by Melissa Schroeder, historical (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-466-0
Someone who smelled wonderful was carrying him, or trying to carry him. Sebastian Ware’s arm was draped over a shoulder of an individual whose stature was considerably less than his. Silky, wet strands of hair clung to his face so he knew his angel was of the female variety. Or a short man with extremely long hair who smelled like a woman.
He took another sniff. Something very comforting. Not Beatrice, the buxom widow he met his first day in York at Freddy’s house party. Beatrice tended to gravitate to perfume that reminded him of his mother’s gardens. And not his sister, she usually smelled of roses.
No, this scent reminded him of sneaking into the kitchen as a young lad, stealing the first sticky buns Cook had pulled from the oven. Cinnamon. That’s what she smelled like. And vanilla. Maybe Cook was helping him up the back stairs so he wouldn’t embarrass his mother once again.
“Come on, you drunken sod,” the female barked.
She didn’t have the strong Welsh accent of Cook but upper-crust English. And she wasn’t nice.
“Listen, if you can’t help at least a little, I’m dropping you back in the ditch where I found you.”
“Lissen here, you,” he said, his tongue as thick as his mother’s favorite Persian rug. “I’m in line to an earldom. I am a lord.”
The female snorted. “Yes, I just bet you are, Lord of the Drunks. My own mother was married to one of them.”
In The Accidental Countess, Sebastian Ware's well-planned life of drinking, whoring, and telling everyone he is in line to inherit the title of Earl of Penwyth is disrupted when he wakes up with a head injury in the cottage of one Colleen MacGregor. Colleen claims that she finds him reeking of whiskey and drunk and she takes him in because she can't in good conscience let him freeze to death in the snow outside. Sebastian can't remember anything other than attending a house party in this area of York (in the winter when it's snowing?). The blizzard that follows forces him to stay with her in her place for a little longer. When some locals drop by once the storm clears to check up on Colleen and find the two of them, I'm sure you can guess what will happen next.
Colleen needs some time to make adjustments to her elevated status in life but the person behind the bump on Sebastian's head isn't done yet. Meanwhile, Colleen has issues about being married since her mother had a terrible experience being wedded to the wrong man while Sebastian has his own horror stories to tell about his previous marriage. It looks like these two have still plenty of things to work out before they embark on their honeymoon.
One thing I notice right away about The Accidental Countess is how little historical details it contains. I don't get any "feel" of the setting - the setting is pretty much very generic wallpaper history. While Sebastian has his moments being the placeholder for me as he makes some comments about Colleen trying too hard to play the martyr at times, he and Colleen unfortunately end up being familiar characters obeying the very conventions that the author sometimes pokes light fun at in this story. Colleen ends up a little too much of a heroine determined to make life difficult for herself. Sebastian has his moments with some amusing one-liners (and I confess having perverse pleasure at seeing him point how what a martyr Colleen is being at times) but on the whole he is a standard tortured rake character.
I hate to say this but the lack of historical feel - the wallpaper is very bland, let's just say - and some too-modern sounding dialogs coupled with stereotypical characters and standard external conflict all make The Accidental Countess come off like a most ersatz kind of historical romance. This is my first brush with this author's work, however, so who knows, perhaps her contemporary romances will be better. I'll go take a look.
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