The Other Countess (Book 1, Tudor Historical Romance)
by Eve Edwards
Release Date: August 24, 2010
2010 Penguin Books
Softcover Edition; 446 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
4.5 / 5 Stars
England, 1582. Ellie - Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime is in possession of a worthless title and a feisty spirit that captivates the elite of the Queen's court, and none more so than the handsome new Earl of Dorset...
William Lacey has inherited his father's title and financial ruin. Now the earl must seek out a wealthy heiress and restore his family's fortune. Will's head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be. Will is destined to marry a lady worthy of hi status, so the only question is - which one...?
I loved this historical romance by Eve Edwards. Edwards herself has a doctorate from Oxford University and has attempted, very successfully, to incorporate the many important details that bring a historical novel to life. With a literary writing style that I completely enjoyed, I was able to enjoy the literary treats that were set before my eyes and immerse myself in one of my favourite time periods with considerable joy. Figures such as Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Frances Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I, Master Cecil, and Lord Burghley are just a few that traipse across the pages and act as wonderful secondary characters to a wonderful story.
Ellie and William's first meeting is definitely not one where we have love at first sight as Ellie's father, an alchemyst by trade, was responsible for William's family's financial ruin. By throwing them off his property, he forced Ellie and her father to look for patronage elsewhere, almost throwing them into dire poverty. Ellie and William meet again four years later at Queen Elizabeth's court while William is searching for a wealthy heiress to marry. Enter Lady Jane Perceval, a rich young lady who captures William's eye, but not his heart, and you have the perfect setting for a story ripe with the question of whether to marry for duty or love.
I really enjoyed all of the principal characters in this book and the way they were developed. I have to say I was somewhat concerned at first as I usually tend to prefer adult historical romance over young adult, but while Edwards definitely kept it on the lighter tone, there was enough sexual undertones and references to keep anyone happy. To be honest, I really enjoyed to sexual undertones and references and thought they were hilarious. There were also some serious moments in the book where Ellie is approached and almost attacked, assuming she would be willing to do 'whatever' because of her lowered position. I think I enjoyed it as much as she did when she retaliates by kicking the offender and by kicking Will too. It did make you think how precarious a woman's position was during the Tudor times however, and how a woman really needed a man's protection from other lecherous men.
I really came to enjoy Jane's character the most however, especially considering the position she was placed in as the one who would be saving William's family fortunes, knowing how Ellie and William felt about each other. I loved how her character developed and blossomed throughout the novel and the conflict she felt over duty and obligation and doing what she wanted. It was a very interesting juxtaposition and you definitely saw it through her blossoming friendship with Ellie. Jane suddenly found herself sneaking out of the house to attend a-Maying party with Ellie and people she would normally never spend time with and you could see her opening her eyes to the possibilities of a way of life and freedom she doesn't have in her own life.
Because of the bounty of wonderful characters, fantastic literary writing, good character development, and descriptions of colourful tudor life, I didn't pay a lot of attention to the actual story which I have to admit was somewhat formulaic at times. However, because of all of the above, it really didn't seem to matter all that much. This is an epic story of people who have to survive in the world in which they live - Ellie is too smart as a well-educated girl, but she is penniless, while William is thrust with the responsibilities of a large estate and must do his duty and provide for his family and retainers. And William needs the cooperation of Queen Elizabeth I in order to succeed in his quest so he must do everything in order to stay on her good side, and that of Lord Burghley. Which is why I was little skeptical of the ending of the story as I am not sure if Queen Elizabeth would have been as benevolent as she was in the book as she had quite the reputation for keeping her 'peers of the realm' close to her side and in line.
I really enjoyed The Other Countess and was pleasantly surprised by the scope and depth of the writing involved in this novel. There was a lot of romantic suspense, delightful characters, wonderful descriptions of the time period, and a good storyline. I am definitely looking forward to The Queen's Lady, the story of Lady Jane and James Lacy, which releases in April 2011.