The Other Countess
Delacorte, 2011 (originally published 2010, UK)
The Elizabethan court - a place and time when chivalry was everything, and maintaining the proper (court-approved) connections required dedication and commitment. Not to mention funds. A time of intrigue and social status, of fine dress and finer manners. A beautiful world - unless you're on the outside looking in.
For Ellie, her father's all-consuming obsession with alchemy has effectively destroyed her chances for joining court. Though she is Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, Countess of San Jaime, her title is only a title, and offers her no foothold for escape. Likewise, Will - the handsome Earl of Dorset - has also had his chances rattled and impaired by Ellie's father, Sir Arthur, who nearly bankrupted Will's father. With this shared history, there's no love lost between Will and Ellie. Until, a few years later, as Will is trying to impress the Queen for funds to save his family, and he encounters the fiesty, lovely, mysterious Lady Eleanor. What follows is a story of the age-old struggle between heart and duty. Friendships are forged and tested, mysteries are unveiled, and events contrive to send our cast of characters down unexpected paths.
The Other Countess is a beautiful story about learning to see past your prejudices, and deciding what really matters in life. It's a descriptive historical fiction, without getting too bogged down in the details. I feel like I have a better sense of how society itself functioned under the celebrated Virgin Queen, and definitely made a connection with the characters. Edwards did a great job of making them realistic and accessible, despite the years and differences between their lives and those of readers. Their context may be different, but their struggles and dreams are not so far-removed from my own. And their stories caught my interest, making me devour the book and want more! I'm looking forward to picking up the story in future books!
ARC provided by my personal library.