Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Review: The Runaway Countess by Leigh LaValle (4 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
I'm always glad when I can give a positive review for a debut novel. It's a considerable accomplishment to get that first book published, and I like seeing new authors in the historical romance genre. Therefore, it it with happiness that I report Leigh LaValle's debut The Runaway Countess to be a success. The story was well written and fits together without serious issues. It is definitely a novel that leans toward angst and drama, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The angst never spiked to annoying levels; instead the steady flow of angst/drama helped keep the storyline moving, the reader engaged, and seemed mostly reasonable when tied in with the plot.
The heroine is a twenty-three year old woman who has recently begun helping her half brother rob stagecoaches. The sister is a member of nobility, but after her parents died both siblings were left without a penny. They are taken in by a relative who lives in a cottage on a country estate. The old earl who owned the estate, along with the rest of the local justice system is very corrupt, and the heroine's half brother has fought back by performing highway robberies of the people involved and giving the money to those who have been wronged. The heroine wants to get involved, and begins selling the stolen goods for her brother. The book opens with her having been caught, and the old earl's son (now the new earl) coming to question the heroine. She seems to have a fiery personality and a strong character, but she is also someone with a great capacity to love. The new earl, meanwhile, is our hero. He is basically a Regency-era law student, someone who studies law in detail, believes fully in the justice system, and has taken a great interest in Parliament. He starts out trying to emulate his father, who he grew up believing to be a very noble and just man. One of the main subplots involve him discovering and reconciling who his father really was. There is a tremendous amount of instant chemistry between our hero and heroine, which develops into deeper feelings as the hero and heroine start up a romantic yet antagonistic relationship (you know, the kind where they are each other's "enemy" but somehow also end up kissing each other senseless). They spend a considerable amount of time together, and choices have to be made and feelings are realized as the heroine tries to protect her half brother and the hero tries to establish justice (cue the angst). As things progress, both characters mature into better individuals.
Overall, I liked LaValle's The Runaway Countess. Rather than frustrate me, as angst-filled storylines tend to do, the pacing keep me interested from cover to cover. The storyline came together quite neatly, and the resolutions/character development were "triumphant" to the point that I wasn't really bothered by some of the more dramatic elements. Simply put, The Runaway Countess was a solid read.