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REVIEW: The Mad Earl’s Bride by Loretta Chase

Dear Ms. Chase:

Thank you for re-releasing your novella The Mad Earl’s Bride. I missed it when it was released in 2009 in the anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss. The Mad Earl’s Bride has the tone of my favorites of your books: witty, smart, and sweetly sexy. It even has Bertie Trent in it–as well as, briefly, Dain. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The book is set in the late 1820′s, a time when misdiagnoses and harmful treatment in medicine were the norm. Even more poorly understood and treated was mental illness.

The Mad Earl's Bride Loretta Chase

The Mad Earl’s Bride Loretta Chase

The hero of this story Dorian Camoy, the Earl of Rawnsley, watched his mother succumb to madness, dying of what was diagnosed as genetic defect in her brain, one that could be neither detected nor cured. Her symptoms were these:

She heard voices, … and saw things that weren’t there, and screamed of ghosts and cruel talons ripping into her skull.

Several years later, when Dorian is 27, he begins to suffer from the same malady. The symptoms worsen and, within a year, he is sure he too will descend into insanity and perish.

He’d suspected, early on, that the illness, like his mother’s years earlier, had simply been the beginning of the end.

In January, when the headaches began, his suspicions were confirmed. As the weeks passed, the attacks grew increasingly vicious, as hers had done.

The night before last, he’d wanted to bash his head against the wall.

. . . pain . . . tearing at my skull . . . couldn’t see straight . . . couldn’t think.

He understood now, fully, what his mother had meant. Even so, he would have borne the pain, would not have sent for Kneebones yesterday morning, if not for the shimmering wraith he’d seen. Then Dorian had realized something must be done—before the faint visual illusions blossomed into full-blown phantasms, as they had for his mother, and drove him to violence, as they had done her.

I suspect many readers will quickly guess what afflicts the Camoys. In fact, that’s part of the fun of the story, turning the pages and wondering when will Dorian learn why he won’t die? We know he can’t die because he has to live happily ever after with Gwendolyn Adams, the young woman his family insists he marry so that he may beget an heir before his awful death.

Gwendolyn is fabulous.

Like Dorian, Gwendolyn was born in the wrong era of medicine. In her case, it’s because she desperately longs to be a physician. She’s learned everything society will allow her to; she’s even attended a cadaver dissection at a time when legal cadavers were very difficult to come by. Gwen’s uncle, the duc d’Abonville (the fiancé of Gwendolyn’s and Jessica’s grandmother, Genevieve) who is the nearest male kin to Dorian, has asked Gwen to be Dorian’s bride. She agrees to the deal because, as she explains to Dorian when the first meet,

“I do need the money, to build a hospital,” she said. “I have definite ideas about how it should be constructed as well as the principles according to which it must be run. In order to achieve my goals—without negotiation or compromise—I require not only substantial funds, but influence. As Countess of Rawnsley, I should have both. As your widow, I should be able to act independently. Since you are the last of the males of your family, I should have to answer to no one.”

After arguing against the match but finding himself outflanked by Gwendolyn and Dorian’s closest friend from school, Bertie Trent, Dorian marries Gwen. (The fact that he’s been celibate for the past year is also an inducement.)

Once Gwen is ensconced in Dorian’s home, she sets about first convincing him to talk to her about his illness and then researching its possible genesis. She also treats Dorian as a sane and smart man who just happens to make her swoon. Dorian, now that he has mental, emotional, and physical succor in his life, slowly falls for his wife. Their relationship is lovely.

Though this is a short piece, just 158 pages, Ms. Chase tells a complete story. Her characters have time to develop from total strangers to enamored spouses. The medical aspect of the plot is accurately and richly mined as well. It’s a rare novella that doesn’t feel too brief but The Mad Earl’s Bride does not. I recommend it highly. It gets an A.

Dabney

 

 

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I loved romances when, back in the mid 70's, in junior high, I read every Barbara Cartland novel I could check out from the library. Then, thanks to a savvy babysitter, I got my hands on the hot stuff. To this day I can remember how astonishingly steamy I found Rosemary Rogers' Sweet Savage Love. I abandoned romance when I went to college and didn't pick one up again until 2007 when I got my first Kindle. Since then, I’ve read countless romances; loved many, liked more, hated some. Most of what I read is historical and contemporary romance, but I’m open to almost any genre. I like my books to have sizzle, wit, and plots that make sense. I’d take sexy over sweet any day. I’m a sucker for smart heroes and smart-mouthed heroines. When not reading or writing about reading, or wishing I could rule the world, I'm meddling in the lives of my kids--I have four, ages 17 to 21--, managing my husband's practice, doing bossy volunteer work, and hanging out with Dr. Feelgood.

37 Comments

  1. Molly O'Keefe
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:07:56

    I missed this totally – sounds great!!! Sold.

