Y’all know I LOVE historical romance. And not just any historical romance, but Regency romance. And not just Regency romance, but steamy, feminist Regency romance. All of my favorite novel requirements came true when I stumbled upon this gem of a book.

Thank you A.S. Fenichel and Pump Up Your Book for hooking me up with a copy of The Earl Not Taken in exchange for my honest review.

I’m thrilled to be a part of the virtual book tour for THE EARL NOT TAKEN by historical fiction author A.S. Fenichel. Scroll down and find out how you can pick up your copy!

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By A.S. Fenichel
Historical Fiction

Left standing on the side while their contemporaries
marry into society, four young ladies forge a bond to guard each other
from a similar fate . . .

Finishing school failed to make a proper lady of Penelope Arrington.
But as a Wallflower of West Lane, Poppy has a far more vital role—she
and her three best friends have made a pact to protect each other from
the clutches of dangerous, disreputable men. So when one of them is
about to be married off to a duke sight unseen, Poppy makes it her
mission to divine the prospective husband’s true character. If only she
didn’t require the aid of London’s most unsuitable rake.

Rhys Draper, Earl of Marsden, has known the headstrong Poppy since
she was a young girl, naïve to the ways of men. To her eternal
chagrin—and to his vague amusement—they have been at odds over the memory of their embarrassing first encounter all these years. Now, with his services in need, Rhys sees a chance to finally clear the air between them. Instead, he is surprised by the heat of their feelings. If the two do not tread carefully, they may end up in a most agreeably compromising position . . .

Buy The Earl Not Taken here!

This book surprised me. I went into it expecting to like it. After all, Regency romance? If it’s not too outdated/playing into gender roles, I’ll love it. But Poppy, Rhys, and the other characters absolutely blew me away with their rich backstories, honest sexuality, and innate feminism.

Poppy is one of our two main characters. She has four best friends who she has been close to since meeting them before or during finishing school: Aurora, Faith, and Mercy. Aurora’s husband has just passed, and it’s a good thing – he was an awful man who beat his wife. Faith, on the other hand, recently became betrothed to a man she never met. The four BFFs, who call themselves the Wallflowers (of West Lane, Aurora’s home that they are all moving in to together), plan to learn about Faith’s betrothed to ensure she is marrying someone who will treat her right.

Rhys is Aurora’s brother. He knew nothing of her treatment, until now, and as a result is willing to join in to help. Because Aurora is in mourning and Mercy has obligations, it’s most convenient for him to find out about Nicholas, Faith’s betrothed, with the help of Poppy. Rhys loves teasing and annoying Poppy, but has always been attracted to her.

Poppy, on the other hand, hates Rhys. When she first met him, she was a teenager (presumably he was not much older), and she caught him in the act. He’s a bit of a known rake, and Poppy’s father cheated on her mother. She has a bad opinion of men given all of this and Aurora’s experience, and never plans to marry. She also holds the indiscretion she caught Rhys in against him all these years later. But OH BOY, when these two get alone together, it’s obvious just why Poppy was so salty. She wants Rhys just as badly. The two embark on their journey of discovering Nicholas… and one another.

Rhys is my new book boyfriend. He is absolutely wonderful to Poppy. He loves her and wants to marry her, but never pressures her. Their first and main love scene is spectacularly feminist, with Rhys giving the most wonderful explanation of consent. He tells Poppy to stop if she wants to stop, and she basically asks him, “Don’t you mean tell you if I want to stop?” Rhys says he meant what he said – if she stops, so will he. And even though he is desperate to marry her throughout the novel, his plan is to woo Poppy as gently as possible and to let her come to terms with her love for him and her changing opinions.

The other characters are lovely, too, though I was cross with one of them at the end. Book 2 is assuredly about Nicholas and Faith, and I have an inkling that we’ll see Rhys and Aurora’s friend Garret paired up with Aurora at some point. Maybe the secondary character Geb can end up with Mercy? I’m a huge fan of him.

Overall, this was a 5 star read for me. It checked all of my boxes! This promises to me a beautiful series about love as well as friendships between women!

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2P0nS6S

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“I want you, Penelope Arrington. I’ve never desired anyone as I do you, now, in this place.” He waited for her to slap his face, but the strike never came.
Her nose scrunched up as it did whenever she gave something a lot of thought. “Then you do not hate me.”
Holding in a laugh that would have given away how uncomfortable he was with his behavior over the last six years, his shame swelled in his chest. “I have never hated you, Poppy. I have always thought you a beautiful, smart, incorrigible woman. I won’t deny that your antics and attitude toward me have inspired behavior I am not proud of.”
Those sweet lips that set his blood on fire pulled down, and a crease formed between her eyes. “I have long thought you were off bedding everything in a skirt you could catch.”
“I am not a saint. However, your assessment was a vast exaggeration.”
She stepped back like an emerald in a room filled with every other color. Poppy shined the brightest in a room filled with jewels. “Do you remember our first meeting at George’s when you escorted me home and said you hoped I would someday tell you my wants in life?”
While he wanted her back in his arms, he respected her personal space. The moment she spoke of had changed his presumptions about her. “I remember.”
She toyed with the fringe on one of dozens of pillows tossed haphazardly on an oversized red chaise. All the furniture might fit nicely in a sheik’s harem. Sitting, she sighed. “I want to have a different kind of life.”
Following her, he sat close. “Tell me about the life you dream of.”
“My dreams do not include a husband to boss me about and keep me at his convenience.” An angry edge laced her words.
“Is that what all husbands do?”

A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful IT career in New York City to pursue her lifelong dream of being a
professional writer. She adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in Missouri with her real-life hero, her wonderful husband and two temperamental cats.

The Earl Not Taken (The Wallflowers of West Lane, #1)The Earl Not Taken by A.S. Fenichel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was surprised how much I loved this one. While it didn’t keep me rooted to the spot, forced to turn the pages, the characters won me over. Poppy’s group of friends is vibrant and full of personality. And her romance with Rhys is on point. The main love scene in this book is one of the most feminist sex scenes I’ve read with an excellent discussion about consent. Thank you to the publisher, author, NetGalley, and Pump Up Your Book for sending me a copy! Read my full review at bitchbookshelf.com on May 7!

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