As aforementioned in my last A to Z post, I’m putting myself to the A to Z Challenge for blogging.
For these posts, I’ll be giving an I Love Romance Blog score, not an official review, for books currently on my shelf at home (I know readers must wonder what books inspires us as authors) or ones that are on my TBR list (what I want to read so bad I can’t stand it!). For each book, I will give the blurb, a few lines from the text, then why I liked the book or why I’d want to read it. And for fun, I’ll give a heart rating! ♥
This is my scoring system:
I hope these A to Z Challenge suggestions will help you find a new favorite author, or further cement your love for one, if that’s the case.
Let’s jump into our next book, shall we?
Courting the Countess by Barbara Pierce
Genre: Historical Romance
A scoundrel whose fame as an artist, libertine, and notorious seducer of beautiful women is ongoing fodder for the ton, Mallory Claeg has a secret obsession-Brook Meylan, Lady A’Court, a beautiful widow who abandoned London two years earlier, deliberately severing all ties to her past. Under the pretense of his interest in the primitive landscape of the Cornish coast, Mallory watches her, fascinated and utterly mesmerized by her beauty…
Brook tried to escape the gilded cage of the ton’s merciless gossip, the memory of a cruel husband, and the pity of well meaning friends. But meddling relatives and unwanted suitors shatter her peace. At first, Mallory Claeg was another intrusion. Yet his sinfully handsome face and irresistible charm bring both temptation and torment. Now Brook must choose between opening her heart-or sealing it off forever…
A few choice lines from the book:
Mallory had been drawn to the intriguing vision of the lone woman in black challenging the sea he had glimpsed while searching for a location to sit and sketch. He had been too far away to hear her words, but her gestures were violent and poignant. He would have left her undisturbed if the silly creature had not been determined to kill herself. As he dropped his sketching book and small box of supplies, his quick stride erupted into a full run when he realized she was fighting the wind for her balance.
He caught her arm and spun her toward the safety of firmer land. The momentum sent both of them falling. It was too late to be noble. The woman landed on her back with him on top of her. He grunted, taking the brunt of the fall on his forearms. Gazing down at her ashen face, he adjusted his initial impression that she was an older woman. The lady underneath him was quite lovely and familiar. He blamed the unflattering black she was bundled in for his error. She was short in stature. Grief had whittled her slender frame, enhancing her fragility. Even tragedy could not steal her beauty.
She pushed him away and he willingly rolled off her. “Are you mad, sir, or simply drunk?” she demanded in a trembling voice. Still shaken by the encounter, she remained seated on the ground.
“Neither. I was sparing your family the grief of searching for your broken body this afternoon amidst the rocks below,” he said, irritated that his heroism was perceived as lunacy.
Her anger changed to stunned outrage. “I was not—I could not.” She gazed weakly at the edge before struggling to her feet.
Mallory measured the doubt he noticed in her eyes in silence. He only allowed her a moment to deduce her legs were still too wobbly for the grace he had always attributed to her. “Here. Take my hand, my lady.”
He pulled her roughly onto her feet. To make certain she was paying attention, he tightened his grip on her arm until she winced. “No trouble is worth casting yourself into the sea.” He released her and put a respectable distance between them.
“I was not throwing myself off the cliff. The notion sounds painful, not to mention messy. I will have you know that I walk here daily and am quite familiar with the dangers—” She broke off, realizing she was explaining herself to someone she considered an underling. She shivered as the wind buffeted them. The spring air had put a healthy bloom on her cheeks. “Besides, what would you know about me or my troubles?”
He gave her a slow, roguish grin. “Well, Countess, the answer to that particular question might take some time. Why don’t you let me escort you home and I will make my confession over a pot of tea?”
Mallory was quite used to women who acquiesced to his dictates without question. It was a rather novel experience to observe that his limitless charm had altered her expression from mistrust to blatant hostility.
“Who are you, sir?”
