An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another spin-off of the Malloren series. When Cate Burgoyne (male) rescues her from attackers, Prudence Youlgrave is hesitant to open up to him--yet they from a sort of bond as she confesses to him that her middle-class brother (who lives in another town) is neglecting her and she barely has enough money to survive. When she finally goes to her brother and obtains his help, she finds herself married off to an unappealing merchant. Cate arrives just in time to stop the wedding and steal the bride...if only he could keep the outraged spurned suitor from attempting revenge, and get up the nerve to tell his new wife that he's become an Earl since he last saw her...
This is not one of the sexier Beverleys, but I did enjoy it a great deal. The book explores in some detail the contrasts between Prudence's middle-class life and the aristocratic life of the Burgoynes, but does not neglect character development. Both the hero and heroine have things to prove--Cate's been regarded by his family all his life as a screw-up, and he has to prove himself as the head of the family and master of his estates; Prudence, married outside her class, has to prove herself as competent and a a good wife for a man she hardly knows. How they grow into their new roles, and their new relationship, makes the meat of the book, but there is a little bit of action as well (and also a dramatically fun scene involving Diana, Countess of Arradale, from Devilish, hearkening back to what it meant to be a lord or lady of the North (the book is set in Yorkshire) even before the Georgian period). Definitely worth reading.
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