Book Review: That Wicked Earl by Jessica L. Jackson

Last year I joined the Alberta Romance Writer's Association for one reason and one reason only: critique groups. I needed accountability partners to keep me pushing forward on my book and my craft.

Well, I have been so grateful for the two ladies I get to talk to every Monday night, Sue Bergman and Jessica Jackson. They have become friends through our sessions, and have definitely helped me become a better writer. Finding Heaven will be a much better book because of them.

Last weekend, Jessica published the book she has been working on since we met. Here is the blurb and my review of it. It was a true joy to read!

Blurb:

Revenge burns in the chest of James Pearlington, Earl of Strathmoor. His only thoughts are how to punish the three men responsible for his forced ocean voyage. Not for nothing is he called that Wicked Earl! Before he can put any of his plans in motion, however, a bewitching distraction enters his life in the form of an Otaheitan princess. One night with her and his thoughts and hands are much too full for plans of revenge.

When Princess Phillipah arrives in London, she discovers it is a colder place than she ever imagined. She has never worn more clothes in her life and there are such strange rules and customs. (Why can she not kiss the butler if she wishes?) Can she warm the heart of England and convince the ton that the Wicked Earl has been tamed at last? Will the culture clash tear them apart, or can Phillipah and James find true love amidst all the odds stacked them?

My Review:

This was the first book of Jessica Jackson’s that I have ever read, despite being the fourth installment in her Winsome Regency series. I found the characters believable and delightful, the writing to be compelling, and the setting to be luscious and meticulously researched. Don’t expect Ms. Jackson to weed out “vintage” colloquialisms for the modern reader—I found it quite refreshing to not have the prose “dumbed down”, and loved learning about the era as I read.

“The Wicked Earl”, James Pearlington (aka “Lord Strathmoor”) has definitely earned his title—though most of the mischief that gained him the moniker happened in stories prior to this one. Never fear, though—this book stands very well on its own. It is quite clear what sort of sordid activities must populate my lord’s backstory—enough to make us wonder if such a man could ever be tamed.

Enter Phillipah, the Otaheitan (modern Tahiti) princess who beds him just before the last leg of a year-long ocean voyage not of his own choosing. James may have been thinking “last fling before home and revenge”, but not his virgin bride, who considers the chief’s marriage ceremony legal and binding—and who, incidentally, is the offspring of one of the sailors of the Bounty (of the famed mutiny), one of the many wonderful integrations with known events that Ms. Jackson works into the story.

Phillipah wakes from their wedding night to find that her new groom has been stolen away from her. No wilting island flower is she, and she soon sets sail for England with a small posse of friends and family to find him.

Needless to say, hijinks ensue as cultures and families clash. Whether it is James’ snobby, bored mother, Phillipah’s bodyguard’s habit of carrying his war club everywhere, or her own very un-English tendency to wear her heart on her sleeve, the two must cross a mountain of expectations to try to find love in the midst of the marriage with such an inauspicious beginning.

Ms. Jackson takes us on an amusing romp through the Regency era, with the charming characters of a Jane Austen romance and the spicy interludes and meticulous attention to detail of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.

As Phillipah says, “everyone loves her.” It’s true. These are characters that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’ve already purchased book one of the series so I can work my way through the rest of the stories in order. I can’t wait to become acquainted with more of Ms. Jackson’s work!