Thursday, December 1, 2022

Review: The Reluctant Countess by Eloisa James

The Reluctant Countess by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers, Book 2
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
The Reluctant Countess cover
ISBN: 9780063139572
Release Date: November 29, 2022
Source: Publisher
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Eloisa James Reading Order

Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford, has never made a fool of himself over a woman—until he meets Lady Yasmin Régnier. Yasmin is ineligible for his attentions in every way: not as a wife, certainly not as a mistress (she is a lady!), nor even as a friend, since they vehemently dislike each other. Her gowns are too low, and her skirts are dampened to cling to admittedly lovely thighs. She loves to gossip—and giggle.

She isn’t dignified, or polite, or even truly British, given that her father’s French ancestry clearly predominated. Not to mention the fact that her mother had been one of Napoleon’s mistresses, a fact she makes no effort to hide.

So what—in heaven’s name—possesses him to propose?

And what will he do if she says yes?

A lady with a scandal in her past is not the woman for Giles Renwick, Earl of Lilford. And yet he can’t keep his eyes off Lady Yasmin Régnier, whose smiles and dress provoke him at every turn. What happens when desire overrides an earl’s proclaimed wants? Readers will find out in The Reluctant Countess.

I’ve been a fan of Eloisa James’s writing for well over a decade, but I struggled with Giles and Yasmin’s tale. Yasmin is a charming heroine; she’s kind, honest, and it’s admirable how she keeps her head high with all the garbage thrown at her by people. People make assumptions about her character because of her mother’s affair with Napoleon and because of how a teenage Yasmin was taken advantage of. It broke my heart and made me want to see her get her happily ever after.

The man Yasmin desires like no other is Giles. Our hero is, well, not as appealing as Yasmin. He is struggling to do his best by an increasingly demanding, bratty sister whose faults he keeps excusing. Even worse, he judges Yasmin. I have no problem with a main character who starts out like a jerk and then grows, but Giles spent way too long being stupidly jealous and criticizing how Yasmin dressed or acted. He wanted her, but he also wanted to change everything about her so that other men wouldn’t desire her. This went on for too long for me to ever be satisfied with the romance and I finished the story feeling like Yasmin deserved so much better.

The villain of the story, Giles’s sister Lydia, takes up way too much page time. She hates Yasmin with a passion and does her all to keep her brother and Yasmin apart. She’s irritating to the extreme and the explanations for her behavior along with the end result with her plotline are utterly unsatisfying. The fact that Giles kept excusing her and Yasmin kept forgiving and helping her left a sour taste in my mouth.

I like James too much as a writer to say The Reluctant Countess is all bad. Yasmin’s friendship with Cleo (of How to Be a Wallflower) and Merry (of My American Duchess) was delightful. And it would be criminal of me to write about this book and not mention Yasmin’s grandfather. The duke is the kind of loveable soul you wish were your own grandparent. So despite The Reluctant Countess not being my cup of tea, I am still very much looking forward to the next Would-Be Wallflowers book. Yasmin’s irreverent friend the Duke of Huntington promises to be a much more appealing hero.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.