The course of true love never did run smooth. Very true, especially when it is made even more complicated when you find yourself falling in love with...moreThe course of true love never did run smooth. Very true, especially when it is made even more complicated when you find yourself falling in love with The Enemy. 'The Runaway Countess' is a stunning debut novel from Ms LaValle; it is thrilling and fraught with tension and intrigue, it is sensual and seductive, and it is sure to captivate your heart. I know that from the first chapter, I was very impressed with the crisp clarity of writing, of how the lush narrative allowed me to immerse myself in Trent and Mazie's world without diffidence.
We are immediately aware that the stakes are high; we see and feel the desperation that should overpower a weaker person, and yet loyalty, strength of character and bravery prevail, and we see into the heart of Mazie Chetwyn who has been captured, indeed guilty of the 'mercy' crimes she has committed. She knows firsthand about the oppression and corruption going on around her and has teamed up with the local highwayman, the Midnight Rider, to set things right. Of course, there are two sides to the story, and so we meet Trent Carthwick, twelfth Earl of Radford, the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, who is principled and respectable ... a discerning and intelligent man who believes wholeheartedly in the law. The scandal surrounding the Midnight Rider and his accomplice is threatening everything he is; all he has known and worked hard for, and so he must remain in Nottinghamshire to sort it all out, capture the Midnight Rider, and reestablish the honor of his family name. He doesn't remain oblivious to the injustice and damage inflicted upon the locals for long, thanks to Mazie challenging him at every turn. Eventually, the fissures in his otherwise just and stable world emerge, and he is forced to reevaluate his position and actions regarding whom to trust, without losing faith in the system of the law.
I found myself falling for Mazie and Trent, two extraordinary people struggling to do right in this world, in their own way. Infallible they are not, but they adapt and they learn, they choose and they act, never just sitting idly by. I do so appreciate the complex situation they find themselves in, and I can't take for granted the thought process and the dueling emotions regarding the heavy decisions they both must make. Every now and then I found myself needing to pause for a bit to digest their current status or state of mind. What must it be like for Trent, finding himself inevitably drawn to, in love with, a guilty criminal, who is dead set on protecting the person he must apprehend? What then, when he finally gets to know her heart and see beyond her actions, and yet know that 'he could not have it all. He was destined to lose something in the end. ' Duty, honor, and responsibility. Freedom, happiness, and love. What must it be like for Mazie, already faced with threats to her freedom and life, but still loyal and unwavering in her protection of the Midnight Rider? What then, when she discovers for herself that though, yes, he is duty-bound and very much on the side of the law, that he has a very kind heart, that he is willing to change ... that he is also stuck in an impossible situation between the locals and the gentry, and that he is 'just a man. A man with a heart, with tears and worries of his own.' When the time comes that she is able to trust, would she also be able to give up freedom? Love? My heart breaks for them.
One of my favorite things about this book is the undeniable attraction between the two. Try as they might, and as perverse as it is to desire one's enemy, well, there it is, the attraction simmering, sizzling, burning up the pages. Oh my goodness, those scenes are so hot, sensual, and oh so delicious. Their kisses alone would have been the death of me already, but wait till you get to Chapter Sixteen. Whew. My favorite line in the entire book is about their third kiss, in fact.
It was a kiss born of thunderstorms and the wild loneliness of the night. It was hot, fierce, and needy.
I love, love Mazie's uncensored thoughts, actually laughed out loud at some of the moments when she is struggling not to feel affected, not to show that she is affected, and then finally admitting, and submitting, to her passion and desire. 'He could do whatever it was his eyes were saying they wanted to do.'
Oh, so refreshing to see a heroine voice her (treacheroussincere) desire for the hero.
He looked up at her from where he bent over the spigot. That devilish lock of hair fell across his forehead and her breath caught. Even after their argument, even after the brittle fear of the morning, she was still attracted to him. It was entirely unfair that he was so handsome. She wished he weren't so beautiful. No, she amended. She loved that he was beautiful. She wished he weren't her enemy. That he wasn't always so determined to ruin her life.
I love Trent's intensity, and by intense, I mean, wow. I'm surprised Mazie hasn't yet melted, what with the smoldering gazes, always under his scrutiny and observations and stares. I ... have no words, hehe. Trent could not disguise his attraction to her even if he tried. But more than this, I loved how Trent tried to cope with his new found feelings for her while trying to reconcile it with the reality of who Mazie was. I love the moments where we are shown Trent's kindness, his gentleness, to everyone from the locals, his sister, Mazie. Even when he knew Mazie was not being forthcoming, despite trying to reign in his feelings for Mazie, there is no doubt he is very attuned to her, even without complete comprehension.
It distressed him seeing her so upset. And his distress over her distress distressed him even more. Which made no sense being that she continued to lie to him, even knowing what he had at stake. She was a devil of a confusing woman.
There is so much to recommend in this gem of a book. One of them is Cat, Trent's unhappily married sister and Mazie's peer. I love Cat so much, and my heart goes out for her too. (Ms LaValle, we ARE going to learn more about Cat, aren't we? Yes or yes? :D) She's wonderful, I love her character so much. There are two particular conversations she had with Mazie that made me feel that gnawing ache in my heart. The first one happened when Mazie decided to hide from Trent. Two very impressive, undaunted, protective sisters, alone, together; in a large library; their conversation very telling. Cat's candor illuminating on some truths, confessed directly or otherwise. The second one happened towards the end.
