Ace of Hearts
by Barbara Metzger
Nell Sloane lives a sheltered life in a small community, so when an earl's appearance in town follows hard on the heels of her brother's hurried departure, Nell wonders what is going on. Her aunt is thought to be mad (although why anyone would think that talking to dead people made Aunt Hazel crazy, she wasn't sure), her brother was practically a recluse, and she had very little hope of ever moving out of the little town. The advent of an earl on the scene is big news for Nell. Until she finds him beating her aunt about the head. Or is he? A crazed goose, a scared horse and an…unusual aunt all make for a knock on the head to the Earl of Carde. Nell's home becomes the focus of all the exciting things in town, and then things get a bit sticky.
Alexander ”Ace” Endicott has run away from home. Well, not just from home, but from London as well. His excuse is that he is trying to solve the mystery of his missing sister (a thirteen-year-old mystery, to be truthful), but in actuality he's running from a surfeit of fiancÃ©es. How a man who just acted as a gentleman should ended up with three fiancÃ©es, none of whom he really wants to marry, is beyond him, but Ace felt his only option was to … leave town. What he finds, instead of his sister, is a lovely (albeit skinny) young woman who fascinates him. The fact that Nell's brother has left her just when Ace arrives in town is not lost on Ace, and he vows to make everything right for Nell.
Nell is a lovely character. Strong, honest, faithful, compassionate. The fact that she's been left in the dark about her entire way of life is not her fault, and she is determined to the best she can to take care of her brother's tenants (since he refuses to) and her aunt as well. When she finds out that she is actually dependant on the Earl of Carde for practically her whole existence, she is stunned, but makes the best of a difficult situation.
I also really liked Alex. He was sweet and genuine, and the fact that he likes Nell is especially endearing. He isn't a rake, hasn't proposed to three different women, he just finds himself in a tough spot, being taken advantage of by three different women at the same time. With Nell, he is gentle and kind, and he tries to hide the fact that she is actually beholden to him.
Barbara Metzger is reliable; she will always have a good story and good characters. This book was much lighter, more whimsical in nature than some of her other books, but still tender and heartfelt. It was a fun read, and the characters were very likeable and endearing. Ace of Hearts is the first in a trilogy, and I'm looking forward to reading the next two, especially if Alex's brother is as interesting as Alex was. And I wonder whom the third book will be about?
“Will Ace find that he's dealing the right cards to win the hand of Nell?”
September 2005, 340 pages
Never did Alexander "Ace" Endicott, the Earl of Cards, imagine himself to be thrice-betrothed against his will by the doings of three desperate debutantes. So he escapes London to his property in the country, where he follows through with his deceased father's last wish – to find his long-lost step-sister. His search takes a detour and leads him to Nell, who piques his interest. Now, Ace may have to reconsider his rejection of marriage and see if two mismatched lovers can make a royal pair.