Friday, January 4, 2013

Title:        A Notorious Countess Confesses [Pennyroyal Green 7] 
Author:     Julie Anne Long
Rating:     ★★★★★
13478637I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Julie Anne Long’s books and the latest Pennyroyal Green, book 7, The Notorious Countess Confesses, certainly does not disappoint. If I would describe it in one word, it would be ‘delicious’.
The plot is as follows:
She rose to spectacular heights…
From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous —if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.
He never expected to fall so hard…
He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation…and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam’s strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to Heaven...or make outcasts of them forever?
I really felt like Julie was at the top of her game while writing this. The plot is fresh for me because I have never read yet of a love story between an actress-turned-courtesan-turned-countess and a very virile priest. Moreover, this time, the woman is the rich one with a title while the guy does not have a title. Evie Duggan and Adam Sylvaine are just likeable and believable, and I can’t help but root for them despite the odds. Plus, you’ll keep waiting with baited breath on what happens next. It was very hard for me to put the book down because I just wanted to find out if they will be together or not.
As with the usual notions of courtesans at that time, they are usually shunned or tolerated. With the rise of Evie from poverty to being a countess, the ton could not really let her get away with it. Plus, her beauty and allure is so great that her notoriety just kept increasing. But, as she pointed out, those were not her fault but were the actions of men, but the blame was still laid on her feet. It turns out that Evie, like most courtesans, became one out of need. Being the eldest, she had the responsibility to care for her siblings since they were children. (However, it is curious that she mentions they were eight before but she only interacts with two siblings. I wonder where the others are?) Unlike other ‘notorious’ courtesans, Evie was actually…tame. In fact, strip away all her pretensions, she’s one of the most likable characters I’ve ever read. Her beauty can be found both inside and out, unlike other courtesans who are depicted as being beautiful on the outside and black on the inside. But she is no milksop, that’s for sure.
Adam Sylvaine…where to start? He’s like the quintessential man’s man. I found myself sighing over the idea of such a man. I can’t remember the last time I was truly fascinated by a male character (the last was Mr. Darcy hahaha). Veering away from the tonnish gentility, Adam Sylvaine is just a vicar – with not much money. Still, he’s the handsomest vicar I’ve ever read described and he’s very nice. He’s just the whole town liking him and depending on him, and has almost all single females’ hearts beating for him. Still, he’s not a playboy or a heartbreaker but genuinely cares for the community and is really nice. I love that he’s not afraid to get dirty, speaks what’s on his mind, and is really loving. I also love that he’s just so helpless against the pull of Evie. That’s a man in love.
Of course, as you can expect, marriage between a former courtesan and a vicar seems highly impossible. However, the conflict in the story actually arises not because of any initial dislike for each other, but because the townspeople do not want to accept Evie as a wife of the vicar, despite her frequent acts of kindness towards them. The townspeople even feel that it is their right to warn the vicar not to get involved with Evie. But, as they really love Adam, they feel that it is all Evie’s fault. Poor Evie, eh? Of course I wouldn’t reveal what happened in the end. The book is filled with a lot of funny quips and tensions that you should read for yourself. I don’t want to be a spoilsport!
The story also has several interesting secondary characters like Henny and Lady Fennimore. They actually seem alike, with the same penchant for saying shocking things, but just differing from stations and breeding. The town’s head would be Mrs. Smeathe, who I believe is actually nice, but just does not really know how to reconcile with all their perceptions of a courtesan (because they still view Evie as such) and the teachings against sin and all they perceive Evie has done. Evie battles all quips with ironic sentences and drily comebacks.
One thing that I did not like so much as the rest of the story is the ending. It’s a grand ending, but a bit cheesy. But thankfully, it’s just the ending that’s cheesy and not the whole book. In fact, the book is just quite right for my taste: witty, romantic but not too cheesy, and the characters felt real. That being said, I don’t know how Julie will top this one with the eighth book of the Pennyroyal Green series, but I sure am looking forward to that!
The book just explodes with passion and tension between Evie and Adam. And when they finally kiss, the word that will ring in your head would be “Yes! Finally!”. Julie sweeps the reader along for a beautiful ride, chapter by chapter, as the story unfolds. I’m really glad I got a copy of this book, I’m sure you won’t regret it too. :)