Dear Ms. Boyle:
I don’t think I’ve read any significant number of your novels but I wanted to read a historical. How I Met My Countess blurb promised a reconciled lover story and I thought I would give it a try. I purchased an ecopy.
Miss Lucy Ellyson married Archibald Thatcher, a clerk, who eventually became the Marquess of Standon. When Archibald died, Lucy became one of three Dowager Marchionesses. The Standon line of men apparently do not have long lives. Lucy is initially presented as a socially inept who creates all kinds of havoc, unintentionally. All three of the Dowagers are young but do not get along. Lucy, in particular, is the subject of quite a bit of disdain because of her lowly birth.
The current Duchess of Standon decides to place all three Dowagers in her old home and demands that they live together and if they don’t like their situations, they should all remarry. She leaves them her Bachelor Chronicles. I assume that this all relates to a previous series of books. Sadly this information is all imparted far into the book such that I found the first chapter to be a complete muddle.
After the first chapter, however, we spend the next third of the book revisiting when Lucy Ellyson first met, and fell in love with, Justin Grey, Earl of Clifton. This was my favorite part of the book. Lucy Ellyson is the daughter of a premiere spy who was taken out of the game by his age and injury. Now George Ellyson serves as a spy trainer and his home is where agents go for final testing. Ellyson has two daughters, the lively and beautiful Marianna and the quiet beauty Lucy. There is not an agent that moves through that house that doesn’t fall in love with one of the sisters and Justin and his brother, Malcolm, are no different.
Justin, or Gilby, as Malcolm calls him, is an uptight aristocrat who wanted to prove himself worthy of the Clifton title. He had romanticized the work he would be doing for England but comes to realize how truly dangerous this position might be. In his arrogance, Justin thought he would go over to France, do something really wonderful, and come back to England with a distinguished career. In his training at the hands of the Ellysons, he realizes that the work that he volunteered for could end in his death.
"Darby. Was he a good agent?"
Lucy drew a breath to steady herself and nodded. "Yes. One of the best, or so I always thought."
He straightened a bit, his shoulders going taut. "And now?"
"Well, he failed," she said, hating herself to have to say such a thing about the man.
"And what would have made him the best?"
"Coming home," she said, sitting back and looking up into Clifton's eyes, so darkly serious.
Lucy and her sister devote themselves to training Malcolm and Justin as best as they can to ensure that these two agents will be the “best.”
This part of the story shows two people full of their own biases, slowly change and recognize the value in the other. They fall in love, part, but promise to wait for one another. But obviously Lucy did not wait and Gilby took seven years to come back.
The remainder of the book relates the story of the reconciliation. It also sets up the next two books in the series. I really felt the second half struggled to match the tone and quality of the first half. The focus is away from the couple together. Continued conflict relies on misconceptions, a secret baby plotline, and a kind of madcap mystery plot. I really didn’t get much satisfaction from the resolution of the mystery plot either. Too much of the end of the story is spent on the three dowagers, the Bachelor Chronicles, and other superfluous storylines but I did enjoy watching Lucy (Goose) and Gilby fall in love. C+