Return of the Earl is a book in search of a plot. I’m not sure how Schwab managed to fill a full novel with pretty much nothing, but the story never goes anywhere and nothing really happens. The Earl returns, he was under the impression his former lover betrayed him, he’s mopey about it, finds out fairly soon that he was lied to, they make up, book ends. That’s truly all that happens here.
Perhaps if the characters were more nuanced or their personalities had more tics, we might have had something here. But the Earl is angry and confused, the stablemaster is smug most of the time, and both behave in very anachronistic ways (e.g., despite desperate financial times when people can’t get work, antagonizing the employer is not exactly smart). Of course, there is 21st century moralizing added in about slavery and treating servants with respect and not as objects. I didn’t believe in either character and both felt more like YA heroes/heroines than mature adults. I completely skimmed past the romance.
Granted, M/M genre doesn’t always have to be angsty or full of drama. But at the same time, it has a sophisticated enough fanbase who want stories with depth and interest. There just wasn’t enough meat on the bone here to make the book worth remembering. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.