Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Book Review: The Runaway Countess by Leigh LaValle

Title: The Runaway Countess
Author: Leigh LaValle
Release Date: 6 March 2012
Number of pages: 408 pages
Publisher: Samhain
Source: ebook provided by author for review
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon

Grade: 5 stars

Novellus perfectus!
Goodreads appetizer: Her heart longs for justice, but her body clamors for sin.

Once the darling of high society, Mazie Chetwyn knows firsthand how quickly the rich and powerful turn their backs on the less fortunate. Orphaned, penniless and determined to defy their ruthless whims, she joins forces with a local highwayman who steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Then the pawn broker snitches, and Mazie is captured by the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. A man who is far too handsome, far too observant…and surely as corrupt as his father once was.

Sensible, rule-driven Trent Carthwick, twelfth Earl of Radford, is certain the threat of the gallows will prompt the villagers’ beloved Angel of Kindness to reveal the highwayman’s identity. But his bewitching captive volunteers nothing—except a sultry, bewildering kiss.

And so the games begin. Trent feints, Mazie parries. He threatens, she pretends nonchalance. He cajoles, she rebuffs. Thwarted at every turn, Trent probes deep into her one vulnerability—her past. There he finds the leverage he needs and a searing truth that challenges all he believes about right and wrong.

My Thoughts: I believe it doesn't come as a revelation when I admit that the reason I was intrigued by The Runaway Countess was due to its Robin Hood storyline, but this novel was so much more than that.

The novel starts with an unexpected beginning: Mazie, our heroine is already imprisoned having been captured as accompilce of the wanted highwayman, the Midnight Rider, and that's from where the story unravels. Trent Carthwick, twelfth Earl of Radford and Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, in charge of investigating the thefts and capturing the Midnight Rider interrogates Mazie regarding her connection to the infamous highwayman to discover his whereabouts but to no avail.

Mazie is a feisty, independent and very passionate young woman. She has strong convistionc and is ready to fight tooth and nails for what she believes in. Her loyalty to her brother and her self-sacrifice are humbling. She was a wonderful heroine: modern for her time, not afraid to speak her mind and take matters into her own hand. She was a strong character, one I liked very much.

And then there is Trent our honourable hero. *sighs* He is all that is trustworthy and just. He believes in justice and rightness of the law above all. He trusts that the law is fair and just and it shall prevail to maintain order and respectability in the country. He was such an honest, honourable man. His strength, intelligence integrity and loyalty were awe-inspiring. He is a gentleman in the best sense of the word: he believes in fairness and justice, treats Mazie the captive with respect and gentleness, and then when sparks fly between them he still tries to do the honourable thing and not "take advantage of her situation". He is the ideal hero.

“Despite all of this—” he lifted his hand away in a cold, sweeping gesture that indicated the room, her, the moment, “—despite the deceit and the lies, the attraction is there.” He was still a moment. “There is nothing more that I want at this moment than to touch you. Taste you. Watch your eyes close in pleasure as I sink myself into you.” A pulse of heat raced through her. “But I will not.”

The chemistry between Mazie and Trent is sparkling, their tug of wills, Mazie's stubbornness and creativity when it comes to lies and half-truths combined with Trent's honourable gentleman ways was very entertaining. And then when they gave in to the sizzling attraction between them Trent had me melting with his tenderness and gentle care of Mazie. (It's not to say their lovemaking wasn't scorching hot, because it was!)

It was a kiss born of thunderstorms and the wild loneliness of night. It was hot, fierce and needy. Both panting, they pressed and grabbed for more.

What touched me was that The Runaway Countess told much more than the steamy romance of Mazie and Trent, it showed their struggles, their vulnarability, their heart. It was a novel full of emotion and heartsqueezing tenderness.

Heat flushed through her. So raw, his smile revealed the man beneath. The man who had held her, soothed her when she had been hurting and wanting to hurt him back. The man who saw not only her anger and misdeeds, but her loneliness and struggle as well.
Trent leaned down so his forehead rested against hers. He understood what she meant, had tried to stay away tonight. His hands tightened on her hips. His fury was tamed by her small hands, by her confession. Only the longing remained. “I need your arms around me, Mazie.”
She stepped toward him and laid her hand on his bare chest. Wiry hair curled around her fingers. His skin was heat and silk and his heart beat under her hand. He stepped back and let her hand drop. She gently closed her fingers around the memory of his heartbeat in her palm, as if for safekeeping.

Leigh LaValle charmed me with her exquisite writing style. Her prose was captivating and spellbinding, her descriptions evocative and magical:
She sipped her soup. Delicious. The flavor was delicate and fresh and brought to mind summer gardens and morning dew.
She chose a tight-fitting day gown that showed off her curves while covering her skin. Made of soft, almost silken apricot-colored muslin, the dress reminded her of a Mozart Andante where the sensuality was hidden behind obedience to classical form. Its power was in its pretense to innocence.
Verdict: Being a wonderful combination of Robin Hood setting, well written historical romance and three dimensional likable characters The Runaway Countess is an amazing debut for Leigh LaValle.  I utterly enjoyed it and devoured all 408 pages in less than a day. Mazie and Trent were wonderful characters and Leigh LaValle's portrayal of their love and struggles was beautifully poignant, I simply loved it!  If you enjoy well written fantastic historical romances you should add The Runaway Countess to your wishlist, I'm sure it will become  a favourite of yours! (I speak from experience, The Runaway Countess became one of those books I'm sure I'll re-read several times as a comfort read)

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Writing: 10/10 - the pace slowed down a bit at the middle and felt like the h/h were at an impasse, but otherwise such a lush, evocative, beautiful writing style!
Ending: 9/10
Cover: 9/10 - so lush and sparkling!

Buy it:

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