Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-249943-1
Historical Romance, 2018
Counting on a Countess is the second entry in Eva Leigh’s The London Underground series, although it stands alone very well. I am, however, disappointed that the previous and next books will not follow this titling pattern. Just imagine the possibilities! Douching for a Duke, Munching on a Marquess, Evacuating on an Earl…
Oh yes, this story. Christopher Ellingsworth is a war veteran with demons, and the story will keep reminding everyone of this because remember, no matter how selfish and immature he is, he’s a war veteran so we must love him no matter what. The new Earl of Blakemere has a dream, and to achieve this dream, he needs money. So he spends what little of his money gambling and raking up debts that he can’t keep track of much less pay, when he’s not sleeping with prostitutes and actresses. Maybe these ladies throw in the sex for free, but let’s just say that Kit spends all his time moping that he has a dream that needs money to achieve, without doing anything to actualize that dream.
That dream he has, you ask? No, it’s not starting a non-profit to help war veterans or anything like that. Are you crazy? Our hero wants a pleasure garden. An expensive one. And because he has no money to pay for the construction of one, he wallows in debauchery to prove to me how tortured and hurting he is inside.
And then, one day, he realizes that he has inherited a lot of money. Ah, the garden for him to wag his penis in 24/7 is coming… oh wait, he has to get married first, because this is a will from a “good friend” who clearly refused to die without micromanaging other people’s lives straight into the grave with him. So which woman will marry such an useless waste of carbon material like Kit?
A desperate one, of course, because the best relationships always begin when one is desperate, needy, helpless, and really, any hot guy will do. Seriously, romance heroines are not picky so long as the guy has the hot looks, the abs, and the big you-know-what to keep her happy and pregnant forever. So here’s Tamsyn Pearce. Because she’s a woman, her parents’ property and money are all passed on to an uncle, who is naturally an asshole who loves money and actually knows how to get some. Asshole! Why can’t more men be like Kit, who wants money but spends his days making women happy with his pee-pee instead? Now that’s what we call a gentleman.
Anyway, the asshole is going to sell off Tamsyn’s family home. That’s a bad thing because (a) she refuses to part with anything that reminds her of her parents and (b) she has been running a smuggling operation from it for the sake of the local economy. Now that the base of operations is gone, she needs to unload her latest goods. This is another story where the heroine apparently was good at making money in the past, but her money was apparently vapor or something, as when she is faced with a need for money, all of a sudden she’s without any. Maybe she gave all her money in the past to sad war veterans so that they could drink and hire prostitutes 24/7, that selfless woman. At any rate, nobody in London wants to buy anything from her because she’s a woman of clearly genteel quality, and instead of using one of her local underlings to be her proxy, she decides to find a husband instead.
So these two marry, and then the dead asshole with the will springs another surprise: there’s a codicil in that will that gives the wife full control over the money, because the dead asshole knows that Kit is just going to waste all that money. God, then why will that twat all the money and then drag a poor woman into the mess? If I were Kit, defecating on that dead asshole’s grave will be at the top of my to-do list.
Okay, the plot is one hot mess with a generous addition of smelly stuff on top, but the chemistry is there between Tamsyn and Kit, and for a long while, I enjoy their developing relationship despite the fact that it is taking place in a crappy context. I also like Kit’s character arc – he starts out a total face-palm of a twit who eventually finds purpose by channeling his energy and time into helping Tamsyn improve the lives of the people in her neighborhood. Unlike some people, I don’t see Kit’s willingness to help his wife as some “disregarding of life-long principles” – this is one guy who intends to spend his life fettering away money that isn’t actually his on making his pee-pee happy, after all – as much as it is an effort on the author’s part to give that fellow some character growth. His coming to terms with his affections for Tamsyn is also nicely done, and I end up liking this fellow.
But the poor heroine! I don’t think Tamsyn is wrong to want to use the money anyway she wants – the money is hers to use, thanks to the will, and I don’t agree with some people that she’s somehow “stealing” money from him. Kit is not entitled to the money, and I wonder why some readers believe that this is the case. Is it because he has a penis? Frankly, I’m happy that Tamsyn is willing to use it to her advantage instead of just bending over to enable the hero. Kit needs a wife who stands up to him when he needs to be stood up against, and it’s good that Tamsyn is that wife. I have some concerns about why she needs to get married in the first place, but then again, the premise of this story is sewage material. If I look beyond the dreadful premise that throws the hero and the heroine together, I have no issues with the rest of the heroine’s behavior and motivations for the most part.
It is Tamsyn’s abrupt 180 on Kit’s motives and behavior in the later part of the story that has me scratching my head. She knows up to that point the kind of man she has married. Our heroine’s abrupt “I didn’t know the man who kept acting like a whiny edgelord, bleating all day about what a selfish twat he is, may not be a complete Mr Nice Guy all along!” antics may help create some conflict in the later parts of the story, but they make the poor heroine seem like a broken light bulb. And, of course, our heroine’s brainpower continues to decay as the story continues, all the better for Kit to step in and save the day.
At any rate, there is a charming romance in Counting on a Countess, but the premise is awful and the conflicts introduced in the later parts of the story are just as bad. I’m sure some readers may be charmed if they can overlook these problems, but I personally think the effort needed to do that may be better off channeled into a better put-together book.