Zebra, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3554-1
Historical Romance, 2015
The Harlot Countess refers to Margaret “Maggie” Neeley, the Half-Irish Harlot, although she is not really a harlot. The hero is Simon Barrett, the Earl of Winchester, who is her “ex-boyfriend” in the sense that she really wants to be his girlfriend but the two of them were too stupid to go anywhere eight years ago. He joined the others in turning his back to her, causing her to be a celebrated pariah because some guy spread the rumor that she wanted it bad from that guy. You know what this means, right? Yes, not only do we have a fake harlot, we also have the always adorable big misunderstanding and bigger communication clam-up combo in this story!
Maggie eventually married an older titled man, hence her being a countess, and now she is a widow. She is always an artistic sort, so when Simon is poised to become a new sensation in the Parliament, she starts drawing unflattering caricatures him being that dissolute rake that he was when he was a few years ago. Simon doesn’t like this, because, you know, people listen to gossip and rumor so easily, and it is really unfair when people do that. Yes, self-awareness is not a word in his personal dictionary. He decides to ask Maggie to help him track down his artist, because, you know, he can’t imagine why she doesn’t want to help him. Yes, he knows that she is a slut. a whore, a tramp, a harlot, and worse, but come on, surely she’d jump at the chance to help him and give him a free poke or two as well. Right?
Don’t laugh, this is one man who actually thinks that him shagging Maggie is an act of kindness on his part to her.
Meanwhile, this is Maggie’s damage. The man she trusted eight years ago was one of the first to turn his back on her when she needed him, so she hates him and wants to hurt him just like he hurt her. That sounds reasonable. But at the same time, she never approached him with the truth. She played the victim all these years, having him as the sole fixture of his thoughts in the meantime. And yet, when she’s supposed to be mad at him, she lets him into her bloomers so easily – not exactly a good thing considering that the man has serious Madonna/whore issues. Where is her self respect? How can I respect a heroine who doesn’t respect herself? The rest of the story sees her going from wanting to avoid him to sleeping with him, repeat and rinse. Sex puts her in a position of weakness where Simon is concerned, because she seems to have no self control when it comes to the peen.
In the meantime, Simon’s mental gymnastics are of the gold medal variety. He reasons that Maggie must be a harlot because she never came to him with the truth all those years ago. But, considering that he’s already turned his back to her, what does he expect? Then again, this is the man who thinks that his peen is a kindness on womankind, so maybe I shouldn’t wonder. Because she didn’t come begging and wailing to him, she must be a harlot… which also means, to him, that she must have slept with everyone in town except him! What a slut! Of course, he wants a bang too, all the while thinking the worst of her. Given that he doesn’t have to work hard to get into Maggie’s bloomers, I really loathe that guy for getting off easy in this story and Maggie for having no self respect or control when it comes to this odious piece of shit.
As you can probably guess, this is another story with the unfortunate implication that virginity is the only acceptable evidence of virtue. Yes, because virgins are completely incapable of behaving badly, don’t you know?
Worst of all, the resolution of the whole silly stupid drama is the hero doing some heavy lifting to clean up Maggie’s mess, because the hero coming to the rescue resolves everything. Given that both characters do not undergo any growing up, their supposed second time at happiness doesn’t ring real at all. His ability to think the worst of her without much effort is a red flag, and her inability to have some dignity and self respect when it comes to that shithead is not going to convince me that these two are going to be alright anytime soon. The entire conflict is basically another retread of the equally vile The Courtesan Countess – this is another story where the heroine is just looking for any excuse to sleep with the man who treats her with utter contempt. I can’t deal with all this nonsense, I need to read another book to forget this shudder-inducing… thing.