My Favorite Countess, by Vanessa Kelly

>> Monday, March 07, 2016

TITLE: My Favorite Countess
AUTHOR: Vanessa Kelly

PAGES: 352

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 3rd in the Stanton family series

She is difficult, demanding, and at times, quite fierce. And Dr. John Blackmore can't take his eyes off her. The Countess of Randolph is the most striking woman he has ever seen... and the most infuriating patient he has ever tended.

Mired in responsibility, Bathsheba doesn't have time to convalesce in the country. She should be in London, hunting for a wealthy new lover to pay off her late husband's vast debts, not dallying with a devastatingly handsome doctor.

But it is only a matter of time until the good doctor and the obstinate countess will have to contend with the sparks that fly between them. And once their bodies surrender, their hearts may follow...
This was a random pick from my digital TBR (truly random, as in using calibre and a random number generator). I can see why I bought it originally; it's got one of my favourite tropes: the heroine who was the villain in a previous book.

Bathsheba, Countess of Randolph, is in a position that becomes more difficult every day. Since her husband's death the financial situation of the estate, never a good one to start with, keeps getting worse. The new Earl is useless, and now it appears that he might be getting married, and to a woman who does not have much fondness for Bathsheba. Bathsheba's position in society is pretty much based on his good will, so this could quickly become untenable. There's not just Bathsheba herself to consider, but her sister, Rachel, who is in really poor health after a bad fever a few years earlier.

Bathsheba needs to find a rich, society husband, and soon. She's been trying for a while (in fact, the reason why she was the villain in a previous book was because she was trying to blackmail her lover -the hero of that book- into marrying her), but now she needs to get serious. No matter how attractive she finds Dr. John Blackmore and how attractive he finds her, he's not a suitable candidate.

There were some good things here. John is a real, working doctor, and he works in an urban hospital, where he constantly has to struggle with the authorities to be able to provide good treatment to the poorest patients. There is a good sense in the story of the clash between the more conservative establishment, who feel poor people don't deserve their time and that pregnant women should be treated like children, and John and his younger colleagues, who have views much more palatable to the 21st century reader (not sure if those attitudes were realistic, but well). I also liked the way John saw beyond Bathsheba's superficial, bitchy fa├žade and assumed she would care about the sorts of things that he cared about. That was nice.

The book as a whole didn't quite work though. First, it suffers from an artificial conflict. I didn't quite get why John wasn't a suitable candidate for Bathsheba. He's not hugely rich, but it was clear to me that he could have supported Bathsheba and provided her sister with good medical care (especially with him being a doctor!). It's not really explained; it's just kind of self-evident that Bathsheba needs a nobleman. There might have been good reasons for that... she wants to live a life of much more comfortable wealth, she would like the status of being married to a nobleman..., but none of those were established in the narrative as being Bathsheba's motivations. In fact, what we're told is that she wants to be able to take care of her sister, and that this is her main motivation. Every time she would go about how she needed to resist her attraction to John I just kept going "Ehh... why?".

Actually, Bathsheba wasn't a particularly well-realised character at all. In addition to the above, her bitchiness, which is something I'm quite well-disposed to in a heroine, didn't quite work for me. It felt kind of forced, not like what the sort of person we were being told she was would do.

Add to this a final quarter which spent a lot of time on a truly pointless "danger" subplot, and this wasn't a big success for me.



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