A WICKED WAY TO WIN AN EARL – Anna Bradley
Sutherland Scandals , Book 1
During a sojourn in Surrey, the Lord of Carlisle's sisters, Charlotte and Eleanor, and his brother Robyn meet Delia (Delphinium) and Lily Somerset. His siblings have extended an invitation to the sisters to the house party at Alec's estate of Bellwood. Bad blood exists between the two families. The girl's mother, Millicent Chase, chose to marry the nobody, Somerset, rather than Alec's selfish, entitled, and mean father, the Earl of Carlisle. Now Delia, while Alec is in a moment of amour with a village woman, interrupts his outdoor just off the road tryst. She is covered in mud from walking. The carriage conveying her sister and herself has broken an axle, and the coachman is injured. He realizes this forthright woman is his guest, the sister his brother has rhapsodized over. An entanglement Alec is determined to prevent. Yet even though the mud covering her prevents him seeing whether she is plain or pretty, he starts a biting give and take, and discovers Delia is different from every other virginal miss he has known. She is unafraid of telling him exactly what she thinks. Later, when he sees the clean Delia, who looks very much like the rumored beauty of her mother with her beautiful fiery blue eyes and golden hair, his flirtation meant to keep her away from Robyn turns more possessive.
Delia had misgivings about joining the Bellwood house party, but Lily wanted to go. Since she and her four sisters still mourn the death of their parents last spring, she gives in to Lily's wishes. When she learned the man who she caught in fornication, but who helped her after the road accident, is Lord Carlisle, she determines a way to beat him at his game of flirtation. However, those brief views of him partially undressed cause conflict between her physical desires and those for revenge. Luckily, Alec has also invited the woman he expects to propose to at the end of the house party. She hopes this will deflect his attention.
So much goes on in this story! Neither Alec nor Delia can see anything in their acquaintanceship beyond a somewhat barbed battle of flirtation. Delia knows of the ton's gossip and slander of her mother and can expect nothing less for herself. Alec is turning into a version of his father, something that has separated himself from his brother, whom he tried to protect from his father's rampages. As the new earl, he must consider and protect the family's name. This is a fast reading story filled with social and personal conflict, and an excellent start to a new series. How can these two ever come to an accord?