Romancing the Countess

Ashley March
Romancing the Countess
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Penguin Group, USA
Release Date
September 2011
Historical Romance

Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he'd married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend's widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets...

Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband's affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there's only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other's arms....

Book Review by Lisa Jo
Aug 29, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
203 people found the following review helpful
Fans of Lisa Kleypas, Anna Campbell and Connie Brockway should be on the lookout for Ashley March. With just her second novel, she's proving to be a stunning talent in the historical romance genre.

Knowing that your husband is having an affair with another woman is painful enough, but Leah George is finding some way to survive the harsh truth of her marriage. Then, her husband dies in a tragic accident with his lover, leaving her a young widow with no children. She has spent the last year grieving over the loss of her husband's love and fidelity, but finds she doesn't have the strength left to grieve over the loss of her husband. What she clings to now is a hope of independence and freedom to live her life the way she wants away from the pain she's experienced.

With a beautiful wife and a precious son, Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly thought he had the perfect marriage. After his wife dies, he discovers she was having an affair with his best friend...and Leah's husband. Completely shocked by his wife and friend's betrayal, he realizes Leah is not. It becomes apparent that Leah is not interested in playing the role of the grieving widow and Sebastian's worried her actions might reveal the truth of the affair. While Sebastian could bear the scandal and carry on, he knows his son cannot endure the truth about his mother coming out. Now he's on the chase, trying to curb the actions of this rebellious widow. When she arranges to host a party at her home long before her mourning period is over, Sebastian knows he must try and persuade Leah to conform to society's rules. Soon sparks fly and when Leah and Sebastian realize they may share more than a secret of betrayal, they must decide if they can ever learn to love again.

Ashley March pens a story that is nothing less than breathtaking. This story certainly robbed me of sleep until I finished it. ROMANCING THE COUNTESS was a magical, enthralling journey that touches your heart and does not disappoint. Never have I been so entranced by the simple attraction and romance between two characters. It was subtle yet powerful. Ms March doesn't just write about this overwhelming seduction, but constructs a world with emotions that are too easy to visualize and experience. Soon you'll realize you need to read the next chapter just as desperately as you need air to breath...only to be sadly disappointed when the story is over.

Sebastian was, to put it bluntly, awesome...just awesome. His lines were classic poetry, spoken honestly yet with a desperation that made you want to cry. He was a hero that loved his wife desperately and as he struggled to accept her betrayal, found another whom he could trust and learn to love. It was a beautiful thing to watch Sebastian come to truly understand what love is and to find the one person who could let him live again.

Leah was just as spectacular. She was a woman on the edge of freedom and was not going to wait around while opportunities were denied her. What made her so precious was her strength, yet glaring vulnerabilities that she rarely showed to the outside world. She, like Sebastian, had such a desperate yearning for happiness beneath a composed and calm facade.

The chemistry and sexual tension between these two characters is something that certainly makes you take notice. ROMANCING THE COUNTESS starts out like as a game of chess. Two pawns against each other, seeking to protect their secrets and ambitions. But in the blink of an eye, this book changes drastically to the most spectacular and alluring game of seduction. It is nothing short of stunning. I loved their quick banter back and forth and their reluctance to commit to one another after their disastrous marriages. Yet underneath it all was a dazzling attraction that gave me goosebumps! It was also emotionally stunning as well. Ms March develops not only great characters, but great characters that you learn to love easily. In this novel, you have a beautiful heroine and hero that experience a roller coaster of emotions to create a book that is well worth the ride. They infuse this novel with such an extraordinary romantic spirit, it's near impossible to put the book down.

"During the house party she'd begun to show a little of herself to others, but not everything...he alone had measured her strength, her vulnerability...And whether he liked it or not, she knew more of him than he'd ever wished to reveal to anyone else. His every emotional state: his anger, his sadness, his offenses and curses brought on by despair. And now she knew, though he would have chosen otherwise, how he hungered for her."

ROMANCING THE COUNTESS was wonderful...absolutely wonderful. If you are looking for that stunning romance that sweeps you off your feet, I have two words for you: Ashley March. Her writing is addictive, superb and hopelessly romantic. I think it would be impossible to be disappointed.
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BOOK INTERVIEW on September 2011
Interview by Lisa

Ashley, congratulations on your latest release!

Q: ROMANCING THE COUNTESS is a truly unique and fabulous story by the fact that your hero and heroine were both tragically betrayed in their first marriages and had to see if they could take another chance on love with each other. Where did the idea or the inspiration come from to write this story about such an unusual couple?

I'm so glad you enjoyed the storyline! I would love to give you a truly romantic answer about getting the idea for ROMANCING THE COUNTESS one day on a trip to Paris, but the truth is I've never been to Paris (yet!), and I actually had the idea for such a concept a few years ago when I was working a very boring and deadly dull part-time job.

