When charming rake Tristan Barrett sweeps Lady Elizabeth off her feet, stealing both her heart and a kiss in a secluded garden, her brother challenges Tristan to a duel. The only way to save her brother and Tristan from harm—not to mention preserve her reputation—is to get married. But her father, the Duke of Pemberton, refuses to allow his daughter to marry anyone but a titled lord. The duke demands that Elizabeth marry Tristan’s older brother, Richard, the Earl of Averston. Now Elizabeth must give up Tristan to marry a man who despises her, a man who loves another, a man she’ll never love.
Richard fears Elizabeth is as untrustworthy as his mother, who ran off with another man. However, to protect his brother from a duel and their family name from further scandal, he agrees to the wedding, certain his new bride will betray him. Yet when Elizabeth turns his house upside down and worms her way into his reluctant heart, Richard suspects he can’t live without his new countess. Will she stay with him or is it too little, too late?
Two people, with childhood traumas, want to be loved but are afraid to trust.
Guarding one’s heart too closely, and, conversely, giving one’s heart too freely, in hopes of being loved, are themes fueling much of the action in Courting the Countess.
The stringent rules set forth by the ton plus uncharitable gossipers end up making Lady Elizabeth’s brother, Martindale challenge Tristan Barrett to a duel. How it can be averted becomes an issue.
All her life, Lady Elizabeth, the daughter of the Duke of Pemberton, has been made to feel lacking to the point she feels she is “unlovable.” When the rake Tristan Barrett pays attention to her, she falls for the skilled libertine’s seductive ways. She’s in love with him and fails to guard her reputation, creating a situation that is a social “no-no.”
Tristan’s brother, Richard Barrett, twelfth Earl of Averston, intercedes. He talks to the Duke of Pemberton and agrees to the Duke’s demands to stop the duel.
Richard and Elizabeth, virtual strangers, marry. Neither wants to have a brother’s blood on their conscience. Thus begins an emotionally fraught vicarious adventure for the reader.
The couple, both of whom have secret hurts from their childhoods, set in to built a life together. The emotional upheavals that demand introspection and honest responses tumble them toward maturity with lots of bumps and bruised feelings along the way—captivating reading.
The primary antagonist who warped Elizabeth’s self-esteem doesn’t let up even after she is married. It made this reader want to reach right into the story and give that character a good shake and talking to—good grief, how cruel could a person be!
A sub-plot about crime threads through the story and seems almost unrelated. How it finally fits, creates some heart-pounding action that clears up many issues.
Donna Hatch weaves together a compelling love story with emotionally damaged characters and skillfully moves them along with attention-keeping happenings that lead to healing and redemption and, of course, a heart-satisfying happy-even-after.