To Charm A Naughty Countess

Theresa Romain
To Charm A Naughty Countess
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Publisher
Sourcebooks
Release Date
May 2014
ISBN
9781402284021
Genre
Historical Romance

SUMMARY
Can a reclusive duke...

Brilliant but rumored mad, Michael Layward, the impoverished Duke of Wyverne, has no success courting heiresses until widowed Lady Stratton takes up his cause—after first refusing his suit.

Win London's most powerful countess?

Caroline Graves, the popular Countess of Statton, sits alone at the pinnacle of London society and has vowed never to remarry. When Michael—her counterpart in an old scandal—returns to town after a long absence, she finds herself as enthralled with him as ever. As she guides the anxiety-ridden duke through the trials of London society, Caroline realizes that she's lost her heart. But if she gives herself to the only man she's ever loved, she'll lose the hard won independence she prizes above all.

Book Review by Mary Chen (reviewer)
May 06, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
139 people found the following review helpful
With a set of sublimely crafted characters, magnificently plotted story, and an intensely poignant romance set in a Regency England filled with rich historical details, Theresa Romain has gained a perpetual place on my auto-buy list with TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS. None of my praises are given lightly, and even those are insufficient for the amount of depth, feeling, and wit in this story, not in the least between our protagonists, Caroline and Michael.

The widowed Countess of Stratton, Caroline Graves, is the reigning queen of the ton. With beauty, allure, and social stratagems, she has no lack of suitors, and rather relishes the freedom her widowhood allows. She is adept at managing suitors, artfully maintaining a balance between all, yet that is all a clandestine attempt to conceal her lingering emotional attachment to one man--Michael Layward, the brilliant and reclusive Duke of Wyverne.

Michael inherited a dukedom that grew increasingly short of funds as nature--the Year Without a Summer (1816)--played havoc on his lands and crop yields, leaving him with but one method to save his deteriorating estates--marry an heiress. To do that, he must again brave the suffocating ballrooms of London, counted those who still thought him "mad", and once again be reminded of his last visit, eleven years ago, when he and Caroline crossed paths and was never the same again. But when Caroline refuses his marriage bargain, instead offering to help him find another heiress, will they realize that their old flame was never extinguished, but was merely waiting for another spark to blaze into an inferno?

Ms. Romain takes the second chance trope to spectacular heights in this book, guiding two perfectly matched, equally lonely people together in a surge of blinding light, of which both possess and admire. Michael's world was shrouded in dreary shadows, of solitude and somber responsibilities, taking refuge only in his mechanical interests. His madness is in fact no more than social anxiety, but for that he was treated as an outcast (despite his title) by London society, by his father, and ultimately, by himself. Due to that, Michael has always been attracted to light--to brilliance of mind and spirit, especially the warm radiance which Caroline exudes, and her emotional intelligence. From her, he feared the loss of his reason and the burst of his restrained passions, yet he induces the same fear in Caroline, who feels too deeply, unable to stop herself from falling for the same man who broke her heart when he suddenly left, eleven years ago.

What started out as a study of opposites between vibrant Caro and brooding Michael has quickly shifted to one of complements, fueled by a hidden desire to find love, acceptance, and understanding in each other. But whether Michael can realize he has the capacity to provide these for Caroline becomes the true conflict of this story, and one which is resolved very nicely; through Caroline's philosophical insights and social grace, she allays Michael's psychological tensions, and welcomes with open arms his believed eccentric interests, which served to free Michael's mind, allowing him to realize that he was who Caroline needed in her life. That requisite longing, in turn, blossoms into a love worthy of spring.

In the end, perhaps this story is really about having the one thing that truly completes one's life, a noble love as the canon of Michael and Caroline's lives. And as Michael emerged from his role of the eccentric Merlin to become the noble Galahad, he is ready to battle anyone, including his stubborn self, to win Caroline's love and transform his monotonous life into one of fantastic colors, incandescent from Caroline's own brilliance. Brava, Ms. Romain, brava.

TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS is second in Theresa Romain's Matchmaker Trilogy, and I cannot wait to read the last book, Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress.
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Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
May 16, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
136 people found the following review helpful
TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS is a charming read, albeit a bit unexpected.

Michael is back in town, this time to pursue a wealthy heiress to be his duchess, as his dukedom is in dire straits. And who shall offer her help but Caroline, the widowed Lady Stratton, with whom he had a brief but passionate interlude eleven years before...

I had heard a lot of good things about Theresa Romain and when I saw this, I just had to grab a copy. The story went into unexpected turns, and while not unpleasant, it did surprise me somewhat. TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS is more of a character-study than a plot-driven story, and the process serves to untangle the heart's desires of both main characters, leaving them exposed and laid bare at the end as to the one thing that mattered most to them. I think the author also tried to lend a tone of authenticity to her work, thus using prose that is more genuine to the time period of the story, but a bit of the downside is the slight difficulty in reading.

Michael is exquisitely portrayed--his condition, his reaction to stimulus and his thought processes are depicted well, and the reader will be able to see that he is suffering from something and will empathize with him. However, I thought he was suffering from something that is far graver than what the author's note said, due to his actions and reactions. For example, being heir to a dukedom, he would have been schooled in manners and behavior acceptable to the ton. It seemed a stretch therefore that it would be Caroline who would teach him to say "Deuced cold" as a conversational opener. Wouldn't he have learned that trick early on, despite his hermit-like existence in the past eleven years? How about seeing a Carcel lamp and forgetting that he was in a drawing room with other guests and proceeding to dismantle his host's lamp on top of the piano? It doesn't seem to be the behavior of a man who is merely suffering from what the author said in her note. In fact, he wouldn't want to be the center of attention, and thus, he wouldn't have done such a thing!

Caroline, on the other hand, is a perfectly normal heroine, who suffered from the gossip of the scandal surrounding her eleven years ago, but who had since remade herself with her marriage to an earl. She now has society eating out of her hand, and with the wealth left to her by her late husband, she can do whatever she wished with whomever she wished. She's admirable in the strength she has found in herself, however, she left me cold. For some reason, I found myself unable to sympathize with her, and I was only rooting for her HEA with Michael, because Michael wanted her.

Despite my issues with the story, I still think this is worth a read, especially for historical romance fans.
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