THE EARL'S COMPLETE SURRENDER
Secrets at Thorncliff Manor #2
by Sophie Barnes
Releasing December 29th 2015 Avon Books
An unexpected passion ignites as secrets are exposed in Sophie Barnes's captivating Regency-set romance
Despite the diversions offered at Thorncliff Manor, former spy James, the Earl of Woodford, has one purpose in staying there. He must find an encoded book that exposes a conspiracy within the British aristocracy. And he must do so without revealing his purpose to the clever, tempting Chloe Heartly. The lady has a knack for appearing wherever it is least convenient. In the library. In the salon. And, especially, in his arms...
Somewhere within Thorncliff's labyrinth of rooms lies the journal Chloe desperately seeks. When she realizes the brooding, handsome earl is hunting the same quarry, Chloe enters into an uneasy partnership. But in the face of public danger and enemies hiding in plain sight, both must decide how much they're willing to risk to solve the mysteries of the heart.
James, the Earl of Woodford, is on a secret mission for the King, to locate a journal rumoured to contain some very sensitive information. He finds himself intrigued by the daring and confusing young widow, Chloe. He unwillingly allows her to assist him in the hunt.
The mystery element added excitement and drama to the story. It allows us to uncover more about their pasts and interests. Chloe's determination made me smile and I liked their shared love of books.
If you're a fan of steamy historical fiction then it's worth noting The Earl's Complete Surrender isn't especially naughty and the focus is on the action rather than sexy scenes. I appreciated how the plot was more important than just smutty scenes. I have seen some comments on the lack of romance, and whilst I wouldn't necessarily say the book is really romantic, there are lots of sweet scenes. Plus I liked the other plot lines and twists.
I haven't read the previous book in the series but I believe it is also set at Thorncliff Manor. I enjoyed the setting and the story, but the only thing lacking for me, on occasion, is an intensity between Chloe and James - this isn't to say the story lacks attraction, because it doesn't, I just would have appreciated a little more focus on them together. However, their intrigues and adventures made me smile and I enjoyed the book.
3.5 Stars in my Sky!
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Thorncliff Manor, later that day
It was almost two weeks since Chloe had arrived at Thorncliff with her parents and siblings. Owned by the Countess of Duncaster, the elaborate guest house would provide her and her family with the retreat that they needed while their own home was being renovated.
The afternoon sun cast a splendid glow upon the fields surrounding the estate as Chloe made her way along the graveled path with her sister, Fiona. She’d always enjoyed the outdoors and was especially fond of sharing it with her family. Arm linked with Fiona’s, she leaned a little closer to her sister. “I’ve missed spending time with you like this. With all of you, that is.”
Offering a sideways glance and a crooked smile, Fiona nodded. “We’ve missed you too. I know it wasn’t easy for you to move out of your home after Newbury died and his cousin arrived to claim his inheritance, but I am glad to have you back home with us at Oakland House.”
The mention of her late husband made Chloe’s skin prickle. Repositioning her shawl, she drew it more firmly across her shoulders, hugging herself in the process. “I just don’t like imposing on Mama and Papa, so I am considering other options—perhaps a position as governess for someone’s unruly children.”
Fiona must have caught the slight crack in her voice, because she quickly said, “You could have some of your own if you chose to remarry.”
“You know that’s not an option,” Chloe told her, feeling once again an unforgiving weight pressing down on her. They continued for a moment, accompanied by the sound of pebbles crunching beneath their feet while birds twittered from the treetops.
“I do hope Kip will take our advice seriously,” Fiona suddenly said. As Chloe’s youngest sister, she was the least reserved of the Heartly siblings, of which there were seven in total. Kip, or rather, Christopher Maxwell Heartly, otherwise known as Viscount Spencer, heir to the Earl of Oakland, was the eldest.
“After we held him hostage and tried to blackmail him?” Chloe asked, reminding her sister that they had resorted to more disagreeable tactics several days earlier.
“Well, he would have fled our company otherwise, refusing to listen to what we had to say,” By we, Fiona was referring to all the Heartly sisters, as well as their mother.
“Would you blame him, Fiona? Frankly, I found your method a little extreme—perhaps even cruel.”
Chloe could not even begin to imagine what it must have been like for Kip to be faced with so many women all planning to get him married posthaste, and with no possibility for escape in sight.
“Cruel?” Fiona looked genuinely surprised. “We all have his best interests at heart, Chloe.”
“Do we, Dearest? Because if you ask me, locking him in a room against his will and then blackmailing him into spending time with Lady Sarah might not be what he wants.”
Fiona sighed. “Perhaps not, but I do think it’s necessary to remind him that not all women are like Miss Hepplestone. I’m sure Lady Sarah . . . oh look, it appears there may be new guests on the way.”
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.