Review – More or Less a Countess by Anna Bradley

About the Book:

Finding a worthy husband should be simple for three beautiful debutantes in Regency London. But the Somerset sisters have a way of making it delightfully complicated…

Violet Somerset has always preferred a library to a ballroom, but to please her grandmother she agreed to one London season. With nothing to show for it but heartbreak, she’s reconciled to spinsterhood. Until a notorious rogue known as the Devil of Dare requests an introduction to her timid, gentle youngest sister, Hyacinth. Violet will do anything to stop the match—even if it means posing as Hyacinth herself.

Nicholas Balfour, the Earl of Dare, is enjoying the life of a rake far too much to take a wife. But he must keep his promise to his grandmother. He’ll simply choose the meekest bride he can find, install her at his estate, then carry on as before. Hyacinth sounds perfect—until he discovers that her sweet demeanor hides the tongue of a viper and the mind of a bluestocking.

As Violet’s ruse threatens to unravel, however, she may find the tables turned. Soon she may have no choice but to tolerate her handsome fiancé—or fall in love with him.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                           More or Less a Countess (The Somerset Sisters)

My Review:                  

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Nicholas Balfour is the second son, the spare, and always felt he was in the shadow of his beloved older brother, Graham.  Nick and Graham were the best of friends, but their father, the Earl of Dare, while never actually cruel to Nick, showered his favor and attention on his heir.  When Graham died, Nick tried to step up into a role he never wanted, but it seemed there was no pleasing his father.  Finally, desperate to escape his own grief and feelings of inadequacy, Nick flees to the continent and begins living a rakish lifestyle, seeking whatever pleasures take his fancy.  Then Nick’s father dies, and he’s forced to return to cold England, leaving warm Italy, and his even warmer mistress behind.  While Nick intends for his stay in England to be brief, his aunt, Lady Westcott, holds the purse strings, and she has different plans.

Violet Somerset is a bluestocking, and her debut into society wasn’t successful, to say the least.  Her playing, singing, and dancing all leave something to be desired, and she often found herself the object of cruel remarks.  The only gentleman to show her kindness and friendship, Lord Derrick, fell in love and married her friend, Honora.  With the object of her affections now wed to another, Violet focuses on writing and illustrating a book about London – its history and its people.  One evening, while escaping a ball for a few quiet moments in the library, she is interrupted by the scandalous Earl of Dare and a female companion, who also decided to escape the ball, but for a totally different reason.  Unaware that someone else is in the room, Dare and his companion proceed to have a quickie while an astonished (and amused) Violet observes.

While at dinner, Nick is seated close to Violet’s sister, Hyacinth, and he later hears her playing beautifully.  Knowing that his aunt will not let him leave England until he weds, Nick decides to pursue Hyacinth – at least his wife will be beautiful and talented.  He plans on an introduction, but instead approaches Violet, who looks very much like Hyacinth.  Violet, still inwardly laughing at the earlier encounter she witnessed, advises Nick not to call on her.  Nick, ever confident of his charms proceeds to call on Violet anyway, still assuming that she is Hyacinth, and that she will shortly succumb to him.  Violet is anxious to send Nick away, but it becomes clear that he could be useful to her, escorting her around town to locations where she can research and do sketches for her book.

Thus begins the relationship built on deception from both sides – Nick plying his charm to quickly win an unwanted bride, and Violet, letting Nick think she is Hyacinth, while using him to escort and protect her.  But, as they say, love is strange.  Nick finds himself enjoying his time with the avowed bluestocking.  Her genuine thirst for knowledge and her natural curiosity and enthusiasm begins to charm him.  Violet also begins to appreciate Nick’s innate courtesy, protectiveness, and his willingness to answer her questions.  He never mocks her, he shows her exquisite care, and acts the true gentleman around her.  It’s not long before they are caught embracing, and a quick marriage is in their future.

After the initial anger and confusion over Violet pretending to be Hyacinth, they marry.  Violet sincerely apologizes, and Nick forgives her.  His thoughts on their wedding day:

He was going to make love to her tonight, and when they were both sated and she was lying in his arms, he was going to dream about her smile, and that flirtatious little laugh.  Tomorrow he would make her laugh again, and for every tomorrow afterwards, whenever that laugh was on the edge of her mouth, he would catch it on his lips.

Only Nick’s heart is broken before he ever holds her in his arms.  He makes a shattering discovery, and all his dreams of love and happy ever after are dead.  The wonderful man Violet fell in love with has retreated behind the cold eyed rake, whose only intention now is to see his wife pregnant and to return to his mistress.

Author Anna Bradley certainly knows how to write some heart wrenching scenes.  I had tears falling several times as this wonderfully flawed, deeply in love couple broke each other’s heart and trust.  Both Violet and Nick were strong in many ways, yet very vulnerable.  In particular, Nick’s insecurities over his stellar older brother kept him from accepting the truth.  Their eventual happiness is so well deserved, and the culmination of their passion is hot and beautiful.  I found MORE OR LESS A COUNTESS to be a highly emotional, romantic, and breathtaking read that is Anna Bradley’s best writing to date.   ~Rose


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