Lily Dawson, dubbed the Countess of Charm by the Prince Regent himself, plays the role of the courtesan flawlessly while her real purpose is spying in the service of the Crown. Her mission now is to seduce a duke to test his true loyalties. She’ll do it, even though the man she really wants is Andrew Booth-Payne, Earl of Darlington—the duke’s son.
Andrew is furious when he finds himself rivaling his father for Lily’s attention. When he uncovers Lily’s mission, Andrew is faced with impossible choices. It seems he is destined to betray either his family, his country, or the longings of his own heart… (Goodreads)
Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend is an enjoyable but occasionally predictable tale requiring more than the usual suspension of disbelief. If you can swallow the main premise — that Lily is a spy who has posed as a courtesan for years without actually acting as one — you will probably enjoy the book, as Galen is a pretty good writer.
Lily’s backstory, as it slowly emerges, is tragic and makes her a more three-dimensional and sympathetic character, as well as imbuing her with determination and a will to survive. She is surprisingly unhardened, given her experiences and her current occupation. Andrew, the hero, is obnoxious at first, but turns out to be surprisingly nice once he gets past his preconceived ideas about what Lily is up to. (Of course, you knew he would; as I said, the book is somewhat predictable.) But Andrew, like Lily, is also more complex than he appears, and less conventional than he thinks. The humanity of both Lily and Andrew is what makes the book work.
The secondary players, on the other hand, are almost all stock characters: the unprincipled lecher, the dissipated older noble, the innocent younger sister, the drab and disapproving governess. I found this frustrating, because the book could have been much richer if the secondary characters had more depth. I also had a hard time swallowing not only the basic premise but the idea that either a duke or a duke’s heir would contemplate marriage to a notorious courtesan… although to be fair, there were nobles who married actresses and courtesans. Still, it wasn’t common, and usually caused a significant amount of gossip and scandal.
The spying/mystery aspect, while a little difficult to accept, also provides much of the interest and action in the book. And to the author’s credit, I never once suspected the truth, even though there were, in retrospect, at least one or two hints.
Bottom line: If you can look past the unlikely premise, Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend is a fun, relatively light read with more than a hint of mystery.
Rating: 3 stars
Category: Historical romance
Series: Jewels of the Ton #3
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release date: March 4, 2014
Book source: review copy from the publisher (through NetGalley)