|If you have ever started watching a movie halfway through, you can understand how it feels to read this story. If you have ever missed the first part of a two part tale, you will relate to the sense of loss and the unknown that I felt when I read The Countess Bride, which is the follow-up to The Dumont Bride. While in the end all the pieces are finally in the puzzle, if you haven’t read the first one, the challenge to understand all the plotlines is doubled, and not really worth the effort.
Catherine de Severin is the ward of Christian Dumont, Earl of Harbridge. She had something happen in her past that caused her to be injured and lose her memory – apparently something horrifying. At the same time, her brother was killed by Christian, but for some strange reason, Christian vowed to protect her and has joint guardianship of her along with the Abbess from the local convent. While visiting his estate, Catherine meets and falls in love with his brother, Geoffrey. Geoffrey, even though he is a second son, is soon to be given lands in France that the Dumont’s hold. King Richard is going to agree to this in order to maintain the Dumonts’ loyalty. We know there is some concern about Prince John but it is revealed only as some type of threat that Christian’s wife Emalie and Catherine are being protected from. There is also reference to Emalie coming to the marriage bed not a virgin and this lack often plagues Christian.
Now it is Geoffrey’s turn to find a bride. While he loves Catherine, it is understood she is not the right kind of heiress for him. He is presented with four other choices and Catherine agrees to help him choose, because after all, they are great friends and accept that while they love each other, they cannot have each other. One day Geoffrey discovers that Catherine is once again in danger and decides he must marry Catherine to protect her. He gets the Abbess to sign the betrothal form and off they head for France, because King Richard has called them there to arms. But Catherine has many secrets that threaten to destroy their love and their future together.
Convoluted? Yes, it is that. But it is full of love and intrigue and the medieval aspects of king and country and figuring out how to walk the political line that was so much a part of life back then. Eleanor of Aquitaine is brought into the picture and she is an interesting character from history. Of course, Brisbin is quick to say in her author’s note at the end that she did take license with facts from history.
All that is okay and the story of the love between Catherine and Geoffrey is basically enjoyable. They love, they argue, they tease and generally are an engaging couple. The story bogs down in the middle as the previous story meets the new story and the author does a dance to try to bring the reader up to speed without ruining the secret. It takes a long time to discover what the real problem is and then she glosses over it and never really tells the reader anything except it was awful! Disappointment is the word I would use for the resolution of this conflict. And it is this disappointment that then lessens the impact of the resolution of the love story. When the epilogue ties the two stories together and finally wraps up the loose ends (I suspect) from the previous story, I am firmly convinced that this was meant to be read as a two-fer.
My rating is then based on my guess that if you read both books in order, this tale of intrigue probably fits together and you will have two love stories for the trouble. Otherwise, this love story is engaging to a point and then lost in the intrigue of a convoluted mystery that loses steam as the tale is resolved. If you just want to read The Countess Bride as a stand alone – you have been forewarned.