REVIEW: Nice Earls Do by Susanna Craig
To readers of her popular magazine Mrs. Goode’s Guide to Miss Conduct, “Mrs. Goode” is an expert in all domestic matters. Household management, home décor, entertainment . . . there is nothing about which she lacks an opinion. Who better to assist the Earl of Bennett, newly appointed guardian to his niece and nephew, in turning his house into a home?
The widowed Lady Manwaring is the farthest thing from a domestic doyenne, so when asked to pose as Mrs. Goode on behalf of the book’s true author, she warily agrees. On arrival, she’s surprised to discover that Lord Bennett is actually her childhood friend, Kit Killigrew. Tabetha might be an imposter, but her attraction to Kit is all too real . . .
After years separated from the woman of his dreams, Kit’s eager to do more than play house. Will Tabetha’s big reveal ruin everything, or lay the foundation for true love?
Dear Ms. Craig,
Up until now, I’d heard your name but never read one of your books. Seeing this novella and learning it’s the start to a new series, I decided to try it. It’s a bit of a more modern take on historicals but at least in this story, things don’t stray too far for my taste.
In spite of its short length, there are quite a few issues covered in the plot. Kit Killigrew is the son of an estate steward. His family is, I believe, the cadet branch of a noble family with a younger-son father who needed to support himself. Kit and his more outgoing younger brother grew up playing with the daughter of the house but her father had grander plans for his daughter than marriage to a steward’s son.
Tabetha enjoyed growing up and rough housing with the Killigrew brothers. When Kit returned from university, she barely had time to greet him before being married off to a Viscount. Now years after her unhappy marriage ended, she’s grown a bit bored with the charms of London. Her need for something to do is unexpectedly answered by her beloved step-son Oliver who needs someone as a “cover” for something Tabetha never suspected.
Arriving at the estate where a housekeeper has written to Oliver’s publisher asking for help redecorating a nursery, they find that the Earl is none other than Kit. Oliver is sharp and quickly sees past Tabetha’s “we’re just old friends.” But is there a chance for them now to rekindle something that was barely embers all those years ago?
Beth is a charming woman looking for something to occupy herself. Her relationship with her step-son is lovely and from cryptic comments, it’s clear that he and his father never got along and that Beth helped divert his father’s attention and thus protect Oliver’s dreams. I found her frustrations over lack of choices and information when she was younger to be understandable.
Kit is a sweetheart of an older hero. He’s always been the older, responsible one, picking up the pieces others have dropped. When the woman of his heart married another, Kit just … well, I’m not quite sure what he did for twenty years and it was never made clear. He inherited his Earldom four years ago but I find it hard to believe that he would be so wrapped up in estate management that he wouldn’t have heard that Beth was now a widow. Now it looks as if he’s just going to sink back into the shadows until he’s unexpectedly goosed into taking a chance. Kit needed a bit more oomph.
Everything happens in a whirlwind but their affection is based on long standing and they’ve known each other all through their childhoods. Still… Tabetha didn’t like being buried in the country during her first marriage and Kit appears to prefer that. I would love to have seen these characters fleshed out with a bit more backstory. There are also a few historical accuracy issues that niggled at me but they are more minor annoyances than deal breakers. This is a nice story, of two nice people, reuniting, and finally trying for love but I’m not sure I’m invested enough to continue with the series. C+