“Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he’d married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend’s widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets…
Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband’s affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there’s only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other’s arms….”
I got this blurb from the authors website here.
A large percentage of historical romances make some mention of cheating wives or husbands but they are usually involved with someone who is single. If the single individual is a male then he either ends up becoming the hero when he changes his rakish behavior out of love for the heroine, or is a worthless bounder who is a direct contributor to the death of the cheating wife. If the single male is cast as the villainous type he sets the stage for the bitter betrayed husband to meet the woman who heals his heart and proves that the “fairer sex” is worthy of trust and love. If the single individual is a woman then she must be a member of the demimonde or a worker in a house of ill-repute and contributes to the death of the cheating husband. That death leaves behind a “grieving” widow who must be brought out of her secluded husbandless life. Or the single woman is the innocent heroine acting out of love and naivety or forced, usually by blackmail or threat to her family, into the situation and whom the hero rescues. I haven’t read any before that look at what happens to the surviving spouses if the cheating individuals both happen to be married and as a result of their infidelity they both end up dead. Ms March decided that she was going to explore this in Romancing the Countess.
I was curious to see how Ms March was going to pull the two obviously wounded people together given their different reactions based on both gender and one could almost say different stages of grieving. This is a two-part grief, on one hand dealing with death of a person and on the other with the disillusionment about their marriage. Both the hero and heroine started at the same spot regarding their death grief but Sebastian had the added shock of learning the truth about his marriage, unlike Leah who had known for months. While I liked the overall premise, I had some difficulty understanding Leah’s behavior at times and I thought that both characters exhibited signs of TSTL syndrome upon occasion.
I could understand why Sebastian wanted to ensure that any thought of scandal involving the death of his wife and that of Leah’s husband was never really considered. His main concern was protecting his son from scandal but I also think he used that as an excuse to ignore his own feelings about learning his wife’s true character and that of her lover. I think his behavior and manner towards Leah actually ended up leading to more speculation then his leaving Leah alone would have done. It appeared very evident to me that he actually goaded Leah into doing something that the Ton, her in-laws and family thought was unacceptable. I think he used his internal justification of trying to enforce proper behavior to conceal his attempt to take out his anger/hurt/frustration on Leah for not feeling/behaving the way he thought she should. While he did eventually redeem himself I think to atone for the results of his behavior he needed groveling not just insistence on marriage once Leah found herself in a rather unpleasant situation.
Now Leah herself didn’t quite make sense to me. I understood more after she confided in Sebastian about why she behaved the way she did regarding her husband’s infidelity, but I think I understood that too far into the book. Her characterization outside of that seemed inconsistent. She demonstrated that she knew enough about the Ton, her in-laws and her family to carefully hold the line between acceptable if somewhat surprising behavior for a widow and that which would put her out of society’s good graces. When she went from carefully walking that line to leaping beyond it, even with Sebastian’s behavior as a goad, I think she completely lost me. Her actions were not spur of the moment but required deliberate planning so when she claimed later in the book that she didn’t really know what would happen as a result I was not able to accept that.
While I didn’t have a good connection with either the hero or heroine I did enjoy their interaction together, and I remained continued to wonder how Sebastian and Leah were going to resolve their situation. Ms March crafted an entertaining read I was just not able to completely immerse myself in her story because of what appeared to be character inconsistencies.
I give Romancing the Countess a C
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