My inspiration for writing Leah and Sebastian's love story stems from the belief that we each deserve love and happiness in our lives. I know someone who, after having the love of her life die when she was young, never tried to find love again. In ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, I wanted to show not only how finding an even greater love can be possible, but also how love can heal hearts and redeem the tragedy of past relationships.

Q: Your book is set in the Victorian era. What about this time period draws you? What made you set the book in this era as opposed to the popular Regency period?

I grew up reading Regency romances (and still read them!). As you can see with ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, I enjoy writing challenges, and facing an unfamiliar era was a great challenge for me. The Victorian period specifically appeals to me because of the changes between commoners and the aristocracy, as well as the advances in reform and technology. It was such a great time for Britain in that it was becoming a world superpower, but also a struggling time as the country dealt with continuing health and poverty issues. There are so many ideas that this type of a background can provide, and I also think that my voice as a writer is better suited to a sexier and sometimes darker Victorian era rather than what we typically think of as the lighter Regency period in historical romance.

Q: Do tell us more about your heroine, Leah George. It must've been hard for her to have the knowledge of her husband's affair. What qualities does she possess that enabled her to carry through such an ordeal?

First, I have to say that while Leah is strong, she's also vulnerable. One of the reasons she didn't tell anyone about her husband's affair when he was still alive was because she was ashamed and embarrassed. Whether right or wrong, she saw it as a failing of hers in some way that he fell in love with another woman. However, though Leah is vulnerable, her strength is evident in the fact that she was able to continue on in such a ruse and even demand a bargain with her husband so that she could still be happy in a way.

The evolution of her character doesn't really come about until her husband dies at the beginning of the book, and she is suddenly freed from a marriage that tore her apart. No longer having to face the truth of her husband's betrayal every day, the woman who was ashamed and embarrassed now realizes that nothing is more important than finding her own happiness in life.

Leah's strength comes from her own self-awareness and self-respect. Even though her husband stopped loving her, she still loved herself; it is only after his death that she is able to grow from a woman who knows and loves herself to a woman who loves herself enough to embrace her own desires and wishes. Yet the vulnerability that followed her husband's betrayal never fully disappears, and it is only through Sebastian's love that Leah's heart is finally able to be healed.

Q: Leah's "rebellion" in the novel wouldn't be much of a rebellion at all if she were a woman of modern times. Do you find it humorous, absurd, or shocking what she had to go through and what risks she had to take to ease her loneliness and earn a small token of happiness?

To preface my answer for those who don't know what Leah's rebellion included, please allow me to explain that Leah decided to host a country house party at her husband's estate within a few months after his death. Given the fact that most customs at the time believed widows should be in mourning for a year to two years, this would have been highly unusual and certainly regarded as scandalous by more than a few people.

While the customs might be different now, I think that if a woman started partying soon after her husband died even today, this would be looked upon with shock. However, I believe the difference is that today a woman would simply be able to explain her motives and intentions and most everyone would support her. In the Victorian era, I suspect that if Leah tried to explain her actions away by saying that she didn't want to be lonely and she only wanted a piece of happiness, society would still look down on her for breaking the customs. Doing things the proper way was more important back then than the motives of the heart, and I think that if anything, this is what I find most absurd and yes, a little sad.

Q: What about Sebastian Madinger, Earl of Wriothesly? What makes him a swoon-worthy hero?

There are so many reasons why every woman should fall in love with Sebastian! First of all, there's the fact that he was absolutely in love and devoted to his wife, and that he trusted her so much that he never suspected her of betraying him with his best friend. We all should have such a man on our side. Then there's the fact that he loves his son so much that he's willing to do anything to protect him, which is part of the conflict that arises between Sebastian and Leah. But I think that, more than anything else, Sebastian is a swoon-worthy hero because of the patience and understanding he shows to Leah during their relationship. He finds her worthy and amazing, and though at first he doesn't understand all of her hesitancy in their relationship, he still loves her enough to try to give her all the space she needs…even though it hurts him to do so at times. This, to me, makes Sebastian such a wonderful knight in shining armor.

Q: What was interesting stepping into this novel was watching the hero try and fall out of love with his wife when he found out about her betrayal after she passed away. His attraction to the heroine was somewhat conflicted and delayed because of this. Considering all this, was Sebastian's perspective difficult to write?

I remember the beginning of this book being extremely difficult to write in the sense that I had to keep a careful balance in how I betrayed their relationship. While it was important to me to show that Sebastian loved his wife and thus couldn't immediately fall for another woman, I had to keep in mind that this was a romance novel and readers expected to see a relationship developing between the hero and heroine from a point pretty early on. The way that I handled this was by showing the time that elapsed after his wife's death and how Sebastian handled himself. I think showing him going through the different emotions and the different situations in which he interacted with Leah before the country house party made their eventual attraction believable. And to be honest, I'm pretty proud of the way the book ended up. Unlike many romances, there wasn't instant lust or love between Sebastian and Leah, and I like this about them.

Q: What makes Leah and Sebastian perfect for each other?

