"Transports you to another time with love, passion, and story telling."
Reviewed by Mandy Burns
Posted October 19, 2011
Lady Harriet Hamilton fell in love with Thomas Anson's
ancestral home at the age of 9 which is when she met Thomas
for the first time. The land, the home, the gardens, the
art, all of it enchanting; the angry teenager with angry
eyes willing to spare words with her is beyond intriguing.
Lady Harriet never thought to see Thomas Anson again but
seeing him brings back fond memories allowing Harriett to be
her outrageous self. Harriet can easily add Thomas to her
growing list of future husbands, she has no doubt that she
will be a wife by the end of her season, it is just of the
matter of who.
Thomas Anson promises himself at the age of 17 that he will
right all of the wrongs his father committed as the Earl of
Lichfield. The day he first met Lady Harriett Thomas was
sneaking family heirlooms out of his ancestral home before
they could be auctioned off to pay for his fathers gambling
debts. Becoming a business man to make his fortune
gave his peers something more to gossip about but
saving his home is Thomas's number one priority. His father
wants Thomas married before he dies, Thomas is usually ready
and willing to ignore his fathers wants until he is
introduced to the enchanting Lady Harriet. Now being forced
to marry doesn't seem like such a bad idea to secure the
future of his home.
Virginia Henley proves once again that she is the queen of
historical romance. THE DARK EARL transports you to another
time with love, passion, and story telling. Great read!
When Lady Harriet Hamilton and Viscount Thomas meet, Thomas
finds her outspoken, and yet, quite a beauty. But Thomas is
committed to restoring the family holdings, not chasing a
wife. If only Harry wasn't making herself right at home...
Hampden House, London.
"Oh, Bugger and Balls! Sometimes I wish we were back in
Ireland." Lady Harriet Hamilton removed the second hat she
had tried on and flung it across the room. "Living in
London is far too repressive. I have no freedom to do
Her sister Lady Beatrix laughed. "It hasnâ€™t curtailed your
Harry joined in her laughter. "Nor my wagering, or
flirting, or roaming about the city unescorted." She looked
in the mirror and wrinkled her nose. "Itâ€™s these bloody
fashions set by the queen. They are hideous!"
"Youâ€™re nineteen, going on twenty, so you canâ€™t possibly go
"Well, I abso-bloody-lutely refuse to wear a bonnet. They
make me look like Old Mother Hubbard." She was totally
unaware that her long dark hair and pale green eyes gave
her a rare and striking beauty.
The Duchess of Abercorn swept into her daughtersâ€™
bedchamber. "Arenâ€™t you ready yet? I usually insist on
being fashionably late, but today thatâ€™s out of the
question. Victoria and Albert are officiating at this grand
opening of the second Crystal Palace, and we cannot insult
the queen by walking in late." The Duke of Abercorn was
Prince Albertâ€™s Groom of the Stole, and for the last eight
years also had been his friend and confidant. "This
official opening, which marks the beginning of the Season,
has already been delayed a month because the male statues
were considered too shocking for the queenâ€™s
sensibilities." She gave a sardonic laugh. "Since Victoria
has had eight children, Iâ€™m sure sheâ€™s more than familiar
with male parts."
"It is utter desecration to ruin beautiful statues by
chopping off their genitals and replacing them with fig
leaves," Harry said with disgust.
"Oh, the fig leaves were subsequently considered too
offensive, so now theyâ€™ve draped all the statues with
Harriet and Beatrix rolled their eyes.
"Do you think Prince Teddy will be there?" Jane, who was
seventeen, asked with apprehension.
"Of course heâ€™ll be there. Heâ€™s the heir to the throne and
his doting parents think the sun shines out his arse," her
mother replied. "Whatâ€™s he done now?"
"When we were at Windsor last week, he touched my breast,"
"But heâ€™s only thirteen," Harry said.
"What the devil does age have to do with it?" her mother
asked. "Heâ€™s a male, and already randy by the looks of him.
Donâ€™t be alone with him, darling, or heâ€™ll have your
"Royalty has its privileges," Harry quipped.
"Too bad he isnâ€™t a bit older," Beatrix said with a
wink. "If you play your cards right, you could end up a
Jane blushed. "You are a devil, Trixy!"
"All three of you are devils. Whatâ€™s the hold up here?"
their mother demanded.
"Harry refuses to wear a bonnet," Trixy complained.
