First published: 1st July 2010
Ellie - Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime - is in possession of a gold-seeking father, a worthless title and a feisty spirit that captivates the elite of the Queen's court, and none other than the handsome new Earl of Dorset . . .
William Lacey has inherited his father's title and his financial ruin. Now the Earl must seek a wealthy heiress and restore his family's fortune.
Will's head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be. Will is destined to marry a lady worthy of his status, so the only question is - which one...?
I treated this book embarrassingly badly before reading it. I borrowed it from the library and renewed it for months before I had to return it unread. Then I took it out again and did the same thing all over again! Let me tell you, The Other Countess did not deserve such treatment. It's exactly the kind of book I enjoy: it's frothy and fun, with characters that are easy to like and prose that's easy to keep reading and I was nuts not to read it before now.
Ellie is the daughter of an alchemist and her father has ruined himself and gone half-mad in his fruitless pursuit of gold. He's also taken others down with him, namely the father of Will Lacey, who dies leaving his family near-bankrupt. Will blames Ellie's father entirely for the mess and The Other Countess begins with a furious Will chasing both dad and daughter off Lacey land.
Flash forward a few years and Ellie is now a beautiful young woman, attached to a family at Queen Elizabeth's court. Will comes to court to try to do the only things that will help his family: Win the queen's favour and hook himself a rich bride. But guess who he meets...
It's not difficult to predict what will ultimately happen in this light and charming tale, but what it lacks in surprises, The Other Countess more than makes up for in great characters and a swoon-worthy romance. Ellie is fabulously feisty, but also a very dutiful daughter and you can't help but feel sorry for her, being saddled as she is with a father who is completely oblivious to everything (how much he is mocked and hated, how poor they really are) but his alchemy. Will is very Mr Darcy, in the sense that he starts out as so snooty and mean to Ellie, but just when you are about to write him off as an irredeemable asshat, he comes to his senses and apologises so beautifully and makes it up to Ellie so heroically that...well, that's when the swooning starts.
The supporting characters are super, too: Will's brothers and their teasing banter-filled relationship, and Lady Jane, the rich girl Will has picked to marry. I liked that, while it at first seems that Jane is going to be the bitch and Ellie's nemesis, Eve Edwards avoids that particular cliché by having Ellie and Jane become friends.
One thing that actually did surprise me about The Other Countess was the amount of humour in it. Will's siblings are pretty fast with the jokes and Lady Jane has a scheming maid whose sexcapades are played for laughs, but even the serious subplots - which involve the religious complications of Elizabethan England - are lightened up with some funny lines.
All this adds up to a lighthearted and pleasing read: A 16th century rom-com, you could say. Eve Edwards has written more romances for the Lacey family (the next books are The Queen's Lady and The Rogue's Princess) and I am really looking forward to reading them.
Rating: 4 stars