He mockingly patted the imaginary wound over his heart. “Why, Lady A’Court, your forgetfulness smites a lethal clout on my self-love. During your absence from London, have you forgotten your old friends?”
She glanced away at the mention of London. “I have few friends in town these days, sir, and you are not one of them.”
“Perhaps not,” he acquiesced. “We, however, are connected by friendship. A lady in your position should be basking in the affection of her companions.” He let his gaze roam the bleak landscape. “Not praying for an early death in the remoteness of Cornwall.”
“Who sent you?” she demanded with unexpected bluntness.
Surprised by her intensity and the impact of her blue gaze focused on him, Mallory shifted his stance and concealed his visceral reaction to her proximity with a grin. “Such ferocity! Dear madam, you make me want to confess everything, but alas, only my selfish pleasures have brought me to you.”
She blinked at the double entendre, uncertain if it was deliberate. “You claim you know me.”
“Indeed. I believe you once honored me with a dance at your come-out ball. There were so many admirers that evening, I could hardly fault you for not recalling.” He offered his arm, wanting to get her away from the cliff and out of the cold before her teeth began to chatter. “You mentioned tea.”
“You mentioned tea,” she countered. “As well as plunging from cliffs, forgotten acquaintances, selfish pleasures, and a ball I barely remember. I warrant you have spoken more words than I have in the past week. Do you ever hush?”
Mallory sat down on a nearby flat stone and laughed, enjoying the way her brow wrinkled in exasperation. Whatever her intentions before he had gained her attention, he was satisfied that the dark moment has passed. “Occasionally, my lady. I treasure the awakening colors of dawn, the sound of the wind rattling the windows, spring and the new life it yields. When I awaken each morning, I lie abed listening to the soft breathing of my lover and savor the warmth of our embrace. I expect I appreciate my moments of silence like any other man.”
She made a choking sound that she quickly muffled with her gloved hand. It was terribly mischievous to speak so boldly, yet the widow sparked something in him. Her reactions were too charming to resist.
Clearing her throat, she said, “My mother always said that rudeness begets rudeness, and she is correct. Regardless of your playful objections, you are a stranger to me, sir, and my speech was most forward. Please accept my apologies.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, I do not believe I will.” He crossed his arms, awaiting her response.
“Y-You must!” she stuttered, flustered by his refusal. She started pacing in her agitation. “No gentleman ever leaves a lady obligated.”
Briefly an image of Carissa flickered in his mind. “I have never been one for polite rules, Countess.”
Noticing his enjoyment, she stopped and sighed. “You are teasing me.”
“Beautiful ladies are always so much fun to tease.” He stood and clasped her elbows lightly when her expression blanked. “You are supposed to smile when a gentleman gives you a compliment.”
“I have tarried too long. My family is expecting me,” she said in a breathy rush, finally noticing their close proximity.
“And what of your expectations?”
“I have none. Good day, sir.” She stepped out of his embrace and turned to leave.
“My name!” he shouted to her departing figure.
She hesitated at his words.
“Claeg. Mr. Mallory Claeg. I believe you claim my younger sister, Amara, as one of the few friends you have left in London.”
He had truly managed to shake her with his announcement. Something akin to shame moistened her gaze. “You do your sister no favor by connecting our names. In remembrance of old friendships, I beg of you to forget that we ever met.”
Watching her hasty retreat, Mallory crouched down to retrieve his abandoned sketching book and supplies he had dropped earlier. Well, well, who would believe he and the pretty widow would be sharing secrets? Forget? He rose, brushing off some grit that clung to his left knee. “Not bloody likely!”
This book is also on my shelf. I love Regency novels and Courting the Countess did not disappoint. It’s the perfect tale of a scoundrel with a dark past meets a lady who has been away from society for awhile. With passion, endless complications and emotional roller coasters, this novel will keep you guessing until the end. Are these two ever going to figure things out, or will pride and misplaced beliefs keep them apart?
You’ll have to read it yourself to find out, but I do recommend it. I give this novel four hearts for an entertaining read!