Her Warrior King

Taming Her Irish Warrior

 
The Accidental Countess
by Michelle Willingham
(Harl. Hist., $5.99, PG-13)† ISBN 978-0373-29581-4
***
This is the first Victorian era romance for Willingham and she has written a tale that is generally engaging and at times, very good.† At other times, there are a lot of coincidences that donít hold up to scrutiny and the ending is a bit anti-climatic.† This is one of a pair, however, and The Accidental Countess is good enough for me to seek out the next in the series.

Stephen Chesterfield, the Earl of Whitmore, canít remember a portion of time where he apparently got married to a baronís daughter, was injured with a wicked knife and got some type of tattoo.† He knows he was with his wifeís brother, but other than that, memories are elusive.† When he arrives at his country estate, he finds an angry woman, her niece and nephew, and a lot of unanswered questions.

Emily Chesterfield has been in love with Stephen for years, but due to the differences in their status, never really thought she could ever marry him.† But just a few months ago, he showed up and swept her off her feet, taking her to Scotland to marry.† Upon his return, she sent him off to protect her brother from harm and the next time she saw him he had no memory of any of it.† Emilyís brother Daniel was involved in a shipping venture.† He was also a gambler.† Their father had gambled away most of their wealth and then committed suicide.† The scandal was great, but Daniel was determined to get things back.† Having lost his wife in childbirth, he had a son Royce, age 7 and Victoria, age 2 and he had Emily, who had no marriage prospects.†

Stephen was their childhood friend and business partner.† One day, he showed up to woo Emily.† We find out later that Daniel had pushed him into protecting his sister.† The benefit to Stephen was a wife he could like yet control, one that would get him away from all the debutantes his parents were trying to force upon him.

There are men trying to kill both of them.† There is a missing ledger, or list of investors, that apparently will shed some light on why.† Stephen is determined to find out what is going on, protect Emily and the children and figure out whether his marriage is real or could be lasting.† Emily is determined to make Stephen realize that they were in love when they married and she is his only hope to raise the children and keep them all safe.† But the barriers are many.† Emily was never schooled in the ways of society, so both of Stephenís parents reject her.† Emily is shunned by many, and she is jealous of the women who Stephen is supposedly destined to marry.† But there is also the danger and the numerous attempts on their lives.† It seems like each question answered leads to more questions.† When her great-uncle shows up with a will that says he has custody of the children, things get even stickier.† And as Stephenís memory slowly returns, even more secrets are revealed.

I like Emily, as she was no wallflower.† At times, however, she held to her guns a bit too long, leading to some situations that logic could have kept her out of.† Stephen too, sticks to his initial plan long after it is clear that Emily is not going to follow his orders.† This thick-headedness on both of their parts was a bit distracting.† The reason for the danger and the ultimate conclusion of the climactic scene were weak.†

I liked Stephen and Emily though, and that is what saves the story.† When they love, it is magic and when they fight, it is full of sparks.† The tender side of Stephen as seen with the kids makes him more endearing than his demanding actions ever could.† And Emily is vulnerable but has seen enough to know that she cannot let down her guard.† When she cuts up all his shoes in an effort to keep Stephen from leaving, one can only applaud her spunk!

The Accidental Countess is a decent story with some interesting activities.† It is a good romance between two well-matched lovers.† †

--Shirley Lyons


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