by Eloisa James
Published by Avon Books, 2004.
Paperback, 384 pages.
Listed $7.99 (I borrowed it from the Library)
Helene, the Countess Godwin, knows there is nothing more unbearably tedious than a virtuous woman. After all, she's been one for ten long years while her scoundrel of a husband lives with strumpets and causes scandal after scandal. So she decides it's time for a change -- she styles her hair in the newest, daring mode, puts on a shockingly transparent gown, and goes to a ball like Cinderella, hoping to find a prince charming to sweep her off her feet...and into his bed.
But instead of a prince, she finds only her own volatile, infuriatingly handsome...husband, Rees, the Earl Godwin. They'd eloped to Gretna Green in a fiery passion, but passion can sometimes burn too hot to last.
But now, Rees makes her a brazen offer, and Helene decides to become his wife again...but not in name only. No, this time she decides to be very, very wicked indeed.
I read and reviewed the first three books in this series here, here and here, and it has taken me a while to get back and finish. This story was fun and I enjoyed meeting some new characters, particularly Earl Godwin's brother and also his "strumpet," who turned out to be a lovely character. Of course I enjoyed seeing almost all of our old characters again from the first three books. Helene's motivation seems legitimate as she has watched her friends become mothers and therefore she wants to become a mother too. The fact that she would go to nearly any length, and a almost any sacrifice, which is really about her social standing, to become pregnant is interesting.
All of Ms. James characters are intriguing to me as they have depth of personality and individualism that sets them apart from other historical fiction. Other than Helene wanting to become pregnant and her obsession with social norms, all the women were modern in their thinking about relationships and even parenting.
Earl Godwin was difficult for me to forgive. I realized in the first book when we are first introduced to the two that their falling out early in their marriage was due to lack of communication and immaturity (and pride) so overcoming those things AND forgiving each other for past grievances was vital to creating a believable relationship. Actually, that was one of the things I liked about this story. I enjoy Alpha males and Earl Godwin is most definitely Alpha. His horrible treatment of his wife is more about making statements about other things in his life than it was about mistreating her or even being unfaithful. While many of those behaviors would be unacceptable in our time, they were not necessarily viewed the same in the 18th & 19th Centuries.
Great strides we've made ladies!
The friendships portrayed in this and in the other books in the series made me happy. These women loved each other and took care of each other, even better than family, which is right. At the moment when Helene is nearly ruined socially, they come together and come up with a solution--with help from an unlikely source, but it works--and it was fun to see it all play out.
I am now done with this series and am not sure when I will be coming back to Eloisa James. My TBR pile is enormous and I have a nice little stack by Charlaine Harris that I'd like to read. So far I have become addicted to her Sookie Stackhouse books and other series (somebody PLEASE make these into a movie!) so I am hoping that this set does not disappoint.