“Good Earls Don’t Lie” is the first in Michelle Willingham’s Earls Next Door Series, but Willingham has tons of experience in the genre and category with many books set in Regency and Medieval time periods. The cover was an immediate draw for me, mainly because of the beautiful dress, but I was somewhat afraid it would be a typical bodice-ripper. It was not.
The Story- Iain is a down-on-his luck Irish Earl, struggling to rebuild after the potato famine. He has nothing left to offer but himself in marriage to any rich English heiress who will take him. Rose is also attempting to put her life back together after an illness has left her unable to walk and her mother has started showing signs of dementia. Their paths cross when Iain visits her grandmother’s estate in hopes that the woman will introduce him to English society.
My Thoughts- I didn’t expect to love this story as much as I did. Both characters were so sympathetic and wonderful that I was rooting for them almost immediately. I loved Iain within half a page. He is the perfect alpha hero because while he has confidence and snark, his circumstances make him a real person with issues to deal with. The story progressed organically and never felt rushed or like something was thrown in to add pages. I also particularly loved that these characters develop as such good friends before falling in love. Taking the time to bring them together in that way made the payoff even better, and the love felt complex and real.
The Good- Not only were the main characters wonderful, but many of the secondary characters shone as well, such as Iris and Lily. I liked that both main characters had some rather large obstacle to overcome; it made the outcome more satisfying. And can we talk about Iain again? He is one of my favorite romance heroes in a long time: the perfect mix of confident, yet humble, caring, yet not a pushover, romantic, but not a rake.
The Bottom Line- Yes, the title is a bit silly, but the book is anything but. It is not a typical bodice-ripper; it is simply a very well-written historical romance with great characters. 5 stars