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Book Review: Who's That Earl

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Summoned home from Dominica, career soldier and spymaster Thomas Sutherland is in for a surprise… two of them actually.  One, due to Scottish inheritance laws, he’s now the Earl of Magnus and that his family seat has been rented out to the mysterious gothic novelist Robin Ratliff.  And Two, that Ratliff’s secretary and scribe is none other than the woman Thomas thought he’d lost. Except she’s now wearing widow’s weeds and is decidedly silent about the exact whereabouts of her employer. Thomas smells a mystery and he’s determined to get to the bottom of it.

Jane Quayle has a secret. She’s not simply a secretary. She’s actually Robin Ratliff, the famous gothic novelist who pens delightfully wicked stories to scandalize the moral guardians and titillate the masses. Unfortunately she’s run into a problem… Two actually. The first is a series of threatening letters regarding Ratliff’s (read hers) stories. And second is the lanky Scotsman from her past. The man she’d once given her heart to. The man she’d thought she’d never see again.

Can Jane and Thomas reconnect fully when both of them are hiding huge secrets? And just what is up with this mysterious letter writer?

“What’s more respectable than a book that makes folks happy?” – Who’s that Earl

This is my first book by Susanna Craig, and quite frankly I loved it.  From the immediate immersion into the world of spies and gothic novelists to the sweet spaniels who weren’t quite the best behaved but were, and this is true, the best girls.

Thomas is a former soldier who’d never expected to be an Earl. He hasn’t trained for it, knows nothing about it, and honestly wants nothing to do with it. He’s a soldier and a spy. That’s what he’s good at. It’s what he likes. He has no intention of sticking around until he sees Jane. He too is competent and quick-witted. He’s take charge, but he’s not a misogynistic mule about it. It’s refreshing. Thomas is not a beta hero…but he’s not fully an alpha hero either. He’s both. 

He also recognizes that Jane is awesome and it doesn’t matter what her background is. He’s also super sex-positive and encouraging. Like this line that I highlighted:

“Dinna ye ken, lass?” he whispered, dropping a soft kiss on her temple. “When it comes to lovemaking, imagination is the most important bit of all.”


Jane is a plain, plus-sized heroine who doesn’t come from a noble family so her prospects, if she were on the marriage mart, would be limited. Except she’s not on the marriage mart and doesn’t want to be. Which I am 100% here for.

She’s not interested in being some man’s ornament. She has a dream of being a writer, and she’s realized it. And she did it without the hero’s help. Writing makes her happy. She’s good at it. And she’s smart. Super smart. And capable. Very capable. It was competence porn pure and simple. And I loved it. More of this please.

The story is sweet with a hint of mystery running through it. The breadcrumbs are there for those who like to follow the plot. (I figured out who the letter writer was pretty quickly, but it’s still a very satisfying conclusion.) It’s more a matter of how, not who… at least for me.

I loved how rich the rest of the characters and the Scottish Highlands were. Seriously, who doesn’t love King Charles Cavalier Spaniels wearing occasional bonnets, romping in the snow, and sneaking cheese from equally complicit housekeepers? The sex, and there is sex, was hot. I didn’t feel like it was overwhelming.

Frankly, I enjoyed this book. I look forward to seeing more from this author.

Five stars

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

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