First Earl I See Tonight is the first book in Anna Bennett’s Debutante Diaries series of Regency-era historical romance novels. This might be a new series, but I thoroughly enjoyed her Wayward Wallflowers series, so I was looking forward to the experience.
Fiona’s father is not an aristocrat, but her sizeable dowry has the ability to open doors that might otherwise be closed to her. Fiona has always intended to marry for love, but when she receives a note from a blackmailer threatening to expose family secrets, she knows that she needs to act fast. If she marries quickly, she can use her dowry money to pay off the blackmailer and protect her sister’s reputation.
She chooses David Gray, the Earl of Ravenport because his financial situation is an open secret. He was also recently jilted, so Fiona hopes that these factors will work in her favor and compel Ravenport to go along with her wild scheme.
After being jilted, Ravenport isn’t any rush to get married, but he also wants to repair his crumbling family home and a marriage settlement would help achieve that goal. He invites Fiona and her family to a house party, hoping that the state of his home will scare her away, but as they get to know each other, they realize that there just might be a genuine spark of attraction. But the threat of blackmail looms large- does it have the power to destroy this fledgling relationship?
I liked this book quite a bit. Fiona is a delightful protagonist. Her priority is her family, and she’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness in order to protect her family from scandal. She’s pleasantly surprised to find herself actually attracted to Ravenport. Likewise, Ravenport loves his home even though it’s fallen into disrepair, and he appreciates that Fiona can see the intrinsic beauty in his beloved home.
I can’t say too much about the blackmail plot without giving anything away, but needless to say, the reveal was quite surprising, and I was hoping that the clues were going to lead in a different direction. Good grief, I was not expecting that and I was not prepared for that at all!
I would recommend First Earl I See Tonight. This is a lovely beginning to a new series. The overall tone of the book is light, but the mystery surrounding the blackmail injects a bit of a more serious element. Fiona and Ravenport are both good people, and it’s so heartwarming to see them figure out that they have more in common than they realize. I’m already looking forward to reading the next book in the series!
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.