Friday, January 21, 2011

'The Countess' by Lynsay Sands -Review-

Read an excerpt: here
   Witty and wonderful, “The Countess” grabs you instantly and refuses to let go until you fall in love. With enchanting protagonists, strong and endearing secondary characters, a fresh plot line, and some delicious dialogue, you’ll find yourself head over heels in no time at all.
   What’s a lady to do when she finds her ‘husband’ lying cold and unmoving on the library floor? Put him on ice and keep his death a secret, that’s what; At least until she finds a rich husband for her sister.

   Lady Christiana’s father fell victim to the negative side of gaming once, and it led to her hasty marriage to the Earl of Radnor. Christiana entertained naïve thoughts of a fairytale marriage, but those musings quickly came crashing down as her knight in shining armor turned into a relentless nightmare. “Dicky” treated Christiana horribly during the devastating year of their marriage; Chipping away at her self-esteem, questioning her competence and judgment in all things, alienating her from her family and friends, callously insulting her and emotionally abusing her at every opportunity. Christiana fears her future is none too bright.

Thanks to the alert from her loyal maid, Christiana finally is made aware of the repeated attempts her family and friends have been making to see her. Her sister demand to speak with her regarding their father’s latest gambling relapse which may prove disastrous and scandalous if they don’t come together and find a solution.  Christiana finds out that Dicky is responsible for this recent incident and decides that she will no longer be bullied by her no-good husband.

Christiana finds her backbone a little too late, when she storms into her husband’s library only to find him dead. A dead Dicky may solve most of Christiana’s problems, but not all of them, and a period of mourning would definitely interfere with any marital plans for Christiana’s sister. No hasty marriage of convenience = debtor’s prison for their father and inevitable scandal.

The sisters band together to work out their dilemma and decide to keep Dicky’s death a secret until after Christiana’s sister, Suzette, has found a gentleman in financial straits who’ll agree to marry under terms which will allow Suzette to retain a portion of her dowry to pay her father’s debt. They make their way to a ball that very evening to scope out potential husbands, but the last thing they expected was to see “Dicky” in attendance. Christiana is marveled at the change in the cruel and unyielding man she thought was dead. He seemed to have changed into a considerate and passionate man; but she will soon discover the deception that will put the threat of scandal and ruination even closer.

“Dicky”, or rather, Richard Fairgrave-the REAL Earl of Randor, has found his way back to London and wants comeuppance from his swine of a twin brother who faked his own death by ‘disposing’ of Richard and assuming his identity. Richard can only speculate as to why his twin would go to such lengths, but first he must figure out how to resume his life with as little difficulty as possible and figure out who killed his brother for real. He also must figure out if he and the innocent Christiana will suit so he can re-marry her and eliminate any doubt or backlash to her reputation should the truth get out. Mystery, revelations, twist and turns aplenty, this endearing cast will have to stay on their toes if they want to figure it all out- and find true love in the process.

 Rating: 4 Red Roses
My Favorite Part: There’s lots of drama, angst, and mystery that lent a serious tone to the book and make it different from your average ‘fluff’ read. Sands wrote this tale wonderfully, making sure we had a balance of action, passion, and ROTFL hilarity. Take for instance, this scene between our Heroine and her sister.

As quoted from the ARC (will update against a finish copy once released):
“So are you content with Richard?”
            “I think we may have a good marriage,” she said cautiously, and much to her surprise, Suzette snorted at the tame words.
            “Oh, give over,” she said in disgust. “A good marriage? I’ve heard the moaning and groaning coming from your room, both the night Dicky died and last night. Oh Richard, oh…oh…yes…ooooooh,” she mimicked with amusement. “Then you scream like you’re fit to die.”
            Christiana blushed furiously. “You could hear us?”
            “I am sure the whole house can hear you,” she said dryly. “He roars like a lion, and you squeal like a stuck pig.”

This is the first read for me by Lynsay and I am most impressed. I knew about her paranormal work, but since I favor historicals more than paranormals, I didn’t know when I would get a chance to sample her work. Now that I’ve seen how splendid her historicals are, I’ll be looking into more in both genres by her. You should so the same-if great reads are your game. I just enjoyed this book so much! One Con: I did find a bit of confusion with a certain part: The need for Suzette to marry. After Christiana finds ‘Dicky’ dead, she knows she is now a widow. Her husband wasn’t poor, so wouldn’t she have some sort of control over his money? I wasn’t certain if there was a distant relative whom would be counted as the heir, but once she learned of the deception; couldn’t she have easily asked Richard for the money? A plot twist soon opens up another option, but the particulars of Christiana’s situation weren’t made clear; it was sort of glossed over. The sister stop Christiana from alerting the servants of Dicky’s death, says that they all would have to go into mourning which would make marrying hastily impossible and leave them where they started, and Christana just goes along with it. There was no: “Halloo? I am free. A widow. With lots of cash. I got this”. Maybe I missed something, but even that small qualm couldn’t spoil this read for me. Simply put: Read it!

[ARC requested through NetGalley]

And check out the next installment to this series, 'The Heiress', the sister Suzette's story

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