Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Earl Next Door by Charis Michaels Blog Tour

Charis Michaels makes her Avon Impulse debut with the first book in her new historical romance series, The Bachelor Lords of London...featuring a brooding earl and the American heiress who charms him.

American heiress Piety Grey is on the run. Suddenly in London and facing the renovation of a crumbling townhouse, she’s determined to make a new life for herself—anything is better than returning to New York City where a cruel mother and horrid betrothal await her. The last thing she needs is a dark, tempting earl inciting her at every turn…

Trevor Rheese, the Earl of Falcondale, isn’t interested in being a good neighbor. After fifteen years of familial obligation, he’s finally free. But when the disarmingly beautiful Piety bursts through his wall—and into his life—his newfound freedom is threatened…even as his curiosity is piqued.

Once Piety’s family arrives in London, Falcondale suddenly finds himself in the midst of a mock courtship to protect the seductive woman who’s turned his world upside down. It’s all for show—or at least it should be. But if Falcondale isn’t careful, he may find a very real happily ever after with the woman of his dreams…

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Book 1
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Chapter One

No. 21 Henrietta Place
Mayfair, London, England
May 1809

Nothing of record ever happened in Henrietta Place.

Carriages did not collide. Servants did not quarrel in the mews. No one among the street’s jowly widowers remarried harlot second wives, and families with spirited young boys boarded them in school at the earliest possible age.

No one tolerated stray dogs.

A calm sort of orderliness prevailed on the street, gratifying residents and earning high praise from Londoners and country visitors alike. It was a domestic refuge. One of the last such sanctuaries in all of London.

Certainly, the stately townhome mansion at No. 21 was a sanctuary to Lady Frances Stroud, Marchioness Frinfrock, who had been a proud and attentive resident since her marriage in 1768. With her own eyes, Lady Frinfrock had seen the degradation and disquiet that had become prevalent in so many London streets; noble-born men fraternizing with ballet dancers in The Strand; week-long ramblings in Pall Mall. And the spectacle that was Covent Garden? It wasn’t to be borne.

What a comfort, then, that Lady Frinfrock would always have Henrietta Place, where nothing of record ever happened. Where she could live out her final days in peace and tranquility.

“It looks to be fair for a second day, my lady,” said Miss Breedlowe, the marchioness’ nurse, crossing to the alcove window that overlooked the street.

“A fog will descend by luncheon,” said the marchioness, frowning.

“If it pleases you, we could take a short walk before then,” the nurse said. “To Cavendish Square and back? Spring weather is so unpredictable, we should take advantage of the sun before it disappears again for a month.”

“Cavendish Square is not to be tolerated,” said Lady Frinfrock.

Miss Breedlowe looked at her hands. “Only so far as the corner and back, then?”

“Not I,” said the marchioness, pained.

A sigh of disappointment followed, as it always did. How unhappily accustomed Lady Frinfrock had become to her nurse’s chronic sighing. It was obvious that Miss Breedlowe endeavored to be patient, although, in her ladyship’s view, not nearly patient enough. In return, the marchioness rarely endeavored to be agreeable enough.

And why should a woman of her age and station be prodded through an inane schedule of someone else’s design? To be forced to engage in robust activities intended for no other purpose than to move her bowels? If her inept solicitors felt that her alleged infirmity warranted the nurse-maiding of sullen, sigh-ridden Miss Breedlowe, then so be it. They could cajole her to compensate and house the woman, but they could not force her to abide her. Or to walk to Cavendish Square when she hadn’t the slightest desire.

Miss Breedlowe cleared her throat. “Perhaps tomorrow, then.”

Lady Frinfrock made a dismissive sound. “If you wish to walk to Cavendish Square, Miss Breedlowe, pray, do not let my disinterest detain you.”

The nurse turned from the window and studied her. “I had hoped to discover an activity that we might enjoy together.”

“A vain hope, I fear. I am a solitary soul, as the tyrants at Blinklowe, Dinkle, and Tuft, would comprehend if their service to my estate extended beyond calculating my worth in shillings and pounds and subtracting their yearly portion…and then shackling me with you.”

To her credit, the nurse did not blanch, but she also did not reply. The marchioness looked away. If such frank language could not elicit some measure of honesty from the woman, perhaps it would scare her into not speaking at all. Either would be preferable to her current trickle of disingenuous small talk, not to mention the incessant sighing.

“I dare say your planters are the most beautiful for several blocks, my lady,” Miss Breedlowe said after a moment. “Do you direct your gardener in their care?”

“They are not the loveliest on their own accord, of that you can be sure.”

“How talented you are.”

The marchioness snorted. “You can but see what becomes of a garden when left unattended, even for a week. Just look at the deplorable state of Lord Falcondale’s flower boxes and borders, if you can bear it. Such an eyesore.”

“Oh, yes. The new earl. Which house is it?”

