Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperback
Date of publication: October 30th, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Debutante Diaries
First Earl I See Tonight—Book 1
The Duke is But a Dream—Book 2 (expected publication date: July 30th, 2019)
An heiress with a daring proposal. An earl who’s determined to resist her. And a love that just might be written in the stars…
Recently jilted by his fiancée, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray didn’t have his hands full renovating his crumbling country house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from a headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate will change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment he spends with her tempts him to change his…
A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining her sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a husband…if only she can convince him that romance will play no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for Fiona. Gray can’t help but be dazzled by her genuine warmth. Yet as their feelings deepen, Fiona’s deadline looms. Will her secrets destroy them, or is true love their final destiny?
“Lord Ravenport,” Lady Callahan intoned, closing
her fan with an expert flick of the wrist. “Please, allow
me to present my daughter Miss Sophie Kendall and her
friends Miss Fiona Hartley and Miss Lily Hartley.”
Gray exchanged the expected pleasantries, then turned
to Fiona. A halo of loose curls crowned her head, and she
worried her plump bottom lip. Her pink gown exposed the
long column of her neck and the curve of her shoulders;
he could almost see her pulse beating wildly at the base
of her throat.
His instincts screamed for him to run right out of the
ballroom, and yet his boots remained rooted to the floor.
Worse, before he knew what he was doing he’d asked her
“It would be my pleasure,” she stammered, taking his
As he led her to the dance floor he questioned his own
good judgment—and not for the first time that day. He’d
saw Miss Hartley trip and tumble into the orchestra
at the Millbrook ball. He’d been dancing with Helena at
the time but had paused to help her up.
So much had changed since then.
He had no idea if Miss Hartley’s dance partner had been
to blame for the incident or whether she was prone to
16 A N NA BEN NE T T
falling, but just to be safe he tightened his hand on her
waist. And they began moving to the music.
The first measure had barely played before she asked,
“You received my letter?”
“I did,” he said noncommittally, twirling her beneath
his raised arm.
When she faced him again, she looked him directly in
the eye. “What do you think of my . . . offer?” she asked,
her voice cracking on the final word.
He tamped down an unexpected pang of sympathy. “I
think that we hardly know each other.”
“True, but that is easily rectified, is it not?” There it
was—an unmistakable hint of desperation. And a sense of
urgency that even her letter hadn’t conveyed.
“It is,” he conceded. “However, I suspect that the more
we know each other, the less we’ll like each other.” Cynical
but true in his experience. His parents certainly hadn’t
grown fonder of each other. Neither had he and Helena.
She winced and looked away before regaining her
composure. “Perhaps. But we needn’t like each other.”
Gray chuckled at that. “I never thought I’d meet some
one more jaded than I.”
“So, you’ll consider my offer?” she pressed.
“I will not,” he said firmly. Under different circum
stances, her fortune may have tempted him. But she was
clearly intent on using him for her own purpose—and he
suspected that she’d set her sights on him for reasons be
yond his title. After all, there were half a dozen peers in
attendance now who’d leap at the chance to marry a
young and unconventionally beautiful heiress.
But he was not one of them.
“It seems rather closedminded of you to dismiss me
summarily,” she shot back, displaying a boldness that was
borderline rude—and refreshing.
F IR ST EA R L I SEE TON IGH T 17
“If I said I’d consider your offer, I’d only be giving you
false hope. Delaying the inevitable.”
“The inevitable rejection, you mean,” she clarified.
“Yes.” He was still reeling from the sting of Helena’s
rebuff and wouldn’t wish anyone that sort of pain and
“Please,” she begged. “I realize that it’s highly unusual
for a woman to propose marriage—”
“It’s unheard of.”
“Surely you must be curious—as to why I did it.” She
looked up at him, her shining blue eyes challenging him
to deny the truth of her words.
Gray shrugged. “You have your reasons for making the
offer; I have my reasons for declining it.”
“Give me the opportunity to explain,” she pleaded. “Just
a quarter of an hour to make my case. If, after that, you
remain unconvinced, I promise I shan’t mention it again.”
