Print Length: 384 pages
Publisher:  St.Martin's Paperbacks (April 26, 2022)

From Goodreads.com:  Constance Lysander needs a husband. Or, so society says. She’s about to give birth to her late husband’s child―a man who left her with zero money, and two other wives she didn’t know about. Thankfully, she has her Aunt by her side, and the two other wives have become close friends. But still―with a baby on the way, her shipping business to run, and an enemy skulking about, she has no time to find the perfect match.

Enter Jonathan, Earl of Sykeston. Returned war hero and Constance’s childhood best friend, his reentry into society has been harsh. Maligned for an injury he received in the line of duty, Jonathan prefers to stay out of sight. It’s the only way to keep his heart from completely crumbling. But when a missive from Constance requests his presence―to their marriage ceremony―Jonathan is on board. His feelings for Constance run deep, and he’ll do anything to make her happy, though it means risking his already bruised heart.

With Constance, Jonathan, and the new baby all together, it’s clear the wounds―both on the surface and in their relationship―run deep. But when the nights come, their wounds begin to heal, and both come to realize that their marriage of convenience is so much more than just a bargain.

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My Rating: 1 star out of 5

I wanted to like this book I really did, but there were so many things that just took away from my enjoyment that this quickly went from 3-4 stars down to 1.

To start,  I'm still unsure why Constance went through with the wedding in the first place. The whole point of summoning Jonathan and asking him to marry her in the first place was so that the child she was about to give birth to would be "legitimate" even though it wasn't his child and everyone knew it. But then when she found out she was the legal first wife of the despicable man she had married the first time, there was no real reason for her to go through with the marriage without getting to know Jonathan for the man he had become. It was true she had no money from her husband, but she had money from the company that she owned. Surely that could have seen to her and her child's comfort for a while. 

But she marries him, and just like her first husband, this one too abandons her (although a lot quicker than her first husband, Meri at least stayed a month where Jonathan set off about an hour after the ceremony).  Except it's a-okay this time because Jonathan writes to her. Or so she thinks. And yet when she shows up at her new home and her husband is less than welcoming (and entirely too surprised for someone who extended an invitation), she doesn't question it. 

Now here is where I thought the book would get better. We now have a wife who wants a true marriage and to make her husband happy, and a husband who believes a court-martial is in his future (although he did nothing wrong), and who wants nothing to do with his wife. This should be a book about them coming together to face adversity and find love (considering they were in love with each other years ago when they were also best friends). However  - despite Constance's attempts, Jonathan is just a.... freaking jerk. 

For example, Constance takes it upon herself to clean his study (which really would not have been her place to do, but let's just go with it as she had the best of intentions) and he flips out on not only her, but on his staff as well. Then we are treated to even more of his inner monologue (of which I assure you there is plenty already), "he'd not allow his wife to wreck such havoc. He'd not allow her to destroy his study" ... so cleaning his pigsty of a study is not only wreaking havoc on his life, but also destroying his study as well?" Whatever. But then. THEN. After he takes to task for it, going so far as to tell her that the next time she has the inspiration to do something nice for him she should forget it, he gifts her with a FEATHER DUSTER in the next chapter hoping it will ENCOURAGE her to feel free to come back to his study and clean it. I'm sorry what? 

Then they come up with these ridiculous rules. Jonathan insists that they must have rules "about how and when we engage as a married couple" - I'm not even going into my complaints with just how asinine THAT is, but she asks for them to spend time talking to one another, you know, sharing in each others problems like normal people do, and then she demands that he treat her child with her ex-husband as his own. Oddly enough, Jonathan has an easier time with the demand than he does with the request. 

But I can't lay all the blame at his feet for that because nearly as soon as she issues the request (or rule as they call them), she breaks it herself, having found her company in a bit of a jam with the same bloke who is also stealing ideas from her husband. But of course, since neither of them can actually open their mouths and talk about what really matters, they go the entire book with a sword hanging over both of their heads, that is wielded by the same man. 

I mean, what is it with the characters in this genre and not just TALKING to each other? I promise it would save a lot of trouble and make the books a lot more enjoyable for the reader. 

Of course, after a drawn-out storyline that alternates between boring and annoying (such as Jonathan going out of his way to be the most ungrateful and some would say disgusting host he can be just because his wife invited their friends to spend some time with them), they finally manage to find their happily ever after and vanquish their common enemy (although Jonathan leaves her again so he can take care of his end of things in London on his own). In fact, Jonathan is so relieved that when he comes back he doesn't mind that Constance is now throwing a whole party as their estate. You know, the kind where everyone is there. 

I suppose that is to show how much he has changed, but honestly? By the time we got there I no longer cared about either of these characters or what happened to them.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                             Rules for Engaging the Earl is available from Amazon.com