the characters — they were unique and believable and smart. I’m eager to read Violet’s book now, having read the first part of your review. I’ll be back to read the rest when I’ve finished the book!

    ReplyReply

  22. DA Recommends for July | Dear Author
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 10:00:45

    [...] I Kissed an Earl by Julie Ann Long. Recommended by Janine. [...]

  23. Janine
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 10:11:29

    @SonomaLass: I hope you enjoy the book! I’d love to hear what you thought of it when you’ve read it.

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  24. tamara
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 11:34:28

    I had been looking forward to this book. I am a big fan of Julie Anne Long. I finished it last night, and, sadly, it didn’t really work for me. I just couldn’t warm up to the heroine. I understood her motivations and admired her loyalty to her family, but there were things that bothered me about her that had me not completely engaged in the eventual HEA.

    I, too, loved The Secret to Seduction, but Like No Other Lover is my favorite, with Beauty and the Spy coming a very close second.

    After the glimpse of Lyon we had in I Kissed an Earl, I am really looking forward to his book.

    I saw on Amazon.ca that the title of her next book, due out in May 2011 is to be What I Did For A Duke, so, based on that title, it wouldn’t appear that Lyon’s book is next. There was no synopsis of the book.

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  25. Janine
    Jul 01, 2010 @ 11:46:41

    @tamara: Thanks for posting your thoughts. Can you say more with regard to what it was about Violet’s characterization that didn’t work for you? I didn’t like her ennui in the first couple of chapters, but I grew to like her much, much better over the course of the book, as she grew up, and I thought the chemistry between her and Flint was off the charts.

    I saw on Amazon.ca that the title of her next book, due out in May 2011 is to be What I Did For A Duke, so, based on that title, it wouldn't appear that Lyon's book is next. There was no synopsis of the book.

    Unless Lyon acquires a dukedom the way Flint got an earldom, you are right. I don’t know how I will stand waiting longer for Lyon’s book!

    I liked the fact that her heroes up until now haven’t generally been earls and dukes, but I’ll continue reading her books regardless.

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  26. elisa
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 04:40:04

    I read this book and I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite Long book. The first half, I hated Violet b/c she seemed so spoiled, but she gradually did redeem herself. However, I always notice spelling/ grammar mistakes, and this book had a horrible copy-editor. I should’ve known what I was in for when I noticed that “flare” on the back cover was used incorrectly (should have been “flair,”) and then I found at least 2 other instances of using the wrong word in the book (don’t have the book now so can’t see, but they were really obvious). I always find that kind of thing distracting especially if it’s a professionally published book. But the story itself was good.

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  27. Janine
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 10:14:48

    @elisa:

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on the book.

    I started liking Violet around the time Flint found her on his ship. I could tell from that point on that she would be forced to grow up, and I enjoyed that process.

    The ARC I read had a lot of typos also, but that’s frequently the case with ARCs, so I was hoping that the published book would be better.

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  28. Emma
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 22:12:22

    @Janine: I found the premise interesting enough and caught the back cover error as well, though must not have read carefully enough to see the two or three that are mentioned to have appeared in the book. I thought large publishers use teams of editors and proofreaders to catch these typos, but if not, I really can’t criticize one copy editor for letting a few typos past. I had to overlook this in Nora Roberts’s Black Hills, too.

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  29. Accuracy, Authenticity, and World-Building in Historical Romance | VacuousMinx
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    [...] like nails on a chalkboard to me. I later attempted an earlier Pennyroyal book which Janine really liked, but I gave up because the implausibility of the opening scenes pulled me out of the book. Also, I [...]

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