“Number 24. There. Directly across the street. It’s been in his family for an age.” She gently tapped the window with her cane. “His late uncle, the previous Lord Falcondale, paid fastidious attention to the upkeep of those planters. Tulips and ivy mostly, this time of year. Simple flowers, really. No effort to maintain, but perfectly lovely if kept headed and weeded, which he did. Not to mention his staff swept the steps and stoop several times a day, even in the damp. But now his far-flung nephew has inherited, and I fear the entire property will fall into disrepair.”

“Hmmm,” said Miss Breedlowe. “That would be a great shame.”

“Doubtless it seems like a small thing to you, but this sort of irresponsibility can bring about the demise of order and calm in a quiet street like our Henrietta Place. It doesn’t help that Number 22,” she gestured again, “next door to Falcondale’s, has been unoccupied and for sale these last five years. The house agents keep it up, but there’s no substitute for the loving care of a devoted owner and staff.”


“To make matters worse, the new earl is completely unresponsive to neighborly suggestion. I dispatched Samuel to speak to his gardener, only to be told that the man has let him go, the careless sod.”

“Dismissed his gardener?”

“He sacked the whole lot. I’ve since learned that every servant has been turned out. Now I ask you, how is a house of that size to be maintained without staff?”

“I can only guess, my lady, but do take care. It would not warrant your becoming overset.” She ventured small steps toward the marchioness.

“The demise of order and calm.” Lady Frinfrock tsked, waving her away and rising slowly from her chair. She plodded to the window. “The demise of order and calm.”

As if on cue, a carriage, buffed to a sun-sparkling sheen, whipped around the corner, thundering down the cobblestones from the direction of Welbeck Street.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3.5 Stars.
The Earl Next Door had a difficult start for me, but I was glad I continued to read when I almost gave up. Be forewarned, the pacing is slow, and the storyline itself takes a long time to reveal itself, neither of which make a page-turner.

The narration is by Piety, Trevor, and the nurse/chaperone, each offered a unique perspective to the story. Trevor is an introvert, longing for peace and tranquility, and it takes more than half the book before the reader leans why he yearns for such. Piety is a strong-willed, independent American who has moved to London for her own reasons, colliding and creating chaos in Trevor's silent world.

Even with the slow pacing and an enigma of a storyline, Piety & Trevor kept me engaged when otherwise I would have moved on to another book. Witty banter, sometimes cuttingly so from Trevor, but Piety rolled with it and handed it right back in a way that wouldn't turn into a fight or offer more opportunity to insult. These fiery exchanges led to amazing chemistry, and a strong connection felt by the reader.

The side cast was engaging, especially the self-appointed, elderly keeper of the street, and a wide variety of female cast members. The story was written in such a way that the next narrator (no doubt) was introduced at the end, whetting appetites for his book to follow.

I'm going to be slightly critical now, because it wasn't without struggle that I read and completed the story itself. I hope those who are struggling read this review and decide to continue on, because it is worth it. Absolutely.

There were certain plot points that I felt absolutely ludicrous. Such as Piety's family wanting her money, which is realistic enough. But 6 passages to England, and all the time spent on the ship passing to cross the Atlantic, would have cost almost as much as they were trying to bilk out of Piety. Perhaps if it was just the mother and the main antagonist stepbrother, but the other 4, or at least 3, brothers were just cannon fodder who lent nothing to the story but ludicrousness. Added to the fact that they cropped up, in an otherwise filled to the brim with plot, to add more conflict that was unnecessary. The last time Piety's family was shown was absolute overkill, and I felt lessened the storyline for the sake of humor(?). If anything, Piety's family was just a constant source of frustration for me, mostly because they had no hold over Piety, other than everyone falling over themselves to accommodate people who should have just had the door slammed in their faces.

Then there was the pacing, so slow that several times along the way I was shocked to note I was only at 50%, 70%, and so on. The story felt it had ended, exhausted itself. Then the author introduced another thread of conflict at the 75% mark, that was actually exciting (finally some page-turning action), but it didn't lend itself to the flow of the previous 3/4th of the book. That last quarter was a 5 star, with the exception of the family returning yet again during the resolution of another thread of storyline.

Overall, I enjoyed The Earl Next Door, and look forward to the next in the series. Even after the slow building start, the muddled middle, the ending was worth it (minus Piety's family cropping up yet again), showing the author is a talented storyteller.

The Earl Next Door offers the best of both worlds. The pacing and voice of a classic historical romance with the storyline of a modern historical romance.

CHARIS MICHAELS is thrilled to be making her debut with Avon Impulse. Prior to writing romance, she studied Journalism at Texas A&M and managed PR for a trade association. She has also worked as a tour guide at Disney World, harvested peaches on her family’s farm, and entertained children as the “Story Godmother” at birthday parties. She has lived in Texas, Florida, and London, England. She now makes her home in the Washington, D.C.-metro area.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Earl Next Door (The Bachelor Lords of London #1) by Charis Michaels to read and review for this tour.

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