He must be out of his damned mind to consider engag
ing in further discussion with Miss Hartley. The very last
thing he needed was another conniving, selfserving fe
male attempting to interfere with his life. He had opened
his mouth to tell her so when someone bumped into his
Gray’s torso collided with Miss Hartley’s chest, and she
stumbled two steps before he wrapped an arm around her
slender waist, catching her just before she landed on the
parquet floor. She gasped and clung to his jacket, her ex
pression an odd mix of relief and mortification.
“Oh dear,” she breathed.
Their faces were so close he could see unexpected dark
blue flecks in her irises and the individual freckles dotting
her nose. “Forgive me,” he said.
For what indeed? Steering her into the collision? Grip
16 A N NA BEN NE T T
ping her waist too tightly? Or for staring at the swells of
her breasts and having decidedly wicked thoughts while
he should have shielded her from further embar
rassment? Ignoring her question, he asked, “Are you all
“I am.” Her cheeks turned a charming shade of pink.
She blew out a breath and shot him a shaky smile. “When
it comes to dance floor mishaps, I confess I’ve survived
Gray looked over his shoulder to see how the other
couple fared, surprised to find Helena and her dance part
ner smiling apologetically.
And the truth struck him. For the last ten minutes, while
he’d been dancing with Miss Hartley, he’d been completely,
blissfully unaware of Helena and what she was doing. Even
more remarkable, he’d forgotten that she was in the room.
“Meet me in Hyde Park tomorrow,” he said to Miss
Hartley, mentally cursing his own weakness. “I will listen
to what you have to say, but don’t expect anything to
change my mind.”
The corners of her mouth curled in a triumphant smile.
“Thank you. All I ask is that you allow me the chance to
explain the advantages of the arrangement—for us both.”
“Forgive me if I remain skeptical,” he drawled. “I’ll
meet you near the footbridge. Three o’clock?”
“You won’t regret this,” she said earnestly, but the prick
ling sensation between his shoulder blades suggested
he would. In spite of her naïveté and candor—or maybe
because of those things—Miss Hartley could prove far
more dangerous to him than Helena had ever been.
About the Author:
ABOUT THE BOOK:
An heiress with a daring proposal. An earl who’s determined to resist her. And a love that just might be written
in the stars, in First Earl I See Tonight by Anna Bennett.
Recently jilted by his fiancée, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray didn’t have
his hands full renovating his crumbling country house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from a
headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate
will change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment he spends with her tempts him to change his…
A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining
her sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a husband…if only she can convince him that romance
will play no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for Fiona. Gray can’t help but be dazzled by her
genuine warmth. Yet as their feelings deepen, Fiona’s deadline looms. Will her secrets destroy them, or is true love
their final destiny?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anna Bennett started swiping romances from her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager and decided that
books with balls, dukes, and gowns were the best. So, when she had the chance to spend a semester in
London she packed her bags—and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She
dreamed of writing romance but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.
Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the stories she
loves and won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart®. She lives in Maryland with her
husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes when she quotes Jane Austen.
Anna’s books include of the Wayward Wallflowers series and the Debutante Diaries series.
Anna’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/_AnnaBennett
Anna’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaBennettAuthor/
Anna’s Website: http://annabennettauthor.com/
SMP Romance Twitter: https://twitter.com/heroesnhearts & https://twitter.com/SMPRomance
SMP Romance Website: https://heroesandheartbreakers.com/
I am not going to go into my entire spiel about how much I love historical romances. Because you all have heard it before and I don’t want to bore you. I will say that I was becoming bored with historical romances. As well written as some might be, they all seemed to follow 1 of 2 formats. You have the plucky heroine who gets in over her head and the alpha male hero rescues her. Or, the hero is tortured over something that happened in his past and the heroine heals him. While First Earl I See Tonight does have a tortured hero, that is the only part of the plot that was predictable.
