‘A Notorious Countess Confesses’ by Julie Anne Long

STORY: She rose to spectacular heights . . .

From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous—if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.

He never expected to fall so hard . . .

He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation . . . and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam’s strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to heaven . . . or make outcasts of them forever?

REVIEW: Here comes book seven in Julie Ann Long’s Pennyroyal Greene series and while in this one we’re not following any of the Eversea’s or Redmond’s, even though our hero the Vicar is a cousin to Ian and Colin Eversea, it is still entertaining and character driven as the previous seven.

The story opens with Evie Duggan, or lately better known to the ton as  The Black Widow, as they all ran her out of London believing her capable of ‘doing her husband’ in.

As she escapes to the only place left to her, she meets a town full of women that are righteous, pious and many in awe and very protective of their young Vicar. Laying her eyes on him, she’s not surprised at their actions toward him and to have their friendship, she knows only one man can help her in that attempt, Adam Sylvaine.

Adam Sylvaine is young in age, but when it comes to his soul, the man has seen as much pain as happiness. He’s honest, loving and very protective of his parishioners. His love for them goes beyond his acceptance of their prejudices. It goes to the root of who he is.

Revisiting all the residents of Pennyroyal Greene was like coming to your home town! I loved finding myself among them once again, and as usual, Ms. Long has given me yet another clue to Lyon and Olivia’s story that I wonder if there ever will be a happily ever after for those two together.

Once I found out that this love story would involve a vicar and a courtesan, there was no way in Hell I was going to miss it! She created a Beta hero we can all fall in love with: honorable, caring and kind, and then paired him with a heroine that was flirtatious, smart and loyal; both were loving, courageous and very strong in their own right.

If anyone could pull this off, it was going to be JAL. I can tell you without a doubt, she has done an outstanding job with her writing, pace, plot and dialogue. She’s one of those rare authors that give their secondary characters time and space to grow on us to a point where we become protective of them as much as we do of our hero and heroine.

‘A Notorious Countess Confesses’ is one of those stories that will grab you from the moment our heroine falls asleep in the middle of our Vicar’s Sunday sermon, to the very end when all is revealed.

Julie Anne Long is not just a good story-teller; she’s a poet with her prose. With it, she leaves me light-headed and I promise it’ll do the same to you!

ARC provided by Edelweiss.

‘How the Marquess Was Won’ by Julie Anne Long

I am such a fan of this author that truly I would read a paper bag from her!

Julie Anne Long can ‘prose’ so well, that every breath, every sigh and every move any of her characters make, you’re there. You feel it in your heart, in your bones. I never fail to fall in love and deeply care for Ms. Long’s heroes and heroines.

Ms. Long in her sixth book of the Pennyroyal Green series thought to introduce us to Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden known to all the Ton as ‘Lord Ice’ for his cool demeanor, shrewd and impeccable manners as well as current trend-setter of London society. He is handsome, sought after by men, who will imitate and emulate, as well as women who will do and say anything to be noticed and bedded.

Jules is a man that always knows exactly what he wants and where he’s going. Nothing is left to chance. He plans everything he aims to do and naturally that extends to his way of picking a wife. She has to be beautiful, prim and proper and love is not required. What does matter is that this woman must fulfill his need of acquiring a piece of land that was long lost to his family by his gambler father. There’s only one woman that enters that equation and she is Lisbeth Redmond, the daughter of Isaiah Redmond, and he heads out with that purpose in mind to a house party at their home with firm intent of making this young woman his wife. Serendipity and chance however have something else in mind for this man and they cannot be ‘boxed’ in.

Phoebe Vale is a schoolteacher at Miss Marietta Endicott’s Academy in Pennyroyal Green and she’s very proud of that achievement, especially knowing that she came from the slums of Seven Dials. I loved her attitude toward life in general and toward herself in particular. This was a woman that embraced her life and always had an optimistic view of people around her, never shirking her duties or running from them. She accepted people for what they were and easily found humor in their silly behavior. And speaking of, there was so much humor in this story that made me laugh out loud that made my eyes water.

I loved the way she brought these two people that are so unsuitable-working class girl and a nobleman-together by pure serendipity and using her prose that is second to none, by building a sexual tension that was burning the pages.

The dialogue is superb and I was left holding my breath witnessing the exchange between these two smart, witty and flirtatious beings. Their repartee was so natural it left me breathless and at times made me feel like a voyeur. Every scene with the two in it was perfectly pitched and thoughtfully constructed that it made you wish they kept going, and going and going…never to end.

And just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about, here is my favorite excerpt and I dare you to breathe when you read!

“She looked down at the bundle in her hand, indecisively. And then:

‘Here.’ She extended it to him. ‘A gift for you.’

He stared it. All at once too many thoughts and impressions jostled for the exits, and none could escape in the form of words. So he did as she ordered: slowly, wordlessly, he reached for them.

And as she began to surrender them, her fingers brushed his.

He stopped breathing.

He’d once seen a man struck by lightning. He’d watched as the bolt held him helpless, motionless, arcing his body.

Having its way with him.

It wasn’t unlike that.

Breathlessly, dumbly, they both stared at the place where their fingers met. Stunned to at last, at last, be touching. Skin to skin.

He dropped the herbs and seized her wrist. ‘Enough.’

The word was low and dark. And it thrummed command and something like a plea.

Slowly, slowly, she levered up her head, as if spooling courage on the way up. Her jaw was taut; her eyes were wide when they met his, but comprehension flickered in them.

The air suddenly seemed full of snapping sparks. One would have thought he’d captured a unicorn, for God’s sake, for how enervated he felt.

As he watched, a flush painted her from her collarbone upwards. Beneath his thumb, placed over a pale blue vein in that silky hand, her pulse raced.

He turned her palm up. He wished he could be certain she was the one who was trembling, for one of them was. Her hand was achingly soft, too vulnerable. It was cold, which struck him as poignant. He wanted to warm her. He needed to warm her.

And so he brought her palm to his mouth.

He softly opened his mouth against her skin, touched his tongue there, burned her with a kiss that was at once chaste and perhaps the most carnal he’d ever given.

Her head tipped back hard; her eyelids shuddered closed. She made a soft sound, a gasp of shock and pure sensual pleasure.

Mother of God.

He lifted his head with some effort. He curled her fingers closed over the place he kissed her, as if handing her a keepsake.

He knew he ought to. And yet he found he couldn’t relinquish her hand.

Look at me, Miss Vale.’ His voice a low demand.

A moment’s hesitation. She opened her eyes. He was absurdly thrilled to see them again. They were dazed and starry and wary. The sun haloed her, and the light both set her aglow and obscured her. As he stared, he withstood bolt after swift bolt of impression, each distinct and pure and primal:

Who kissed you first? I will kiss the memory of it away. I will run him through with a sword. I can’t recall kissing anyone before you. I am ruined. I am happy. I’m afraid. I need to leave. You need to leave.

He was holding her hand as though it was as delicate as an egg. Which rather contrasted his expression, which, little did he know, was edging toward the thunderous.

“I didn’t know I was going to do that,’ he said finally.”

For a story with interesting, entertaining and witty characters who lack in any warn out clichés with secondary characters that are as equally developed as the primary, accompanied with a prose, plot and humor to die for, I give you leave to RUN not walk, and buy this novel, and I bestow upon it my five quills whole heartedly!

*This review posted on Romantic Crush Junkies Reviews eZine*