The Handbook for Handling His Lordship by Suzanne Enoch R
Nathaniel Stokes, Earl of Westfall, retired from his job as a spy for Wellington when he inherited his title unexpectedly upon his cousin's death. He finds that he cannot adapt to the lifestyle of a do nothing lordling so he decides to help other members of the peerage find items that have gone missing such as jewelry. He is enlisted by Lord Ebberling to find Rachel Newbury, his son's former governess, who went missing with a valuable diamond necklace the day his wife was murdered. Nate has no leads since the disappearance was years ago but when his young brother, Lawrence who is home after being suspended from Oxford, suggests a visit to the infamous Tantalous Club he realizes it might be the perfect place for a genteel young lady of education to hide in plain sight. Emily Portsman has been working for the Tantalous Club for three years and has taken pains to hide her true identity. When Lord Westfall shows up and his brother makes it clear that Westfall might be looking for someone she decides to figure out who he is searching for, but her interrogation turns into a night of passion.
Emily intrigues Nate and while he wants discover who she really is he cannot deny that there is something so much more than that that makes him want to get to know her. Emily is terrified that Westfall will discover who she is and that her past will finally catch up to her, but she cannot deny that she doesn't really want to avoid her. Luckily she has made quite a few friends in the last few years and she enlists their help in finding ways around Westfall's investigation. For the first time in years she leaves the gambling club and finds that time with him is quite enjoyable and that she might have finally found someone to trust. but it is still inevitable that he will realize who she is. Once he does his focus is on learning the truth and determining how best to protect Emily from the man who is obviously determined to do her harm. Together they must find a way to thwart Lord Ebberling and a way for them to reconcile the differences in their station. It takes big risks and a big sacrifice before Emily and Nate find their happily ever after.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed to find out this was a Tantalous Club book as I am getting a little tired of the gambling club trend in romance novels lately. I also did not appreciate that there were so many appearances by previous characters from other books, especially toward the end when they were present as often as the main characters of this story. Emily was a difficult character to understand as she seemed to be changing so often throughout the book, however I did admire how she took herself from poacher's daughter to an exalted position in a Lord's house through sheer force of will. Her running away from her past was understandable but considering where she ran to also rather stupid and her actions after Westfall appeared were not those of someone who was truly terrified as she should have been, and claimed to be. Westfall was a humorous character to me because of the actions he took to hide his own past as a spy from the world and I admired his determination to find out the truth about Emily and his willingness to rethink his opinions and trust her.
Nate and Emily worked very well together and I appreciated the few moments we did get to see them enjoying themselves. Unfortunately most of those moments were about both of them trying to investigate each other's motives or, later on, trying to find away to get Lord Ebberling. That part of the story was really the main focus of the novel and really a big part of their relationship as well, so while it worked and was engrossing enough, I didn't particularly get into the story or the relationship because of it. There was plenty of sex between them but it was very short and perfunctory and really not exciting at all. The Lord Ebberling plot took over and dragged on in my opinion for far too long and then ended in a completely unbelievable and ridiculous way that had me rolling my eyes. The ending of the novel itself was really interesting and the way that Nate and Emily chose to overcome the difference in their stations and avoid a complete scandal completely shocked me, but was much closer to realism than many other romances end. The writing was, as expected from Enoch, fun and fast and very well done.
Rating: A fun, fast read with two fun characters it was easy to admire and while they worked together I wish the relationship had taken more of a central role in the novel.