Genre: Historical Fiction
Regular readers of my book reviews will know that crime and contemporary fiction along with the occasional work of non-fiction are my main areas of choice when it comes to reading. But historical fiction by this particular author will always get my intention. I’ve read, enjoyed and reviewed all her previous books and all are full of romance, wit and great period detail.
So I knew the chances were I’d also enjoy her latest novel and I certainly did.
But even if I’d not read this author’s previous books, the chances are I’d have been sufficiently intrigued by the premise behind this Regency romance to give it a go. In an interview on Rosemary Gemmell’s blog which you can read here, Anne Stenhouse explains that the idea for Courting the Countess arose out of a writing competition entry she did. The competition brief was to come up with the first 2,000 words of a story which gave a new slant on a fairy tale. The author chose to base her story on the tale of Beauty and the Beast.
But in this new version of the old story, it is the main female character, Countess Melissa Pateley, who is disfigured having been badly burned in a house fire. And it’s the main male character, Colonel Harry Gunn, who is the physically beautiful one.
There is the usual attention historical detail and as before this brings the story fully to life. It’s easy to visualise the murky streets of Edinburgh’s old town and the wide streets and large houses and shared green spaces of the city’s Georgian New Town. I also learned two new words/ phrases – namely – reticule which is a woman’s small decorated handbag, and haut ton which means anything pertaining to the elite, the fashionable and wealthy, and those of good-breeding.
This is a darker tale than Anne Stenhouse’s previous books, but there are still nice touches of wit and humour. The dialogue is, as always, to the fore and fairly crackles and zings. And, as in the earlier books the women are never helpless or witless and give as good as they get. The romance is high, as are the stakes, and the plot turns and twists right up to satisfying conclusion.
Yes, dear reader, I loved it.
Back Cover Blurb:
England, 1819 Lady Melissa Pateley is not having an easy time of it. Her beloved husband Neville has died, and a fire at her London home has left her covered in scars. If it wasn’t for a band of loyal servants, she’s not sure how she would survive. Things take a turn for the worse when one day, Colonel Harry Gunn and his fellow soldier Zed break into her home, bundle her into a coach and kidnap her. She is at a loss until she learns that Harry Gunn is the cousin of George Gunn, a man who has been stalking her for years, and that Harry’s Uncle John had warned him that as long as George is out there, Melissa is not safe. Uncle John insists that Harry finds Melissa and keeps her safe. But that very night George shows up at Harry’s home with Harry’s sister Lottie, who thinks Melissa and George would make a good match. Perhaps Melissa would have been safer at home after all. Yet even with her scars, she is certain that the handsome Colonel Gunn is attracted to her. But of course, nothing is ever simple. Startling revelations rip the family apart, causing everyone to question what they once held dear. As Colonel Gunn goes in search of George and the truth, he has to wonder – had the keeping of secrets not marred more lives than the secrets would have destroyed?
Type of read: In an Edinburgh New Town hotel or residence, but failing that, in your own living-room, curtains drawn, on your chaise longue by a roaring log fire and a do-not-disturb sign on the door.