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  2. AnimeJune
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:11:07

    I love Loretta Chase, although I’m forced to admit I don’t know what this affliction that affects the Camoys could be. I will have to check this out.

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  3. DB Cooper
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:17:06

    I think I can guess what this “madness” is, and all I can say is I’m very glad my darling wife doesn’t see ghosts.

    ReplyReply

  4. TaraR
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:18:24

    I’d first read this in its anthology form and it has, since then, been one of my favorite novellas of all time. It’s the book that got me started on reading Loretta Chase’s backlist.

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  5. AJH
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:24:39

    Damn you Dabney, as if I need more reasons to read Loretta Chase :) This sounds wonderful, and I love her fabulous heroines.

    Also I weirdly want to see Bertie Trent again…

    Tell me there’s some of the sublime Guinevere Trent in here too? I need some more hot Grandma action. Um. Things one does not usually get to write Number 3873263.

    *slinks away*

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  6. Meri
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:31:32

    I was so happy when The Mad Earl’s Bride was released a standalone – I’d been wanting to read it for years, but wasn’t interested in the rest of the anthology. It did not disappoint! I agree that this is a novella that tells a full story despite the shorter length (though it would have worked as a longer book, too), and Gwen is indeed fabulous.

    I have to say that I really like how Chase developed Bertie Trent as a character following LoS. Yes, he’s a moron, but he’s a kind, caring, loyal moron, which makes him much easier to like than many a historical hero.

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  7. Connie
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:33:38

    I just read it and loved it. A definite A read. And what fun to revisit Bertie, Jessica, Dain and naughty granny Genevive. I was almost at the end when it dawned on me who they were! It is time for a Lord of Scoundrels reread. Thanks for the review Dabney.

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  8. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:50:07

    @DB Cooper: And that she doesn’t live in the 19th century!

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  9. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 08:51:26

    @AJH: There is Guinevere and a bit of Jessica. The true stand-out though, amongst the Trents, is Bertie. He is a true hero here.

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  10. DB Cooper
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 09:12:15

    @Dabney: Indeed, though I know she wouldn’t mind a visit, if only to get her hands on some period dress work!

    edit: I wonder why it double-linked you. Fixed.

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  11. Jane A
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 09:14:55

    Thank you for this excellent review! The Mad Earl’s Bride has always remained one of my favorite novellas. Loretta Chase shows us how good a story can be within the confines of shorter word length.

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  12. Carrie G
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 09:27:12

    I know I’m one of the few people in the universe who haven’t read Loretta Chase, but can I read this without having read any of her other books?

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  13. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 09:37:17

    @Carrie G: Yes. It’s a great stand alone. It’s also very representative of the best of her work so it would show you whether you like her style. Try it!

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  14. Carrie G
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 09:52:46

    @Dabney: Got it! Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  15. Lada
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 10:49:31

    I am also glad Chase finally released this as a stand alone. I did pick up the anthology just to read this story back in the day and remember liking it even better than LoS. There were no pretenses or misunderstandings between the characters probably because there wasn’t time. Although short, I remember it being a very satisfying read. Thanks for the review so I know to I can pick this up!

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  16. Janine
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 11:02:33

    I really need to read this. Sherry has been recommending it to me for years.

    Incidentally, Three Weddings and a Kiss, and hence this novella, was originally published in 1995.

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  17. Little Red
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 11:38:37

    Sold!!

    ReplyReply

  18. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 11:47:32

    I still own the original ’95 edition of the anthology and bought the 2009 rerelease in ebook just for this novella. It is in my top three novellas of perfection, too. I adore it so much I actually added a quote to Goodreads – which I usually don’t bother and just quote in the review:

    If she had been a normal female, she would have swooned. But she was not normal, never had been.

    “Good grief, you are impossibly handsome,” she said breathlessly. “I vow, I have never experienced the like. For an instant, my brain stopped altogether. I must say, my lord, you do clean up well. But next time, I wish you would call out a warning before you come into view, and give me a chance to brace myself for the onslaught.”

    Something dark flickered in his eyes. Then a corner of his hard mouth quirked up. “Miss Adams, you have an interesting — a unique — way with a compliment.”

    The trace of a smile disoriented her further. “It is a unique experience,” she said. “I never knew my brain to shut off before, not while I was full awake. I wonder if the phenomenon has been scientifically documented and what physiological explanation has been proposed.”

    AJH, if you thought Dain was a bit of a moper about his childhood, Dorian really had it horribly tough, I thought.

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  19. CG
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:01:52

    @Estara Swanberg: I was going to skip this novella because I’m feeling the need to limit my incredibly tight monthly book budget to full length novels, but that quote just convinced me I have to have this right now.