"Well, I should think so," the duchess declared, plucking
the decoration from one of the discarded hats. "Pin this
bunch of cherries into your hair. Always remember, we donâ€™t
follow fashion, we set it." She touched the crimson ostrich
feathers on her own hat to prove her point.
When the fashionably gowned quartet emerged onto Green
Street, they found sixteen-year-old James waiting by the
phaeton. He opened the carriage door for the ladies. "Iâ€™m
sitting on the box with Riley. Your crinolines leave no
room for me."
"Just donâ€™t let your new top hat blow away," his mother
James shut the door. "I wish you had let me take the train.
It lets you off at the main gate to the palace grounds."
"The railway was built to accommodate the masses. There
will be such a crush of hoi polloi today, you wouldnâ€™t be
able to breathe," the duchess declared with a shudder.
"Iâ€™ll ride the train with you later in the week, James,"
Harry offered. "I rather like the hoi polloi."
James climbed up beside their driver. He turned, winked at
his sister, grinned at his mother, removed his hat, and
held it in his lap for safekeeping.
"You have a tender heart, Harry. I put it down to the time
your father was the Lord Lieutenant of County Donegal and
the ruinous rains came. One end of Ireland to the other
became a vast wasteland of putrefying vegetation. I took
you with me on my mercy visits to the poor, and youâ€™ve
championed the down-trodden ever since."
"Iâ€™m following in Uncle Johnnyâ€™s footsteps." Lord John
Russell, the Duchess of Abercornâ€™s half-brother, had served
a six-year term as Englandâ€™s Prime Minister until two years
"Our family has decidedly bad timing. Johnny had been in
the House of Commons thirty-three years before he became
Prime Minister. Ireland hadnâ€™t had a chance to recover from
the tragic potato famine when he took office."
"But he was still able to do lots of good things," Harry
reminded her mother. "Not only did he abolish the Corn
Laws, he was able to limit the working hours for women."
"Oh letâ€™s not talk politics, Harry. The Season officially
opens today and itâ€™s supposed to be a celebration," Trixy
"Every other year, the Season opens in May. Thatâ€™s another
delay we can blame on Her Gracious Majesty," Harry said
"Speaking of celebrations, I donâ€™t understand why I canâ€™t
make my debut with Harry and Trixy. Think of the expense it
will save if we all have our Season together."
"Since when did you start caring about expenses, Jane?" her
mother asked dryly. "A coming out ball tells society that
the young ladies making their debut are ready for marriage.
Since Harriet and Beatrix are only a year apart, they are
having their Season together."
"But Iâ€™m seventeen. I donâ€™t want to be left out," Jane
"Youâ€™re hardly out of the school room. It would be
scandalous of me to throw you onto the marriage market.
Just be happy that I will allow you to attend their ball."
Harry poked Trixy in the ribs with her elbow. "Dâ€™you hear
that? We are to be thrown on the marriage market. Sold to
the highest bidder, I warrant."
"Sounds like an exciting adventure to me," Trixy teased. "A
guinea says I get more proposals than you."
"Marriage proposals, or the other kind?" Harry asked.
"Donâ€™t jest. Youâ€™ll get plenty of both," their mother
"You shock my sensibilities. Societyâ€™s morals have changed
since the decadent Regency era, when you came of age,
Mother. Gentlemen today treat ladies as if they were
saints. They want their females to be pure and innocent,
and will do everything in their power to protect them from
being tainted by the wicked world." Harry gave a mock
sigh. "Queen Victoria has taken all the fun out of
"Rubbish! Gentlemen may pay lip service to pure and
innocent, but in reality nothing could be further from the
truth. Beneath the facade of respectability, lust and
licentiousness lurk. The male of the species will take
advantage of any opportunity."
Harry winked at her sisters. "Is that what Father did?"
Lady Lu smiled her secret smile. "None of you would have
been born if he hadnâ€™t. The last thing I wanted was a
Harryâ€™s eyes widened in surprise. "How did he persuade you?"
"He promised that if I gave in to his passionate advances,
he would give me a girl." Her wry gaze swept over her
daughters. "If Iâ€™d known he would give me three daughters
in a row, I might have resisted."
The Hamilton sisters laughed. Their mother had always said
outrageous things and she encouraged them to follow in her
When they arrived at Crystal Palace Park, there was already
a crush of carriages. Riley drove the phaeton as close to
the front entrance as he could manage, and the Hamilton
family alighted and made their way inside to await Her
Royal Highness, Queen Victoria and Albert, her prince
They made their way past the series of ornamental fountains
and ascended the dais built especially for the ribbon-
cutting ceremony. Within minutes, the royal family came
into view with its retinue of attendants.
