Tucked amid the pages of The London List, a newspaper that touts the city’s scandals, is a vaguely-worded ad for an intriguing job—one that requires a most wickedly uncommon candidate…
Maris has always been grateful that her marriage to the aging Earl of Kelby saved her from spinsterhood. Though their union has been more peaceful than passionate, she and the earl have spent ten happy years together. But his health is quickly failing, and unless Maris produces an heir, Kelby’s conniving nephew will inherit his estate. And if the earl can’t get the job done himself, he’ll find another man who can…
Captain Reynold Durant is known for both his loyalty to the Crown and an infamous record of ribaldry. Yet despite a financial worry of his own, even he is reluctant to accept Kelby’s lascivious assignment—until he meets the beautiful, beguiling Maris. Incited by duty and desire, the captain may be just the man they are looking for. But while he skillfully takes Maris to the heights of ecstasy she has longed for, she teaches him something even more valuable and unexpected…
Heat level: 2/2.5
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Caz
I admit that I’m normally a bit wary of this sort of plotline – elderly impotent husband employs young, virile man to impregnate his wife – for two reasons. First, it’s often used as an excuse to write lots and lots of sex without much by way of an actual story or characterisation, and second, if the two lovers are to get their HEA, the elderly husband has to conveniently die or be killed off.
Despite my misgivings however, I decided to give Captain Durant’s Countess a try and am happy to report that although there was plenty of sex and a convenient death, the overall story worked quite well; mainly, I think, due to the very engaging character the author has created in the eponymous captain.
Captain Reynold Durant is in his late twenties and, having sold his commission, is at a loose end, rattling around London making his living at the gambling tables and having (slightly) kinky sex with bored widows 😉
Before the story begins, it appears that he has been ‘engaged’ by impotent the Earl of Kelby to ‘service’ the latter’s wife so that Kelby can present an heir to inherit his entailed estates upon his demise. Initially needing the money, Reynold (or Reyn) assents to this, but later, changes his mind; however, the countess hasn’t and as her letters to him have gone unanswered, she tracks him down to the Reigning Monarchs Society, a rather select ‘club’ where members can indulge their sexual fantasies.
Reyn’s initial reaction is to try to scare her off by being crude (and remaining naked!), but Maris, Countess of Kelby is not easily cowed and he eventually – and reluctantly – agrees to keep to their bargain.
Despite this inauspicious beginning, Reyn shows himself to be a truly delightful man. He isn’t rich and titled; he’s not well-educated or well-read – in fact he has difficulty reading and writing (he possibly suffers from dyslexia), but he is intuitive and possessed of a natural intelligence and wit. He is also charmingly vulnerable and self-deprecating when it comes to his lack of education; the scene towards the end of the book where he admits his shortcomings to Maris is really heart-wrenching.
Maris is five years older than Reyn and her husband Henry has been more of a father-figure to her than a husband. He is very scholarly, and Maris was pleased to be able to help him with his studies, knowing that women were usually thought not to have sufficient intellect to be able to engage in such work. They think the world of each other, but now Henry is reaching the end of his life, he decides he needs an heir to inherit his estates and his massive collection of antiquities. His current heir is his nephew, David, who is presented as the villain of the piece – who cares nothing for Henry’s treasures and has already indicated his intention to dispose of everything by throwing it to the bottom of the lake!
Maris is rather a prickly character to begin with – understandably so, given the circumstances – but during the course of her short relationship with Reyn, she comes to realise that while she has been happy with Henry, she has nonetheless missed out on a lot that life has to offer and that she wants to do more with the rest of her life than spend it curating a museum.
For his part, Reyn has fallen hard for his countess even though he knows it can never come to anything. When the Earl dies and they have to part, he does not expect to see her ever again, but circumstances conspire to throw them together once more. In the intervening time, Reyn has bought a farm with the intention of breeding horses; he has thrown himself into repairing and re-building and has finally found his purpose in life.
Reyn and Maris get their HEA, and although I felt that the threat from the dastardly David was neutralised rather easily, it was done in a way that worked quite well within the context of the story.
Despite this and a couple of other niggles (convenient death, convenient reunion, the odd turn of phrase which seemed a bit too modern), I enjoyed Captain Durant’s Countess very much. Reynold Durant was a lovely hero; handsome, witty and charming, but with an attractive vulnerability about him that was completely endearing; and taken as a whole, I thought the book was an engaging and sexy read.
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.