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  20. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:05:51

    @CG: That was my hope in adding it to Goodreads, so you just made my day ^^ – thanks for telling me.

    ReplyReply

  21. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:34:48

    @Janine: That will teach me to just glance at Amazon. That also better explains why it wasn’t on my radar. Thanks.

    ReplyReply

  22. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:35:26

    @Estara Swanberg: What are your other two novellas? Share, please.

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  23. pdxeater
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 12:51:50

    This is my favorite novella, it really is Ms. Chase at her best. I have a weakness for bookish heros/heroines and I hate stupid misunderstandings, so this book fit the bill. I loved the way Gwendolyn was written and loved the funnies. Her sense of humor really works for me. This kind of makes me want to ignore my last day of the week from hell and sneak off to re-read it right now!

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  24. Karen D
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:39:17

    I’m one of the rare persons who couldn’t get through Lord of Scoundrels, but you’ve painted this novella in such a great light I’m going to give it a try. I do love other books by Chase, so by no means am I turned off by her as a writer. LoS just wasn’t my thing; her latest books aren’t really either, so I’m happy to hear this is an oldie but goodie!

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  25. Karenmc
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 13:39:30

    Oh good – I’m soldiering through Wolf Hall, which I’m loving, but it’s so long I need breaks. This will be perfect over the weekend! And does AJH know that Bertie is in The Last Hellion?

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  26. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:08:34

    @Dabney: Umm, that depends on my mood sometimes – I’m not really a novella aficionado, I much prefer novels.

    Some shorts that are reliable favourite rereads (but often because I love the series they are connected to): Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Moonlight, Ilona Andrews Silent Blade/Magic Gifts, Mary Jo Putney’s A Christmas Fling, Ann Somerville’s A Fluffy Tale, Eileen Wilks Lupi short story in Tied with a Bow, Meljan Brook’s Here there be Monsters which introduced the Iron Seas books, Berth Bernobich’s River of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Mountains of Mourning, Diane Duane’s Lior and the Sea, Sharon Lee’s Master of the Winds, Marjorie M Liu’s Hunter Kiss, Michelle West’s The Memory of Stone/Huntbrother/The Black Ospreys...

    as you can see it’s not all romance ^^

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  27. leftcoaster
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:45:19

    @Estara Swanberg, I think we might be book twins, which means I’m going to look at your other recs…_Here there be Monsters_ is another novella I just love. It’s my second favorite novella right after _The Mad Earl’s Bride_ and my favorite thing by Meljean Brook.

    And I think I just realized that Bertie may be why I liked _The Last Hellion_ so much. He gets his own happy ending.

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  28. hapax
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 14:48:17

    Love, love, love this novella.

    And since I share the same “madness”, I’m not ashamed to say that I have more than once tried Gwen’s treatment for Dorian, with great success!

    (I looked up the physiology of it once, and it makes sense once you understand the mechanics thereof)

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  29. MaryK
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 15:09:09

    I’m so glad to see this get a glowing review. It’s one of my favorites as well.

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  30. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 16:38:07

    @leftcoaster: I hope you find something good ^^ – I should point out though, that I mixed sf&f novellas in there with the romance and that the / books are separate books and not doubled up novellas or something.

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  31. Dabney
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 16:51:30

    @Estara Swanberg: I guess I was asking what your “top three novellas of perfection” of perfection are. I like that idea and am now thinking about mine.

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  32. Megaera
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 20:14:45

    This is one of my alltime favorite stories, romance or otherwise. And, as someone who shares Dorian’s affliction (although not as badly as he does, thank goodness), I have to say that one of the reasons I love this story is that Chase gets the details exactly right. She either has it herself or she’s close to someone who does.

    But I love Dorian and I love Gwen, too. And Hoskins. And Bertie. And that scene in the bathtub…

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  33. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 03:28:40

    @Dabney: Yes, I got that, but I don’t really have a firm top three for the ages in any mood – so I threw various top favourites for various moods at you ^^.
    I endorse your plan to collect an all-time top three of perfection yourself!

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  34. Krista
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 10:14:30

    I can’t remember if I’ve read this or not, but I love LC’s books. Thanks for the heads up!

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  35. Ducky
    Jun 15, 2013 @ 19:12:36

    Well, I would have never discovered this novella without your rec – I love it – so thank you!

    One thing about the hero’s condition – it’s been my experience that changing life circumstances, less stress, change of diet, and just basic aging may make the symptoms less severe for some people.

    Who does Bertie end up with? I love that guy.

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  36. Laurie Evans
    Jun 16, 2013 @ 20:35:34

    Just bought this, can’t wait to read it!

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  37. NBLibGirl
    Jun 21, 2013 @ 12:47:31

    I’m late to the party here but loved this novella as well for all the reasons everyone else has already mentioned. Reminded me of Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm, which I adore.

    ReplyReply

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