Book Title: The Earl’s Awakening
Author: Joy Lynn Fielding
Publisher: Extasy Books
Cover Artist: Martine Jardin
Release Date: September 8, 2023
Genre: Regency M/M romance
Tropes: Rake/bad boy romance
Themes: Learning to live, self-discovery.
Heat Rating: 5 flames
Length: 55 000 words/ 198 pages
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
One glance, and his past life was history.
Leander Talbot’s life changed forever when his wife died. He is now reluctantly venturing back into society, knowing that, as the Earl of Ockley, he must marry again to produce an heir. But he can’t bring himself to the sticking point. Instead, he spends his time evading the matchmaking mamas of the ton.
The dark and dangerous Duke of Arden is an infamous libertine. It is said that he seduces innocents, and there are even more sinister tales whispered of his predilections. Only the wild young blades who form his retinue know the truth, but he is shunned by all save those wishing to court notoriety.
A chance meeting brings Leander into Arden’s orbit. Ignoring the warnings about Arden’s intentions, Leander is drawn into a seductive world of sexual indulgence. There, he finds the freedom he craves from his overbearing family. By the time he suspects Arden might have ulterior motives, it may be too late to save his reputation—and his heart.
Leander sighed slightly. He had immersed himself in work and duty since Bella’s death, but it was only now he understood how removed from his contemporaries he had become. Most faces here were unfamiliar to him. Take the character in the corner—a dark complexion, his dress rich but careless in a way that proclaimed he cared little for the opinion of society. Leander was certain he had never set eyes on him, though the deference with which his circle of friends was treating him indicated that he was a man of some standing. He took the opportunity to ask the servant who brought him a glass of champagne.
“His Grace the Duke of Arden, my lord,” the man informed him.
The name was one with which Leander was familiar. It was a name with which all of London and some of the more enlightened provinces were familiar. Arden represented all that was decadent in the ton, his philandering ways extending far beyond opera dancers and actresses to ladies of quality. And it was not only widows or liaisons with married ladies, for it was said of him that he had ruined more than one young maiden. The number of duels that he had fought and won, the drunken orgies at which he presided, and his losses and gains at the gaming table had all assumed the proportions of legend. There were still darker things whispered about him. Only the coterie of wild young blades who formed his retinue knew the truth of these, but the intimations were there, and Arden remained unrecognised by all save those wishing to court notoriety.
Leander became aware that Arden was returning his gaze, his heavy-lidded eyes holding what appeared to be a gleam of amusement. As Leander watched, Arden raised his glass in a mocking salute before putting it to his lips and tossing back the contents.
Perhaps it was the champagne, perhaps it was the shock of realising that his acquaintances now viewed him as a prig. Whatever the reason, some demon prompted Leander to his feet. In defiance of all proper behaviour, he crossed the room to Arden and introduced himself.
Those dark eyebrows raised briefly, a noble head was inclined, and one of the young men clustered around Arden was moving from his seat, offering it to Leander.
“So you’re Ockley.” The duke’s aristocratic fingers curved elegantly around the stem of his glass and his dark eyes surveyed Leander as he sat. “I didn’t think this to be your sort of place. I’d thought you more of a White’s man.”
The provocation was there. It was well known that Arden had been pre-emptively blackballed by the respectable club lest any member lose their faculties and propose him for membership.
“Indeed?” Leander said stiffly, his somewhat lamentable temper aroused by Arden’s dismissal of him as a priggish bore. “And I thought you a legend, sir. A cautionary tale used by protective parents to keep young cubs in line.”
Reaction rippled through the assembled ranks, but Leander’s gaze was on Arden’s face. A smile touched his lips as he looked at Leander. “A palpable hit, Ockley,” he murmured. His voice was rich and soft, with a hint of steel that intrigued Leander.
“Lea.” Henry’s voice broke in. He was not precisely floored, but he was foxed enough to ignore all dictates of manners as he tugged insistently at his brother’s arm. Knowing that if he resisted, Henry would only become more forceful, Leander allowed himself to be raised to his feet. His brother had been the same since nursery days—when he wanted something, he wanted it now, and it was usually attention he craved. Leander directed a small bow towards Arden, whose smile had widened at the spectacle Henry was making of them both, before following his brother’s urgent strictures to leave immediately.
I’m always eager to pick up a new LGBTQ romance set in the regency era, where we know such relationships had to be clandestine, deeply hidden, highly cloaked. Having read (and re-read, more times than I can count) all of Jane Austen’s groundbreaking novels from the era, I’m already steeped in what such a novel should look like, and The Earl’s Awakening did not disappoint.
Where the novel departs from the period regency, of course, is in its open bedroom – or ballroom, or card room, or wherever the participants engage in their flaming debauchery and wild orgies.
The novel maintains a single point of view throughout, that of Leander, Earl of Ockley. As the novel opens, his behavior in every aspect conforms with what is expected from an upstanding and desirable male member of the Ton. Having recently lost his beloved wife, he honors the needs of his lady mother and plans to re-marry to provide her with the required heir – just not at present.
Seeds of his dramatic transformation are sown in Chapter Two when he first meets the Duke of Arden at a London gaming salon and notices, in spite of himself, that “his voice was rich and soft, with a hint of steel that intrigued Leander.”
Leander’s internal struggle to deny his urgings and prevent himself from acting upon them is richly and authentically conveyed. At nearly every turning point, he responds with action – powerless to resist that hint of steel – then tries to deny that what has occurred satisfies his deepest desires. The many explicit scenes that propel his journey forward are crafted with superb eroticism.
Is he being played for a fool by a rake who intends merely to ruin him? As he comes to recognize and claim what he truly wants, will he find himself rejected? Afficionados of gay erotic romance will relish the journey and find its conclusion highly satisfying.
About the Author
Joy Lynn Fielding lives in a small English market town, where she indulges her passions for vintage aircraft, horse riding and gardening (though not all at the same time).
Joy tends to wax lyrical about the fascinating facts she discovers during her research for books. Thankfully, she has a very patient Labrador who has a gift for looking interested in what she’s saying while he waits for the food to arrive.
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