Friday, November 4, 2011

Romancing the Countess

Romancing the Countess by Ashley March 1025

Leah George was in love with her husband, Ian, when they married but shortly after the ceremony she discovered his affair with the wife of his best friend and for the last year she had gone through the motions without engaging her emotions. Sebastian Madinger, Earl of Wriothesly, was in love with his wife, Angela, for the entirety of their marriage and he lavished attention on her and their son, Henry. He is shocked and angry and hurt when Angela dies in a car crash with Ian and it is obvious that they had been having an affair. His first thought is of protecting Angela's reputation to ensure that no scandal touches Henry. Leah has had an entire year to get used to the knowledge of the affair and after hiding behind society's strictures for so long she has no desire to live the next year mourning a man she had lost long ago. Although Sebastian's plea for discretion does resonate with her she wants to live her life, she wants to not be lonely, to be the center of attention for once in her life so she decides to throw a house party, which of course infuriates Sebastian and he goes rushing off to stop her.

Sebastian cannot help but compare Leah to Angela and he finds that she smiles wider, she talks and laughs louder and she enjoys being with people for her own sake and not merely to make other people like her. He cannot get her out of his mind even while he recognizes that her actions threaten to start a scandal that could lead to the truth. Leah is enjoying herself even with Sebastian trying his hardest to prevent a scandal and she finds that the more he tries to interfere the more she enjoys his company and believes he is enjoying hers. But she is worried that he is constantly comparing her to Angela and finding her wanting, just as Ian did and she cannot forget how betrayed she felt in her marriage and she never wants to feel like that again. When Leah finally causes a scandal that could threaten all of them Sebastian finds that the most favorable solution is to marry her and realizes that this is something he wants; to be a part of Leah's life and to have her in his. She must overcome her fears and anxiety before she too realizes that Sebastian is the perfect man for her and in this marriage the love is mutual.

I absolutely loved Leah because she was so amazing and I found myself totally immersed in the story of this woman who was just starting to live her life. Reading about her and how she had lived a half life, following all the rules and doing exactly what was expected of her and slowly succumbing to unhappiness and then realized she had a whole life ahead of her and she had control of it, was completely moving. It was depressing that her actions kind of backfired and she ended up almost worse than where she started but I was with her every step of the way as she assuaged her loneliness and tried to find happiness. Sebastian was far too obsessed with protecting his dead wife's reputation but he made up for that with his love for his son which was so touching to read about. I also loved that he was in love with his wife and his betrayal felt so real and yet I could understand the process of him coming to realize that he needed Leah in his life. The comparisons he made between her and Angela were somewhat troubling, but it also served to show how perfect she was for him and how he and Leah were equals.

Their relationship definitely was well developed and underwent complete dissection through every step of the process; from mutual anger and hurt to fear of the newness of their feelings to eventually admitting their feelings and hoping they were returned. I really felt like these two were perfect for each other because they were foils for each other and, without claiming that they had a lot in common, I knew that they "meshed" together and they made each other so happy. There was not very much sex between them because she was haunted by her sexual past and she never wanted to be under a man's power. They danced around each other and wanted each other but there was not even a buildup of lust and the eventual culmination was rather disappointing because it took so long in coming. There was certainly a lot of angst in the book as the each questioned themselves over what happened and the influence of what happened was seen throughout the book. I never felt like it took over the romance, which remained the focal point, and I never felt like it was marginalized which I appreciated.

Rating: A very good novel about betrayal and learning to trust and love again with two characters who were so obviously perfect for each other.

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