Monday, 17 January 2011

Review: The Other Countess by Eve Edwards

England, 1582, 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. But Will’s head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be. Will is destined to marry a worthy Lady so the only question is – which one . . . ?

I think I may swoon a little. As far as I’ve come across in my long years reading young adult fiction, I’ve never really come across a period romance whose blurb reads like some of the romantic fiction you can find in the adult section. So I got far too over excited when I found this, and was curious to find out what the difference is. The answer? Not all that much. It was effectively the same plot points used in every romance, just minus the overtly sexy scenes.

That doesn’t detract from the novel in anyway – it was a fabulous example of period fiction (in this case the Elizabethan era) done remarkably well. The research that must have gone into this to make it so well drawn and realistic, physically makes my head hurt. Everything, from banquets and jousting to dress and values is perfectly researched and executed, which makes it that much easier to immerse yourself in the story and enjoy it.

Ellie is your typical heroine, dragged down by fortune and her father so she’ll never make a successful match with William, who she’s slowly but surely falling in love with. She’s intelligent, witty, and doesn’t always do what’s expected of her. And William – ooo he’s yummy. Particularly if you like the strong and sexy type, with a soft streak a mile wide and a duty to his family (who consist of awesome siblings who were blatantly raised on love rather than any stuffy nobility complexes.)

What I particularly loved is that this isn’t a story about a couple who fall in love etc. Well it is, but it is more of a foursome – Ellie and William, and Jane and James. William needs money for the estate so he needs to marry a rich girl, Jane, who’s secretly in love with William’s brother James, and has also cultivated a very realistic and touching friendship with Ellie, the girl who’s not so secretly in love with William. It’s exciting stuff! Add to that the fact that the relationships are shown to grow and flower, rather than just a few pages and bam they’re in love, and I’m completely sold.

The characters are flawed, but that’s what makes them so realistic and easy to like. For example Jane is a typical spoiled rich girl, but she feels so trapped that it makes her relatable, and from there you can go from relating to full on loving by the end where she takes charge after realizing the boys are all too idiotic to sort out this mess themselves. I love head strong intelligent women. In fact, I was very close to preferring her to Ellie, so I’m so glad she gets her own book next.

The friendships that grow between each of the characters are realistic and well drawn, and there is a good mix between the first half of the book taking place at court, and showing some of the excitements of the palace, and then moving to William’s estate, where there’s a more laid back approach to life.

I was mildly frustrated that whilst Ellie and William’s relationship was all tied up by the end of the book, there wasn’t anything more about Jane and James, which is why I’m so excited about the next book “The Queen’s Lady” dues out on 3rd February 2011, and detailing their relationship as it progresses.

Finally a good romantic period fiction for young adult (all the flirty swooning without the sordid sex – it’s a good balance!) The writing and research have both been carried out to an incredibly high standard, and I can’t wait to follow the character’s further in the next book.

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