Saturday, March 27, 2010
I haven't read an historical novel like this in quite some time and don't really know where to begin. There were two interesting storylines going on - Eliza and Will's romance, and Eliza's efforts to help the Irish escape English rule. I have a only general understanding of the history of The Troubles in Ireland; I do not know the specific battles and such. This book takes place during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. I do think it's an interesting subject to work into a Romance novel.
As the book opens, Lady Eliza Blacknall has just escaped her parent's party in County Kildare to meet with her sweetheart, Will Denton. They are childhood friends and sweethearts, although their parents don't approve. As they talk, Eliza suddenly realizes Will is wearing a Red Coat - he's purchased his commission and is now part of an English Regiment! Eliza cannot bear it; although she is Protestant, she considers herself a true Irishwoman and feels like Will has betrayed her and their homes.
We pick back up again seven years later: Eliza is now a young widow living in Dublin. She is very active in the secret societies of the United Irishmen, writing pamphlets and hiding accused sympathisers. Will has come back to Ireland as a Major in the army and is staying in Dublin. Of course they hit it off immediately, and start having nightly trysts in her bedroom after dark. Eliza had been in a loveless marriage, and the things she experiences in the bedroom with Will surprise and delight her. She knows she still loves him, but cannot accept that he is in the English army - it goes against everything she believes in. Will knows he loves Eliza and tries to keep her out of trouble; he knows she's under suspicion for treason and helps her out of a sticky spot a time or two. He wants her to give up her subversive activities and leave Ireland until things settle down.
There were so many tender, sensual scenes between Eliza and Will; it was obvious they were very much in love. Through most of the book, however, I just couldn's see how Ms. McKee was going to be able to reconcile their love for each other against their differing political views. When Will left Dublin my heart broke for both of them. Even when they were reunited it still seemed to be a case of star-crossed lovers.
There were, of course, some dangerous scenes that Will and Eliza had to face together; her family was no longer safe on their land and needed to escape to Dublin. I liked that Eliza was a smart, opinionated heroine but not obnoxious or TSTL. She was very careful in her clandestine involvement with the United Irishmen. When she assisted Will through some dangerous situations later in the book, she took calculated chances and did not rush into things trying to be a hero. Will was a good hero in that he never talked down or humored Eliza, and while he did try to persuade her to give up her involvement in the illegal organization, he did not try to change her political views on the subject.
The ending of the book was a bit abrubt, I don't know that Will's decisions would have been accepted as easily as it appeared to in the book, nor do I think Eliza would have accepted the decision she and Will made together. Her convictions seemed to be too strong to go along with that course of action.
All in all, this was an interesting read. I liked the set-up for the next book, which will feature Eliza's sister Anna. Anna's Book, Duchess of Sin, comes out in December. I give Countess of Scandal 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
(There was a character in the book named Edward Fitzgerald, who was apparently a real historical figure. However, when I first read his name, I read it as Edmund Fitzgerald - and could only think of that gut-wrenching Gordon Lightfoot song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I know, I know, there's something seriously wrong with me, LOL!)
This book was provided to me by Hatchette Book Group free of charge in exchange for an honest review.