“Romancing the Countess” by Ashley March

STORY: 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….

REVIEW: The above blurb does a wonderful job in teasing the brain and getting my ‘reader juices’ bubbling with a question about how do you get two people with so much baggage to accept the wrong done to them, grieve for the loss and fall in love within 302 pages?!

And the answer is to trust this young, new and upcoming author, Ashley March, who seems to know her characters and trust them to guide her hand in penning their story.

Leah George has always done the right and proper thing. She married a man chosen for her, and she did her best to make her parents and her husband proud of her, so after witnessing her husband’s infidelity, she yet again does what’s proper. She keeps a ‘stiff upper lip’, walls off her true feelings, and pretends a happy marriage. Until the day her husband dies.

After a year of private grief that infidelity of her husband brought to her, the loss of his life brought on a feeling of a relief. She is free. Free to say, do or be who she truly is and that is something she was never allowed to be.

Sebastian, Earl of Wriothesly, had a perfect marriage. He adored his wife and son; he lived a happy and contented life. His perfect world came crashing down with his beloved wife’s death and with the knowledge that she took his best friend for a lover and left him behind to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the carriage accident.

This is Ms. Ashley’s second book and in both she deals with an issue that is not much popular with either the authors or readers of romance genre. The big “I” word. Infidelity.

In the case of her first book “Seducing the Duchess” our hero was unfaithful to his heroine for six years, before he realized that he adored his wife, but was blinded by his pride and revenge to see it for what it is.

In this case, both hero and heroine were forced to deal with the betrayal of their spouses and Ms. March has done her characters proud in both cases. It would have been so easy to ‘paint’ Ian and Angela as uncaring, uncouth and lust crazy adulterers, yet she left that ‘painting’ to be in the ‘eye of the beholder’, in this case the reader. She has taken the issue seriously, making no judgements on a subject that is neither ‘black or white’. Now, that takes guts!

While Leah had a year to accept the betrayal, Sebastian’s acceptance was still fresh and the hurt was deep. What a treat this character driven story was! I was most intrigued by our hero and heroine and the way they went about accepting and dealing with their emotions towards not just their cheating spouses but with their emotions towards each other. After years of knowing each other, their attraction wasn’t instantaneous, yet the sparks between Sebastian and Leah kept igniting. Great care was given in developing and establishing a real relationship, albeit strenuous at times, between these two, so when their passion takes over we’re happy for them.

There are so many moments that touched my heart but the first one that brought tears to my eyes was on page 8, in which Sebastian’s mind is numb as he reads the note of his wife’s accident, and in it he finds out that Ian was with her. There are so many things running through his mind, and then the last thought: “She hadn’t been lonely, after all.” I mean, just two pages earlier, he was so anxious to go see her, be with her, love her, and then-BOOM! She really didn’t need him, after all. WOW! That must have hurt…

I’m very impressed with this new author and her writing is clear, crisp and fresh. She infused her characters with depth and intelligence, yet still gave them flaws so that they felt real to me. Her ability to convey human emotion is very well written and the pace of the story just right. Not too fast and not so slow that you’d be bored by it. The story was engaging from the beginning, and kept my interest ‘till the last page. For that I give credit to the author that created the characters who were well-rounded and believable. After reading “Romancing the Countess” I loved it so much I bought “Seducing the Duchess” and “Romancing Lady Cecily” which I read and highly recommend as well.

So, in the end all I have to say is: Watch out Romance World! Ashley March has arrived!