I think one of the biggest reasons why they're perfect for each other is that they both place such a high value on loyalty and fidelity. They believed in these before their spouses' betrayal, but I think that their shared experience in having their spouses cheat on them makes their own relationship stronger. If something is bothering them, they're more likely to talk to the other to resolve their issues because they want to make their relationship work. They're both survivors who know what can go wrong, and they love each other too much to let their own marriage fail.

Beyond this, though, Leah as an individual is perfect for Sebastian because he connects better with her personality. She is strong, which he admires, but shows him enough of her vulnerability that he feels needed so he can protect her. She makes him laugh and keeps him on his toes with her wit. And the love and compassion which she shows to others—including his son, whom she treats as her own—makes him fall in love with her even more.

Sebastian as an individual is perfect for Leah because he's not the type of personality to want to be in the spotlight, so he never outshines her like her previous husband did. He treats her as his equal and partner, and encourages her wishes and desires. He also makes her laugh—which I believe is a very important thing in marriage—and the way he treats her makes her feel cherished and desired.

Q: What is your favorite scene? Why?

Wow, this is a very difficult question to answer! After debating my answer for several minutes, I think it's the scene at the country house party where Leah finds Sebastian in the study. It's the first time where we see them acting as friends of a sort and where Leah acknowledges to herself that she's attracted to him. Sebastian is drunk because he still loves his wife but realized the scene before that he's attracted to Leah. They both hold their own secrets from each other and are both vulnerable, and even right now thinking about their interactions during that scene make me want to sigh and go read it immediately. :)

Q: In ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, you had to first deal with the ‘bad' side of love and tackle a secret affair that basically destroyed Leah's marriage and forever tainted the memory of Sebastian's spouse, whom he adored. Was this task of dealing with the sadness of love easier to undertake than you expected or more difficult?

I think it was about as difficult as I expected—which was still quite a bit. I'm a romance reader as well as a romance writer, and addressing such topics as adultery and death isn't very much fun. But Leah and Sebastian's past relationships were very important to the relationship they developed with one another, and I felt it necessary to show the truth of their pasts and their emotions toward their previous spouses.

I think being able to experience a character's emotions as they fall in love is one of the greatest things about reading and writing romance. By connecting with my characters through all of their emotions, I hope that the characters feel genuine and that the reader will feel emotionally connected, too. In the end, the important part of this story is not what happened in the past, but where the love they found together will take them in the future—and for Sebastian and Leah, that means a happily ever after.

Q: It was very easy to fall in love with Leah and Sebastian! Was it tough to let them go after the novel was finished? Will we ever encounter them again in any of your future works?

I'm so happy to hear this! :) I definitely think that the depth of emotions involved in writing ROMANCING THE COUNTESS will make Leah and Sebastian linger with me for a long time. There's a possibility I might do a few scenes that show more of their happily-ever-after some day, but to be honest my schedule is too full at the moment to know when that could be. And although ROMANCING THE COUNTESS is not part of a series, I will be writing other novels in the same time period, so don't be surprised if you do see or hear about them again!

Q: What's up next for you in the coming months?

I'm scheduled to launch a new Victorian series (my first!) with Signet in 2012, with an e-novella in April and the first full-length book in May. This series, A Belgrave Square Affair, is about a wealthy middle-class Victorian family who try to establish ties with the aristocracy through marriage. The full-length novels will feature the family's love stories while the e-novellas will feature the family's servants—an upstairs/downstairs aspect which I'm really excited about.

However, I know a lot of readers feel that April/May is a long way away (and I happen to agree!), so I'm planning on self-publishing a few different things between now and then. Readers can sign up for my newsletter or check back on my website for more information about this as it becomes available.

Thanks, Ashley, for this so very interesting interview!

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview and for letting me tell your readers a little about ROMANCING THE COUNTESS!


To celebrate its upcoming release on September 6th, I'd like to give away a couple of books to a reader who can answer this question:

What makes your favorite romance novel/s linger in your mind for months or years afterward? Is it the plot, certain scenes, the characters themselves, or all three?

One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, and will get a chance to send a copy of my debut, SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, to a friend (open internationally)!

Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting!

Bio: After spending countless hours memorizing both traditional and simplified Chinese characters, perfecting her tones, and practicing her speaking with any Chinese native she could find, Ashley successfully graduated with a degree in Mandarin Chinese. She was determined to be the next best Chinese translator in the world. Then she discovered writing romances was as much fun as reading them, and her Chinese capabilities have never been the same. When she isn't writing, Ashley stays busy chasing around her two young daughters, attempting to do housework, and hiking in the beautiful foothills of Colorado.



Romancing Lady Cecily e-short (August 2, 2011; related to ROMANCING THE COUNTESS)
Seducing the Duchess (October 5, 2010)

Mechanics for the Contest:

Simply answer Ashley's question above in the comment box below to be entered into the giveaway!

Contest ends September 30.

Winners will be announced in October.
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