Harryâ€™s glance was drawn to her father who walked directly
behind Albert. Not only was Abercorn taller, but he was far
handsomer in her opinion, since the prince consortâ€™s hair
had receded alarmingly. She watched her parents exchange an
intimate glance. They are still in love with each other.
Thatâ€™s the kind of marriage I want.
As Queen Victoria delivered her speech, extolling the
Crystal Palace as a showplace for the industrial, military,
and economic superiority of Great Britain, Harryâ€™s mind
wandered back to the summers at Barons Court, their Irish
estate. Vivid memories of her father rowing her mother
across the fairy-tale lakes, or taking her up before him on
one of his Arabians filled her head. Heâ€™s still wooing her
after twenty years of marriage. Harry sighed. How utterly
Her thoughts were brought back to the present when she saw
young Prince Teddy edging close to her sister Jane. Harry
murmured to her brother, "Teddy canâ€™t keep his hands off
Jane. When you get him alone, thump him on the nose."
He whispered back, "I may be reckless, but Iâ€™m not raving
mad. Teddy will be king one day. It pays to have friends in
high places." He glanced at fourteen-year-old Princess
Vicky. "It must run in the family. The Princess Royal canâ€™t
keep her hands off my private parts."
"Well, Iâ€™ll be damned!" Harry exclaimed in utter shock.
"We declare the second Great Exhibition open to the
public." Victoria cut the ribbon and the throng
cheered, "God Save Our Gracious Majesty!"
The fountain water jets suddenly rose up over a hundred
feet in the air. The spectacle caused the crowd to step
back, and only the privileged spectators on the front row
were anointed by the spray.
Harry lost no time making her getaway. But as she left the
dais, she paused before Prince Teddy and smiled sweetly. "I
dreamed about you last night, Your Highness. You touched
Janeâ€™s breast, and I shoved you on your arse!"
It took him a moment to gauge her meaning; then he threw
back his head and laughed with glee. "Thatâ€™s why I didnâ€™t
touch yours, Harry."
She shook her fist at him and hurried off, eager to see the
fantastical displays that had been brought from around the
world. An entire wing of the glass building had been
divided into courts depicting the history of art and
architecture from ancient Egypt through the Renaissance.
Harry drank it all in, moving slowly so she could
appreciate the fine details. She stopped to look at a
display of extinct animals from around the world. She
stared at some ugly green creatures made of plaster.
A deep voice from behind her said, "They are called
dinosaurs. Do you like them?"
Harry turned around to see who addressed her. The gentleman
was tall and extremely dark. There was something vaguely
familiar about him that stirred her memory, and suddenly
she was swept back to Shugborough, the mansion that had
stolen her heart more than a decade ago. She could even
smell the jasmine and honeysuckle. "I would call them
monstrosities," she drawled. "I much prefer centaurs."
Their eyes met, and held. "So, you know who I am."
"And you, obviously, are aware of my identity."
Green eyes stared into pewter, as the male and female took
each otherâ€™s measure. Harry saw a man in his late twenties.
Though handsome, his features were stern and unsmiling. He
carried himself with a great deal of unbending pride, and
had an animal magnetism that was fatally attractive.
"I think it unwise to wander about alone in this crowd. May
I escort you back to your family, my lady?"
"You arrogant devil!" She laughed in his face. "I would be
offended if you werenâ€™t so ridiculous. I do not conform to
the rigid rules of propriety, my lord!"
He looked pointedly at the cherries adorning her hair. "It
is evident that your upbringing has been remiss. Your
father should have taken you across his knee."
"And tanned my arse? If I remember correctly, thatâ€™s what
you threatened to do the last time we met."
It was clear the young beauty was mocking him. She had been
outspoken as a child; now she was downright brazen. Thomas
Anson was tempted to take her by the shoulders and shake
the insolence from her. He clenched his fists to keep his
hands from violating her.
Anson possessed a supreme air of authority that rubbed
Harry the wrong way. She threw him a contemptuous smile and
turned away. Before she had taken a dozen steps, she came
face-to-face with Dâ€™Arcy Lambton, the young Earl of Durham.
He was the grandson of Lord Earl Grey, and a close family
"Hello, Harriet. You look ravishing today."
