From a recluse secluded in a castle…
…to his Countess!
Cloistered away in a castle since birth, Madelyn Aylmer must now fulfil her eccentric father’s dying request: wed nobleman Jack Ransome! She has what Jack needs – land – and so he accepts their marriage of convenience, and vows to introduce this sheltered innocent into Society. But what Madelyn hadn’t expected was the way her body reacts to Jack, especially to his promise of a union filled with unbridled passion!
Louise Allen is an author whose work I’ve enjoyed many times in the past, and I always look forward to a new release from her. Contracted as His Countess is a standalone historical romance that puts a slightly different spin on a familiar trope, and the very different backgrounds of the two protagonists make for some interesting situations and conflicts. But somewhere around the half-way point, the story loses focus and never really regains it; the romance is not well developed and even thought the eleventh-hour black moment is actually set up earlier in the book, it nonetheless feels flimsy and awkward.
Madelyn Aylmer is the daughter of a rather eccentric gentleman whose fascination with the gothic period went far beyond that of many of the other nineteenth century gothic revivalists. He lived as a medieval nobleman in his own castle, complete with moat, drawbridge and portcullis, dressed in medieval attire, eschewed modern conveniences and even wanted his servants to dress the part. He brought up his only daughter with medieval values and sensibilities; indeed Madelyn has had very little interaction with the outside world and is, indeed, much like the ivory-tower bound princess in a fairy tale. Now her father is dead, and she is duty-bound to fulfil his last request, which is to marry a man with bloodlines that can be traced back to before the Conquest, a man of impeccable breeding.
That gentleman is Jack Ransome, Earl of Dersington, who is commonly known in society as Jack Lackland because his is an empty title. In fact, he styles himself plain Mister Ransome, seeing no point in calling himself an earl because without lands, retainers or wealth, he has no power and therefore, no function as an aristocrat. His profligate father and elder brother left nothing, and he supports himself by working as an enquiry agent. He arrives at Castle Beaupierre in response to the invitation from Miss Aylmer, and is surprised at his reaction to the statuesque young woman dressed in clothes of a bygone age who greets him. Madelyn Aylmer is not pretty by the standards of the day, but she’s most certainly and unconventionally attractive in her poise and serenity. Plain by modern standards, yet somehow lovely and utterly remote.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.