Thursday, March 10, 2011

Redeeming the Heroine: Vanessa Kelly's MY FAVORITE COUNTESS

Life has not been kind to Bathsheba Compton, the widowed Countess of Randolph since her plan to marry the wealthy Earl of Trask ended disastrously two years ago—for her, at least. Bad investments and poor harvests have left the family coffers empty and the debts ruinous. Only Bathsheba’s responsibilities have not diminished. Her best option appears to be bartering her beauty for marriage to a wealthy and generous gentleman.

But before Bathsheba can leave Yorkshire for her husband hunt in London, she meets Dr. John Blackmore. Her response to the handsome physician is instantaneous and visceral. She knows he’s all wrong for her, and she has sworn that never again will passion control her. But circumstances keep throwing them together, and her resolution proves futile when she realizes passion is just part of what she feels for John Blackmore.

John is fighting his own demons. Driven by an old guilt, he challenges established medical practices and ignores those who warn him against the house calls he makes to patients in London’s most dangerous slums. Even his love for Bathsheba is not enough to persuade him to surrender his obsession to save the lives of poor women and their babies.

The journey to an HEA is not an easy one for these two complicated characters, but it is one that will touch the reader’s heart and remain in her memory after the last page is turned.

Those of you familiar with Vanessa Kelly’s second book, Sex and the Single Earl, will recognize Bathsheba as the rejected mistress who plots to keep Simon and Sophie apart. The redemption theme is a popular one in romance fiction, as evidenced by the most recent AAR top 100 poll in which Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels and Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You claimed the top two spots, but most romance novels that feature the redemption theme, like these two classic romances, focus on the hero’s transformation from an incomplete, morally flawed character to one who is whole and healed. Redeemed heroines are uncommon except in inspirationals such as Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love. I was privileged to read a draft of Sex and the Single Earl, and I commented to the author then that Bathsheba was an atypical villainess, one who clearly had an interesting story of her own. I was delighted when I learned that Bathsheba would be redeemed as the heroine of the third book in the series.

My Favorite Countess lived up to all my expectations. As a heroine-redeemed tale, I rank it with Edith Layton’s To Wed a Stranger and Mary Balogh’s The Christmas Bride. Kelly develops Bathsheba’s character arc skillfully and realistically. Early in the novel, the reader learns that there is more to Bathsheba than the arrogant, seductive beauty that her world sees. Yet even as the reader learns the countess’s secrets and develops sympathy for her, an awareness persists of her less than admirable values and the ease with which she employs her viper’s tongue on those who displease her. It’s not until near the end of the book when Bathsheba learns to place someone else’s needs before her own that her transformation is complete.

John Blackmore is as unusual a hero as Bathsheba is a heroine. As a physician, he would have been a rare hero; as an accoucheur, the 19th-century version of an obstetrician, he’s even rarer. He’s also great looking, intelligent, honorable, and passionate about his vocation and his woman. I fell for him in a big way. Once you learn that Kelly says her inspirations for John were Hugh Jackman and Patrick Dempsey, you’ll understand why I found him irresistible.

Another thing I loved about My Favorite Countess was the role played by the hero and heroine of Mastering the Marquess, Kelly’s first novel and a book that I raved about at various online sites. I’m a series addict who rejoices to see favorite characters reappear but prefers them to contribute to the story. Meredith and Silverton play significant roles in this story. In fact, the friendship that develops between Bathsheba and Meredith was another of my favorite parts of the novel.

Reading My Favorite Countess, a reader will understand why Booklist named Vanessa Kelly one of the new stars of historical romance. Richly complex characters, smoking hot love scenes, and elements that set the book apart from the usual romance—My Favorite Countess has all of these things and more. The book will officially be released on May 3. Mark that date on your calendar and look for My Favorite Countess, another Janga five-star recommendation, at your favorite bookstore, or go ahead and pre-order it online now.

What’s your favorite redemption-themed romance? What authors have joined your auto-buy list with their first novel?


irisheyes said...

Lisa Kleypas is great at the redemption storyline. I loved Dreaming of You and Devil in Winter. Another author who excels at this type of storyline is SEP. Two of my favorite by her are What I Did For Love (I loved Bram) and Ain't She Sweet. There's your heroine being redeemed big time! Sugar Beth was one of a kind. Oh, and I forgot Kenny Traveler in Lady Be Good.

The newest authors to hit my auto-buy list with their first books would have to be Julie James and Kaki Warner.

Julie James is a gem. Her dialogue and storylines really pull me in and get me to the point where I can't put her books down.

I just finished The Blood Rose Trilogy by Kaki and it blew me away. It was very reminiscent of Lorraine Heath's Texas Trilogy. The western genre is one that I truly love and have a hard time finding the right fit for me. I think I found it with Kaki. I really hope she doesn't switch on me! LOL I read the excerpt from her new Runaway Brides Series starting in July and am very excited.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Janga, thank you for such a wonderful review - I'm thrilled!

quantum said...

For 'sex and the single earl' I found only one reader review at amazon UK:

A disappointing novel; well written but centered on a frustrating heroine and an unlikeable hero.

There is some reference to Regency Era social issues but it is not explored, almost as though the author had been afraid that it would overshadow her characters. Had she taken a leap and gone into the depths that she merely skimmed when she touched on issues of workhouses and child prostitution, her novel would have been infinitely more interesting. Instead we have a character driven novel based on dreadful characters.

I would have given one star only but the novel is not poorly written. Kelly's style is cohesive and not overly flowery. Despite this I would not recommend the novel as a good read.

Shows how varied opinions can be!

I haven't tried these books yet but my instinct is to follow Janga. She hasn't failed me yet. :D

The only author joining my auto-buy list after their first novel and which I read before any others were published is 'Remix' by Lexi Revellion. It's about a fallen Rock Star and has been rating very highly on Amazon.

I don't really have favorites but am very happy to go with Balogh’s 'The Christmas Bride'.

Phantom Paragrapher said...

I Love Lisa Kleypas's books and pf Course Vanessa Kelly is one of my favourite authors and FB Friends.
Im a new follower

Janga said...

Irish, you know I'm a Kleypas fan, and both DOY and DIW are favorites. And how could I forget Ain't She Sweet? The redemption of Sugar Beth is an amazing story.

Yay for adding Julie james and Kaki Warner to your autobuy list. You have such great taste! :)

Janga said...

Vanessa, thanks for dropping by. Thank you for giving your readers such wonderful stories. I can't wait to see what's next.

Janga said...

Q, thanks for the vote of confidence. Any review is just one reader's opinion. I sometimes read a review with which I disagree vehemently and question whether the reviewer and I even read the same book. The truth is that in the truest sense, we didn't. We each brought our own reading histories, tastes, and prejudices to the reading and created our unique experiences with the book. Clearly the Amazon reviewer and I had vastly different experiences with Vanessa's books.

Janga said...

Phantom Paragrapher, thanks for visiting Just Janga. How great to learn that you are a Vanessa Kelly fan too. I hope you enjoy My Favorite Countess as much as I did.