THE ACCIDENTAL COUNTESS – Valerie Bowman
The Playful Brides Trilogy , Book 2
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Historical Romantic Comedy
London and an Estate in Surrey, Autumn of 1815
The three novels in this trilogy star three beautiful ladies of the Regency: Miss Jane Lowndes, a bespectacled bluestocking with her nose perpetually in a book; the sweet Lady Cassandra Monroe much admired, but she gave her heart away years ago; and the erstwhile Lady Lucy Upton, pert and manipulative, whose tale was told in May's THE UNEXPECTED DUCHESS. This is Cass's story. It begins with the return from the wars of Captain Julian Swift, second son of an earl and Cass's love whom she wrote to every day of his seven years away. Badly wounded at Waterloo, Julian barely escaped death. So what is the problem? He has been all but formally engaged to Cass's cousin, Penelope.
Penelope tells Cass and Lucy that she is not yet ready to meet Julian and asks for their help in covering for her. She has a fictitious friend named Patience Bunbury whom she uses as an excuse to refuse invitations and the like. She asks Cass and Lucy to tell Julian that she will be away in the country for a fortnight with Patience. To sum up what happens next, Lucy comes up with a plan, a plan that will put Cass and Julian together for that time. In short, she sets up a house party of her own at her parents' estate in Surrey. She'll pretend to be a Lady Worthing. She convinces the staff at her old home to go along with the charade, and Jane and a few others also. Naturally, “the best laid plans” and all that. When Julian arrives at the house party and he doesn't recognize Cass—she was only sixteen and undeveloped when he left—she somehow gets introduced to him as Patience Bunbury. From here on, everything that can go wrong does…or nearly so.
Full of lies and misunderstandings, inadvertent and otherwise, THE ACCIDENTAL COUNTESS comes close to being a farce. The very likable Cassie and Julian and their deeply plumbed characters save it from going over the top. Other worthy cast members provide a subplot or two, and the stage is set for the next tale starring Jane and…well, you'll most likely guess about that as you read along.