The Unexpected Earl, by Philippa Jane Keyworth – A Review 

The Unexpected Earl , by Philippa Jane Keyworth (2014)From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Imagine the scene: A woman and man meet in the entryway to a glittering ballroom—full of dancing couples, flickering candles, and the faraway strains of violins. The couple locks eyes, and with that meaningful, tension-filled glance, the man bends down and kisses the woman’s glove.

This seems to be the opening scene of a promising new romance, does it not? But this is not truly the beginning of a romance, but the finale that is six long years overdue. Or is it? In The Unexpected Earl, Philippa Jane Keyworth’s latest Regency novel, readers discover a story of second chances, romantic entanglements, and the rediscovery of true love that is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Persuasion.

Julia Rotherham is prepared to play the various roles of wallflower, dutiful sister, and old maid at her beautiful younger sister’s coming-out ball. Everything goes according to plan until she comes face to face with the one man she hates with every fiber of her being, the man she’s spent every day for the past six years trying to forget: Lucius Wolversley. Six years ago Julia had given him her heart and accepted his offer of marriage, but shortly afterwards he had broken off the engagement without an explanation and disappeared from her life, breaking her heart and destroying her dreams in the process.

When Lucius Wolversley’s friend persuades him to leave his estate and account books to grace Almack’s with his presence, he agrees, thinking that he’ll have a boring and uneventful evening. But when the carriage stops in front of a private residence instead, Wolversley is shocked to discover that the ball his friend tricked him into attending is at the one place he has spent six years avoiding—the home of Julia Rotherham, the woman he once loved and then jilted. Forced into a confrontation with his ex-fiancée, he discovers her to be as beautiful and hotheaded as ever, and what he never expected her to be—bitter and single.

As Julia finds herself spending more and more time with Wolversley, she concocts a plan to prove if he ever loved her, and if not, to force him to leave: by pretending she’s in love with another man. But when her plan backfires and Julia and Wolversley are forced into a binding relationship, can they set aside their anger long enough for the truth to be revealed about what really happened six years ago? And when both of their sisters are in danger, will Wolversley and Julia be able to work together to rescue them, and on the journey discover that they still could have a future together?

While it did take me many re-readings and talks with Persuasion admirers to learn to love Jane Austen’s classic, I’ve always enjoyed the type of romance found in both Persuasion and The Unexpected Earl. The fact that the characters are seen six years after their initial relationship is unusual, but it made this novel original and the romance heartwarming. The themes of past separation, steadfast love, and triumphant restoration of all that was previously lost were themes I recognized from Persuasion, and as with Jane Austen’s classic, this pattern was perfected in The Unexpected Earl.

Ironically, the only thing I didn’t like about The Unexpected Earl was also what I liked most about the novel. Because the story was set six years later, the excitement of the initial “falling in love” stage as well as the broken engagement had already occurred prior to page one. While I enjoyed reading the Persuasion style romantic storyline, I missed seeing what the hero and heroine were like before their heartbreak, and as the novel went on I found myself wishing I could see more about their past as neighbors, childhood friends, and then young sweethearts beyond the few tantalizing glimpses the reader is given.

Overall, the setting of the story, romantic suspense, and Julia and Wolversley’s relationship—specifically their journey of forgiveness and love after so much pain—was well written and made The Unexpected Earl impossible to put down. I was hooked from the very first page with my introduction to the brooding, secretive Lucius Wolversley, but as soon as I met the impulsive, hurting Julia Rotherham I knew that this would be a love story that would pull my heartstrings. And it did—The Unexpected Earl made me cry, laugh, and on finishing, immediately recommend it to my friends. This was a joy to read, and is a Regency novel that will delight Jane Austen fans, particularly lovers of Persuasion.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Unexpected Earl, by Philippa Jane Keyworth
Madison Street Publishing (2014)
Trade paperback & eBook (322) pages
ISBN: 978-0983671985
ASIN: B00MUFP0BM

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Cover image courtesy of Madison Street Publishing © 2014; text Katie Patchell © 2014, Austenprose.com 

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

10 thoughts on “The Unexpected Earl, by Philippa Jane Keyworth – A Review 

  1. Finally! I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for Phillippa Jane Keyworth’s next novel. Her first, The Widow’s Redeemer, is still one of the best Regency romances I have ever read. Thanks for the review. If this latest offering is anything like her first it is a must-read.

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  2. I also not read “The Widow’s Redeemer” so I cannot comment the review, I only can said I believe it is good book to read and I’m sure if I have a book, I will be enjoy good story romance.

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  3. After diligently reading through “Georgette Heyer’s Regency World” I am sorry to say it, but Wolversley would not have broken up the betrothal. Not under Regency-rules. Unless he had found his betrothed to be unfaithful and could prove it. Because in any other scenario he would have been dead society-wise. She even could have sued him! It was only the lady who could call off an engagement.
    If on the other hand she HAD betrayed him he would not have a go again and it would have been her who would have been an outcast from society. So the very start of the novel is a situation that would have never occured. I think I will give this one a miss therefore.

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    • I’ve also read “Georgette Heyer’s Regency World” and agree with you (by the way, wasn’t that just a delightful and informative read?). However, the fault in this case is mine rather than the author’s–I should’ve clarified in my review. The betrothal was one only known between Wolversley, his uncle, Julia, and her parents. I’m almost positive that Julia’s siblings didn’t know before or after the engagement, and society definitely didn’t know. I’m not a scholar of the time period and don’t know the intricacies of private engagements, but I’d assume that while there would be hard feelings between those involved (and the parents) the news would stay in the family.
      I do hope you give “The Unexpected Earl” a second chance! :)

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      • Well, you see, Georgette Heyer has dealt with a not announced betrothal – in Cotillion. And it would have been Miss Charing, who had to call of that betrothal. Even though nearly everybody concerned (but the rather simple minded hostess of Kitty) knew that Kitty and Freddy did not take that betrothal for real.
        Would it not have been strange, if not even the siblings had known about something so important as a serious meant betrothal? I am not convinced that the author has thought this through.

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        • Like you, I had thought about the irregularity of the man breaking the engagement, but had decided that with the overall good review of her writing, I was intrigued to find out what the situation was. (I too am very fond of Georgette Heyer and the book you mention!)

          And perhaps not too strange for the siblings to be unaware of the engagement, as folks seemed to keep everything more private in Regency times, and especially if the couple desired it. Even in our beloved Persuasion only a couple people are aware of the relationship between Anne and Captain Wentworth.

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          • Of course I do not know about the family situation, nor how long that betrothal lasted. But with a betrothal came severe differences in conduct – the heroine would have been allowed so much more “liberties” – like driving out with her betrothed without a chaperone. Do you really think that would have gone unnoticed?

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  4. Despite “Regency Rules” being broken I usually can forgive that if the romance keeps me turning pages…a little angst and sigh worthy moments make for a good read. So I think I may jump into this book a.s.a.p.

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  5. Well, I did just that – bought it, read it and now going to post a review. Loved it. Although I do have to say that the reason Lucius jilted her was not to hard to guess. Loved the character of Mr. Highsmith, especially….maybe the author will be writing about Annabelle’s and Peter’s romance next. Did remind me, also, as the one reviewer stated, of P&P: Darcy & Elizabeth with their misunderstandings, Wickham/Sylvester and his foul plans, Mr. Bennet/Mr. Rotherham sitting reading a book and his love of his one daughter.

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