From the desk of Katie Patchell:
Hello, fellow Austenprose readers! Finally—the winter is over and spring is here. To commemorate this season of growth and new beginnings, we bring you Erica Vetsch’s latest Regency creation, The Indebted Earl. The third in her Serendipity and Secrets series, it can be read as a standalone or as a continuation of the series. This novel’s themes of making (and forgiving) debts and starting afresh are universal, but this time, they come with the added flair of a wild seascape and even wilder hearts.
Portugal, 1814: As he sits by his friend’s deathbed, Captain Charles Wyvern wishes he could trade places. An oversight risked both of their lives during a Naval battle, and he believes it unfair that he—career member of the Royal Navy with no loved ones waiting for him on shore—healed from his near-fatal wounds, while Major Rich Richardson will leave behind his devoted mother and charming fiancé, Sophie. In Rich’s moments, Charles agrees to his friend’s final request: Will he temporarily leave the sea and do whatever he can to take care of the two women Rich is leaving behind?
Things were simpler at sea. The rules of engagement were clear, and the chain of command set in stone. Feelings and opinions didn’t enter into the equation, and total obedience was expected. Yes, things were definitely simpler at sea…but lonelier, too, if he was to be completely truthful. (118)
England, 1814: Lady Sophia Haverley—Sophie, to her friends and family—never expected to lose someone who has been such a constant in her life. From their mischievous childhood to their maturing young adulthood, she and Rich knew they were meant to be together. They were mistaken. When the stoic Captain Wyvern arrives on her doorstep after Rich’s funeral, offering to give any aid he can, Sophie plans to refuse out of her anger that maybe (just maybe) he could have saved her fiance’s life. Yet it is her beloved almost-mother-in-law that offers a solution to free themselves from grief and Captain Wyvern from his promise: what if the captain escorted them away from familiar places and prying relatives, and took them to a new home by the sea?
She could already see the oceanside cottage, a sandy path between seagrasses to the shore. Mamie would walk along the beach with her, arm in arm, breathing in the salt air. With seabirds crying and the shush and scrape of the waves rolling in, perhaps Sophie could release some of her grief and begin to mend. But in the background of her image, the captain stood staring toward the horizon, as if waiting for a ship to emerge in the distance. This was silly because after they found their seaside cottage, they would most likely never see Charles Wyvern again. (91)
As with all adventures, events do not go as planned. Captain Wyvern gains an unwanted title and with it, three unruly wards and a broken-down house. To spare herself from her mother’s matchmaking and to free him to go back to sea, Sophie and Charles hit upon a plan that will benefit them both and the quickly growing list of people who need their help: A marriage of convenience. As hearts heal, dreams change, and danger creeps its way along their coastline, love begins to grow as unruly as a wildflower and as unstoppable as an ocean wave.
I’m in a season where my never-ending to-do list has left me frazzled and often incapable of focusing long on anything, and still, The Indebted Earl captivated me. Its story was truly unlike anything I’ve read. The heartbreak, hope, character design, and descriptions (down to the last raindrop reflecting on a man’s boot) are crystallized into something beautifully, imperfectly realistic.
The characters—they were so delightfully vivid. During the course of The Indebted Earl, the reader was quickly pulled into their wake. I loved this often-hilarious setup, as readers are given just enough time to immerse themselves in the world of Sophie and Charles before meeting new people. I’m often suspicious of secondary characters; perhaps it’s the introverted part of me asking, “Why are you here?” when the room (so to speak) is already filled with a few solid leads. Not so with The Indebted Earl. Mamie, Penny, Thea, Betsy, and Mrs. Chapman brightened up my life as they did the lives of Sophie and Charles.
My overall experience with The Indebted Earl was as if I watched the most immersive travelogue; no page was boring, no scenery was dull. I was whisked from the wild garden of Primrose Cottage to the pale-green interior of a stately mansion, then on to Devon’s shores and the salty spray on a ship’s deck. I loved every second of my journey. Through her skillful ability to capture the right words and her painter’s eye for overlooked details, Erica Vetsch has created characters with life and breath, and a world so real and genuine to our own, that its spring rain, crash of waves, and colorful wildflowers feel only a step away. I can’t imagine a better choice to celebrate—and hopefully, symbolize—this spring of 2021.
5 out of 5 Stars
The Indebted Earl: Serendipity and Secrets (Book 3), by Erica Vetsch
Kregel Publications (March 23, 2021)
Trade paperback & eBook (288) pages
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. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase. 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.”
Cover image courtesy of Kregel Publications © 2021; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com