"Dâ€™Arcy." She gave him her hand and he took it to his lips.
"Did you know they have a circus set up in the center
transept?" He pointed in the opposite direction. "Oh,
thereâ€™s my friend Thomas. Come, let me introduce you to
him." He led her toward Anson, and greeted him
warmly. "Allow me to present Lady Harriet Hamiltonâ€¦This is
my good friend Thomas, Lord Anson."
The corners of Harryâ€™s mouth lifted with amusement as she
offered Anson her hand.
He took it stiffly, and bent his mouth to her fingers.
"Youâ€™re supposed to kiss it, not bite it," she warned with
a gurgle of laughter.
"You know each other?" Dâ€™Arcy asked with surprise.
"Thomas and I have been acquainted for years. We once
conspired to steal some paintings together."
Dâ€™Arcy laughed. "I warrant they were valuable. Thomas is an
authority on art."
Anson glared at her with disapproval. "You are
incorrigible," he muttered.
"Flattery, begod!" Harry teased.
"Harriet and I are going to take a look at the circus. Why
donâ€™t you join us?"
"Oh, yes, please do," she urged. "I hear they have a
Anson accepted immediately. Since he knew her invitation
was insincere, it gave him perverse satisfaction.
Harry, flanked by the two handsome lordsâ€“ one fair, the
other extremely darkâ€“ made her way through the crowd to the
center transept. Trumpets blared, followed by a drum roll,
and as everyone raised their eyes they saw a man ascending
a narrow metal ladder. He didnâ€™t stop until he reached a
dizzying height; then he took a firm grip on a long, thin
pole and stepped out onto a high wire that was almost
invisible. The crowd below gave a collective gasp.
"His name is Blondin. If he walks the tightrope
successfully, it will make him famous," Thomas predicted.
"A guinea says he doesnâ€™t make it all the way across!"
Dâ€™Arcy coughed uncomfortably. "Thomas doesnâ€™t make wagers.
He is opposed to any kind of gambling on principle."
Harry felt her cheeks flush. She knew she had made a faux
pas. Instead of apologizing, she said recklessly, "Surely
when a male wagers, it shows courage."
Thomasâ€™s features hardened. "And when a female wagers, it
shows vulgarity. As a matter of fact, I find this entire
display rather vulgar."
"If you are referring to Blondinâ€™s tights, I think they
display his manhood magnificently."
It was Dâ€™Arcyâ€™s turn to flush.
Harry gritted her teeth. There was something about the dark
devil that made her behave outrageously. She saw Ansonâ€™s
eyes narrow. The look of censure he gave her was
threatening. If we were alone heâ€™d shake me until my teeth
Harry slipped her arm into Dâ€™Arcyâ€™s, using him as a
shield. "Did you receive your invitation to our ball? The
guest list was extremely selective, but since you are an
earl, we made an exception in your case," she teased.
"You and Lady Beatrix are making your debut together. I
assume youâ€™ll be spending the Season in London and wonâ€™t be
going to Barons Court until later in the year?"Dâ€™Arcy asked.
Harry sighed. "You assume correctly, more is the pity. I
"What is it that you miss?" Anson asked pointedly.
"I miss the people. They have an irreverent sense of humor.
They are not straight-laced like the English, who worship
at the altar of respectability."
"To the Irish, drinking and gambling are virtues," Anson
"Indeed they are. I am grateful that they taught me to do
His dark eyes were filled with censure. "You revel in
"You have guessed my secret, my lord. Since I discerned
your secret years ago, I warrant we are even."
A cry of alarm from the crowd drew all eyes upward, where
Blondin swayed precariously, before he regained his balance.
"Oh Lord, I canâ€™t bear to watch. If he falls, it will make
me ill. Itâ€™s outrageous that a man is forced to do such
things for money."
Ansonâ€™s grim expression softened. "Youâ€™ve just revealed
another secretâ€¦you are tenderhearted."
"Yes, I do take pity on those less fortunate." Her green
eyes glittered with mischief.
"So you may consider yourself invited to my debut ball."
"I admit to being guilty of showing my disapproval, Lady
Harriet, but surely such cruel punishment doesnâ€™t fit the
She threw back her head and laughed. "You do have a sense
of humor after all!"
What do you think about this review?
1 comment posted.
Re: Transports you to another time with love, passion, and story telling.
Thank you for the generous review.
(Virginia Henley 6:18pm October 20, 2011)
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