First Earl I See Tonight is about Fiona Hartley. Fiona had received a note from a blackmailer demanding money by a certain date. If he/she didn’t receive that money, an article would be published in a prominent newspaper about her younger sister, Lily. The blackmailer claimed to have evidence that Lily was the illegitimate daughter of a well-known madame. If that came out, Lily would be shunned by the ton and her chances for a good marriage would be over. Desperate to avoid that, Fiona writes a note to the Earl of Ravenport, asking him to marry her and outlining why they would have a good union. Gray, having been dumped by his fiancée, is amused and shocked by the note. Determined to scare her off, he invites her to his crumbling country manor house, The Fortress. Instead of scaring her off, it charms Fiona. Gray realizes that there is so much more to Fiona than what he thought. But he cannot love. A traumatic event when he was a child had forced him to seal that part of him off. Can he open up and let Fiona into his heart? And will Fiona find out who the blackmailer is? Can she trust Gray enough to let him know what is going on? Will she have to let true love go to protect her sister’s reputation? Read the book.
I loved the cover of First Earl I See Tonight. It encompassed everything that was going on in the book, except the blackmail. The model looked exactly as I thought Fiona would look. I loved that The Fortress was in the background. And the diary was there, along with Fiona’s deceased mother’s necklace. Loved it!!!!
I loved Fiona. For a girl of her time, she was very forward. I mean, she wrote to Gray, asking him to marry her. That is unheard of for her era. Girls did not do that. And it was so freaking refreshing and new!! I had mentioned above that I was getting bored with reading historical romances. This book pulled me back from the edge of not reading them. I loved her argument for making her case and her reaction to Gray asking if she was with child. I laughed out loud at that. Fiona was not graceful either. I mean, she met Gray by falling into the orchestra playing at a party. She was also loyal to her family. She would do anything to keep Lily’s parentage out of the papers and save her from becoming shunned. Her only fault was that she should have told Gray sooner than she did about the blackmailer.
I liked Gray. I will admit, I did laugh when I read his response to Fiona’s request. I would have noped the heck out of there. Burned the note and not looked back. But, he was intrigued by it. Which is why he visited her at her home and questioned her the way he did. Which was hilarious because of Fiona’s responses. I liked his plan to scare her into not wanting to marry him by inviting her to The Fortress. That blew up in his face, big time. It was her way of seeing the beauty in everything that sent him down that slippery slope to love. Because he kept his emotions shuttered, I wasn’t sure about his feelings for Fiona until they had sex. What cemented it for me was when he read that sweet but awful poem at the ball. While it was bad, it was so sweet. I cried when he told Fiona about his family and why he felt he couldn’t love. I wasn’t expecting what he told her. I was sobbing because, man, he was only 11. Which is my son’s age. He was a baby. Being exposed to that broke my heart for him.
I have had issues in romances where there is zero romance. That there is no build-up to the sexual relationship. Whelp had no issues with that here!! Gray and Fiona had a friendship that evolved into a relationship before they fell in love. Loved it. It made the sex scenes so much more juicer to read knowing that.
Let’s talk about sexual tension. OMG, it was insane. All Gray had to do was look at Fiona and bam, it was there. I did like that the author did attempt to hold them off from having sex. She had them do everything but sex. But, it was meant to be and it was fantastic. They were like bunnies. In a cottage, In a lake, In a closet (I sound like Dr. Seuss…lol). I did wonder how people didn’t know what was going on.
I was surprised at who the blackmailer was. It was a twist that I didn’t see coming. But, what I also didn’t see coming was that person threatening Gray. Which set off a series of events that made me both mad and sad. What also made me mad were the reasons why this person decided to blackmail Fiona. Man, talk about petty. I did like that Gray ended up getting the last word in, though. “My hero” did go through my head.
The end of the book was fantastic. All the storylines were ended in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I cannot wait to read book 2.
What I liked about First Earl I See Tonight:
- The storyline
What I disliked about First Earl I See Tonight:
- Fiona not telling Gray about the blackmailer
- Why the blackmailer chose Fiona
- What happened to Gray when he was a child
I gave First Earl I See Tonight a 4-star rating. This was a well written, humorous book was an engaging storyline. I connected with the characters. I did not like who the blackmailer ended up being and that person’s reason for choosing Fiona.
I would give First Earl I See Tonight an Adult rating. There is explicit sex. There is mild violence. There is no language. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.
I would reread First Earl I See Tonight. I would also recommend this book to family and friends.
I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review First Earl I See Tonight.
All opinions stated in this review of First Earl I See Tonight are mine.
**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**