Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Countess

The Countess by Lynsay Sands 207

When her father gambled away the family fortune Christiana decided to get married and was fortunate enough to find a handsome and charming man who seemed kind and considerate. After their marriage she discovered that Richard "Dickie," Earl of Fairgrave was cold, abusive, and a horrible husband who belittles her constantly and alienates her from friends and family. Luckily one evening Christiana and her sisters discover that Dickie has dropped dead and since her sisters are making their own come out they don't want a scandal. The sisters decide to put Dickie on ice and attend a ball with their friend Robert Langley and then are quite shocked to discover Dicki alive and well. Richard Fairgrave spent the last year in America where he was taken after the men his twin brother hired, George, hired to kill him traded him as a slave to Indians. George had assumed Richard's identity after a dead lookalike was presumed to be George, and the real George was the one who married Christiana as Richard.

Richard wants to reclaim his identity and take down George, but George's death and the appearance of a wife and her two sisters, complicate matters considerably. Suddenly his plan to reveal the truth is not so appealing as it will lead to scandal that could ruin his wife and her sisters. Christiana's friend Robert has begun to suspect that her husband was not actually Richard and told her to look for a strawberry birthmark on his bottom. After the ball she gets a tad tipsy and in the midst of looking for the strawberry it is not long before an annulment becomes impossible as Richard discovers that George did not fulfill his husbandly duties. Luckily this does not particularly both Richard as Christiana has proved herself to be very likable and they decide to have a quick "vow-renewel" that will have them legally wed and avoid any public scandal. There is still the matter of George's body and the fact that there was someone out there who wanted him dead but the two of them are distracted by each other, especially in the bedroom. But when a blackmail letter arrives threatening to expose the whole sordid story, they must enlist the help of their friends to discover what is up. The two of them must also move forward in their relationship and forge a new life together filled with love.

Sands has been quite a fun author for me to read as her books are humorous, fast to read, and feature characters that are easy to like and that I can't wait to read about in sequels. Christiana was interesting because we were reading about her regaining her self-respect and independence as she recovered from her emotionally abusive relationship with Dickie George. She had to learn how to be true to herself and to trust others despite what she had undergone. This was a difficult thing for an author to accomplish and it was done fairly well, but I was a little surprised by how quick she was to revert to her old ways, even while she was constantly fearful that Richard was going to be upset with her. Overall this element of the story was quite interesting and it really showed to advantage how great Richard was for Christiana because he was so trustworthy and sweet to her. Richard was also a fun character because he was going through so much with the big betrayal by his family, but he was able to look past it and be all noble to save Christiana and her sister's reputations. What made them so great though was that the more wonderful aspects of their character really shown through when it came to their relationship and how they dealt with each other.

No surprise that Christiana was a virgin throughout her marriage, although it was explained that Dickie George may have been incapable, so a little cliche there, but also good as sleeping with twin brothers is a little too icky for a romance novel. There was a lot of sex in the book and it was good, well written, but not what I would call steamy. The circumstances surrounding them were quite difficult and could easily have been really complicated and hard to understand, yet Sands did a wonderful job packing a lot of story in without making it feel over full. It was certainly a new plot as I'd never read about one twin killing off another and taking his place and then the original twin coming and reclaiming his wife after the second twin's death! Sounds crazy and yet it comes across very well in the book and was really quite intriguing and I was really drawn into what was happening. The mysteries over who killed Dickie George and then who was blackmailing them about his death were very well done, were well hidden and a nice little surprise at the end that I didn't really seem coming. There was an almost TSTL moment on Christiana's part that irritated me and made me want to slap her. The book also sets up the next installments in the series featuring Christiana's sisters and I am definitely looking forward to reading them.

Rating: A very fun, fast read with two great characters that worked wonderfully together and some intrigue thrown in, but no wowza factor so it is a very respectable 4.

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