Review: The Earl’s Iron Warrant by Kate Archer (2021)

Posted June 16, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

A terrific end to an excellent series. Yes, there was a certain sameiness to the plots but there was so much originality to the side issues, and it was so damned funny, I can forgive everything.

Here’s the premise: of the six dukes who set up the original pact (the premise of the series) for their sons to be forced to marry and produce heirs, five have complied. Only Lord Dalton still defies his father, swearing he will never marry, no matter what. Miss Daisy Danworth, daughter of the positively horrid Lord Childress, has also sworn never to marry, and the death of her not at all lamented parent changes that not one whit. She’ll come of age in a few months, and into her substantial inheritance from her mother, and then she’ll be free to live her life as she pleases, and a husband has no part in that. But her father’s heir is Lord Dalton’s father, and, in the devious way of fathers keen to marry off their sons, he sends Daisy to Ramsgate to see out her mourning period, with Lord Dalton to watch over her.

I wondered at once how it was that the heir to a viscountcy was a duke, a situation so implausible as to need some detailed explanation to account for it, but never mind. This whole series is awash with implausibilities so let it pass. As is the way with this series, the principals are already very aware of each other, despite the never marrying business. So the whole book becomes a slow slide into love, or rather, the awareness of an already existing love.

But really, the main point of the story is not the romance, because we already know exactly how that’s going to go. It’s all about the situation and the odd events it throws up and (as is now a hallmark of this author) the quirky doings of the servants. Bellamy the fairly incompetent butler, the cowardly footmen, Mrs Broadbent, the housekeeper, with her ‘what-fors’ are all priceless. Then there’s the mangy cat that Lord Dalton adopts in a real-world example of the ‘save the cat’ principle of stories (which is to establish an unlikely and possibly unlikable character as a hero by showing him saving a cat at an early stage). There are some brilliant moments which will stay with me for a long time (for instance, the two lords, otherwise bereft of weaponry, answering an unexpected knock on the door with pokers, being the only things that came to hand).

I confess I was a little disappointed at the resolution to Lord Burke’s story, which has been hinted at for the last couple of books but turned out to be something not very original. I thought there was going to be a lot more to it, but hey-ho, it made a heart-warming little sub-plot, I suppose. And I suppose Lord Dalton’s backstory, and his reasons for holding out against marriage for so long, is also not very original. The blurb says his reasons are ‘not what people imagine’, but they were exactly what I imagined, so that too was a slight disappointment.

But the main characters were lovely, even Lord Dalton who was something of a villain in earlier books. I liked Daisy, apart from the name. So cool and elegant a lady deserved a less bucolic name, I felt, especially as it seemed incongruous that her father, with his social ambitions, would countenance it. The mystery part of the plot was mildly interesting, even if not particularly believable (why ransack the library and then later return and go directly to the right place?). The incident in the sea was truly scary, to those of us with a fear of drowning.

There were a few oddities. I’ve already mentioned the heir to the viscountcy being a duke. There’s also a misunderstanding about Regency meals. The heroine is shocked to have all the various dishes on the table at once. In fact, that was the norm in those days, and even if she was more used to the newly fashionable idea of individual starter/fish/meat/dessert courses, she would have been very familiar with the old style. Also, the mention of drinking chocolate is anachronistic. All chocolate was drunk in the Regency. Solid chocolate just wasn’t a thing.

But these issues never bothered me overmuch. There’s a charm to these stories that trumps any nitpicky quibbles, and I’ve blazed through the whole series in a few days, enjoying every one hugely. Book 2 is perhaps my favourite by a slight margin, but they’re all wonderfully readable, and this one is by far the funniest. Highly entertaining. Yet again, this merits five stars.

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