After years in the army, Catesby Burgoyne has come home. Arguing with his family about his future drives him to drown his sorrows. When he sees a woman being attacked by ruffians, he rescues her, not realizing how much she will change his life.
Prudence Youlgrave is not just a victim of some ruffians in the street. Her brother and his fiancée have ignored her pleas for help and justice. Catesby is intrigued by her bold and courageous spirit and before he knows it he rescues her a second time by marrying her himself.
When Catesby becomes Earl of Malzard upon his older brother’s death, Prudence becomes a most unlikely countess. Neither she nor Catesby is prepared to face his family and their shock. Almost strangers, Prudence and Catesby are forced to rely on each other and it is in each other’s arms they find a love they never expected.
An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverly is a fantastically entertaining historical romance. I fell in love with both Catesby and Prudence, two very strong leading characters. Ms. Beverly did an excellent job of portraying what life in Georgian England was like for a woman and how her life was subject to whatever whim either her oldest male relative or husband desired.
Catesby Burgoyne is a great hero; he’s strong, physically fit and quick witted. He’s also the second son in an aristocratic family, which poses a problem. The family title will go to his older brother, and Catesby finds himself forced into the army by his father. While Catesby is a good leader and is quick witted, he’s not very good at following orders and his unorthodox behavior eventually forces him to leave the army and go home, where his older brother has assumed the position of Earl of Malzard.
Prudence Youlgrave is a fantastic heroine. She’s a modern woman stuck in the past. She’s smart, emotionally strong and courageous. She’s also a victim of society and her brother. Women in her time period have no rights; she’s subject to her brother’s dictates since he is her only living male relative. Prudence and her mother have spent the last several years scrimping and saving to help her brother become a lawyer. Now that her mother has passed away, Prudence finds herself alone and broke. Her pleas to her brother have gone unanswered and she finds herself at the end of her rope. When Catesby rescues her from being attacked, she realizes that she will have to take matters into her own hands and confronts her brother and his new wife, Susan, about her situation. She wants a home and family and will do whatever she needs to do to get one.
The scenes between Catesby and Prudence are very well done. The dialogue is entertaining and occasionally funny. They are attracted to each other from their first meeting but circumstances and social standing get in their way at first. When Catesby’s brother dies and he becomes the Earl of Malzard, he finds himself thinking of Prudence and tries to locate her. When he discovers that she’s being forced into marriage to someone he considers a less than desirable man, he steps in and marries her himself and that is when the real fun begins. Prudence doesn’t realize that her new husband is now an Earl, and she’s not prepared for the changes that her new social status will bring. She is, however, a quick study of human nature so she’s in a somewhat better position to grasp the nature of the emotional minefield they encounter at Keynings, their new home. I loved how Ms. Beverly addresses the reality of having three women in the household who are at different stages of being the mistress of the house.
The secondary characters are also well written. From Catesby’s mother, Flavia, who has never understood her son, to Artemis, Catesby’s sister in law, who unjustly blames Catesby for her husband’s death. Two of my favorite secondary characters are Perrigrin Perriam, Catesby’s best friend and a real gentleman, and Hetty, a young woman who befriended Prudence when she really needed help. No historical romance would be complete without a villain and in this story there are three: Prudence’s younger brother Aaron and his new wife Susan Tallbridge, neither of who have any regard for Prudence. The third and most dangerous villain is Mr. Draydale, Prudence’s unsuitable fiancé, whose pride demands violent revenge.
The conclusion of the story was a happy one with a good outlook for Catesby and Prudence and their marriage. Mr. Draydale gets what he deserves and both Flavia and Artemis had reconciled themselves to the truth that Catesby was a good man and that Prudence would become a good countess given time. I also loved that Prudence stayed true to her friendship with Hetty regardless of whether or not it was appropriate given their different social standings- Prudence would be helping Hetty and her family have a brighter future. I look forward to reading the next book in this series.
Prudence Youlgrave is out to marry above her station and secure a happy life. Catesby Burgoyne is out to continue his noble family's good name. When fate pushes them together, they are married-but this inconvenient marriage of convenience quickly turns into something much more...