Review: Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh

Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh (London Underground book 2)
Historical romance released by Avon on March 27, 2018

Book CoverFor a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience—it’s strategy . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect.

Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority—she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods—but she’s desperate for funds to keep her smuggling operation afloat. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees. After all, her secrets could land her in prison and an attentive, love-struck spouse could destroy everything.

But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time.

I’m a fan of strong historical heroines who aren’t afraid of stepping outside of gender norms and building either the lives they want or the lives they need to have due to circumstances. When I read the description of Counting on a Countess I was thrilled! The description hit many of my sweet spots. The heroine has a unique job. Check. The heroine plans to keep on doing what she does even after she marries. Check. Both the hero and heroine are looking for a marriage of convenience. Double check. I was less thrilled about the reasons for the trope, but was willing to roll with it. 

Tamsyn Pearce is the orphaned daughter of a baron who lives in a small seaside town in Cornwall. Her uncle and aunt are distant caretakers, leaving Tamsyn alone to ensure the fishing community she lives in is able to thrive after the fishing drys up. She’s smart and compassionate and quick on her feet, not to mention fiercely independent. She’s also a natural leader, a trait that I don’t see often in historical romance. She uses these traits to help her community, undertaking the monumental task of spearheading a smuggling ring. These are the qualities that had me wanting to get to know Tamsyn over some excellent whisky.

Tamsyn is also very pragmatic. When obstacles to her smuggling operation are thrust at her, she doesn’t throw up her hands and give up or wait for someone to rescue her. Instead, she thinks through her options and seeks out the best solution: marriage to a man with enough disposable income available that she can use to ensure she and the town will be able to continue their illicit business for years to come. She doesn’t look for a love match, and would rather have a husband who will leave her to her own devices. Tamsyn is an independent woman who is doing her best to look after the people who depend on her. People who her uncle, the baron responsible for the town, should be looking after.

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth is a third son of a marquess, and did what most untitled sons of aristocracy did: serve as a enlisted member of His Majesty’s army. His ability to strategize and successfully lead men into battle earned him the title of Earl of Blakemore. But a title without entailments means Kit has returned to England to continue to live life on credit and gambling winnings. From Eva’s descriptions of Kit, he suffers post traumatic stress from everything he witnessed and did on the continent, and one of the ways he manages this is to avail himself to all the pleasures he can afford.

Another way is to hold fast to a dream he has of building something beautiful that will drive away all his pain and ugly memories. However, to really purge the trauma from his soul, Kit holds fast to the dream of building a pleasure garden that would outshine Vauxhall, for only by bringing beauty to the world would he be able to atone for the ugliness he both witnessed and committed.

Marriage isn’t in his plans until his mentor dies and leaves him a sum that could help him realize his dreams. The only catch is that he must marry in order to obtain these funds. He doesn’t believe in love, not for himself, so much like Tamsyn, he seeks out a woman who will allow him to live out his life separate from her own. He believes Tamsyn is that woman.

At it’s heart, this is a marriage of convenience story as much as it is a story about two pragmatic people who find love because the strategies they follow in order to realize their broader plans lead them to each other. Kit and Tamsyn fit together, a little too easily in the beginning, but the secrets they hold from each other provides enough tension to carry the reader forward, wondering if the fledgling trust growing between these two pragmatic people will be enough to keep them together when they start to figure out the other has ulterior motives for Kit’s inheritance.

I wasn’t too sure about this book when I started reading it and thought it might be one of the few books I would put in my “did not finish” pile. The writing was excellent, but as I read the first couple of chapters I really didn’t like either character in the first couple, and usually if I can’t find any empathy for the main characters by the end of the second chapter, I’m done. However, since I’m a sucker for a marriage of convenience I kept reading. I’m really glad I did because around chapter four the characters started to open up to me and the story started to fly off the page. By the end of the book I was sad to see the story end.

I will definitely be reading more books by Eva Leigh, especially if her books contain more strong women like Tamsyn, and men who love them without wanting to change them.

Grade: B-

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

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