“You will run.” “I don’t know.” She was honest. “Trent knows the truth, understands why the Midnight Rider did what he did. It is his decision what happens next. I am not going to stay and help your brother find my br—my friend. There is nothing left for me here.” “There is love.” Mazie shook her head. She took her stance and pulled back on her bowstring. “No matter what happens, we will hurt each other terribly/" "Does it work, running away?" Cat's voice was marked by concern and frustration. "Is that why Forster has been gone so many years?"
I really am curious to hear more about Cat. Here's to hoping we'll soon find out. :D
I thoroughly enjoyed my reading of this novel. It grips you right from the very start, and doesn't let you want to let go. It was well worth the journey to the end and see how the situations were resolved. By the time I reached the end, I had tears threatening to fall while a goofy grin was pasted on my face. I would definitely recommend 'The Runaway Countess' to everyone. :)
It's as if they were made for each other. So perfectly imperfect, and yet. This book evoked so many feelings in me, all of which left me beholden to M...moreIt's as if they were made for each other. So perfectly imperfect, and yet. This book evoked so many feelings in me, all of which left me beholden to Ms. Callihan. The laughs, the amusing banter and first-rate sparring matches, the fear and uncertainty, the unparalleled UST, That Kiss, the heartaches, the steamy scenes, the tears, the pain, the falling in love and the fighting for love and the staying in love . . . they were all there for me to experience. So amazing.
Carrie, thank you for recommending me this gem. :D(less)
I love the way Gaelen Foley writes. To me, she's one of the best writers out there. I know I'm only on her second book, but regardless. Her words invo...moreI love the way Gaelen Foley writes. To me, she's one of the best writers out there. I know I'm only on her second book, but regardless. Her words invoke a whole new world and I find myself irrevocably drawn into it. My senses are forever engaged, and I can not only picture the setting, but I feel like I'm engaged in it. The world building is excellent, with history intertwining superbly with personal backgrounds. The plot is tight, the characters are complex and multi-dimensional. I get tickled everytime I meet her characters as they are presented and thrilled to see them challenged as they struggle and grow. Awesome storylines and lovable characters. :D
Lucien. Lucien who is not really anyone's favorite. Lucien who is just so misunderstood (Hi, his name is Lucien, Draco is one of his numerous alias. Sets you up thinking he's a bad guy. But oh, he's soo not). Harbors many secrets (he is a spy, so naturally) and conceals his real thoughts and feelings from others (a stonewall, so he won't get hurt). But hiding inside himself got exhausting, and it did not prevent his heart from breaking.
How fitting, that this was what his life had come to, he thought acidly as he crossed the billiard room. For the past two and a half years, he had worked alone, changing identities like a shape-sfifter each time he had moved on to a new assignment, drifting in and out of countless people's lives like a ghost, never quite connecting. Now not even his twin brother knew him anymore -- di not know him and did not want to know him, for he was a spy, a deceiver, a man without honor. A man who knew the rules of gentlemanly conduct and ignored them. Self-loathing pulsed through him, and despair. If Damien did not give a damn about him anymore, who ever would? No one, he realized, with an empty, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was utterly alone.
Lucien has a realization that he simply doesn't want to be alone. Fate threw him together with Alice, and because of a deep and indescribable connection he felt with her, he chooses to hold on to her and not let her go. I loved being inside Lucien's head. It was confusing, and you feel his hesitations and you understand why. It was heartening, seeing how tender and gentle he is with Alice, patient, willing to compromise ... to learn. I was there with him when he let himself become vulnerable enough for Alice to be able to break down those thick walls he built around his heart. I, too, allowed myself to hope for the best.
Loved jealous!Lucien, I couldn't help but laughed when he was reduced to irritation. Looooved playful!Lucien, being so awesome with Harry, playing pee-a-boo, the way he interacted with him when he was giving him his gift (oh, and it was so much more than the prism, Lucien.). Ugh. My heart. When he comforts Harry. Guh. It's ten times as big. And then he finally breaks down and tells the story of his capture and my heart breaks for him. Especially when he thinks that by showing his true emotion, she'd think him a weakling. Oh, Lucien. You'll always be my hero. ;)
Loved that we were able to go on this journey with him, from his loneliness to his desperation to his happiness.
Things I liked:
The plot, the game, the action. Oooh. When there's action happening I can't even breathe. I had to stop and remind myself to breathe. Hehe.
The minor characters. I know we didn't see a lot of him, but I liked Mr. Whitby. Awesome mentor. Heh. The bad guys really did give me the creeps. I really felt danger whenever the story shifts to their perspective, and I truly feared for their safety. That Bardou guy. Eeeevil. Caro ... I hated her, and pitied her. So much.
Things I didn't like as much as I would have:
Otherwise known as things that hinders happiness and/or causes Lucien pain. Hahahaha. I promise I didn't even notice it when I was making this list, but I couldn't figure out where to put these characters. Then it hit me. The main reason why I don't like them in the first place is because of how they've tortured Lucien or made things so much more difficult for him. :D
Alice. I liked Alice well enough ... for recognizing early on what Lucien is trying hard to express to her. There were moments that I didn't like, specifically some things she did that I didn't like ... Maybe it's because I'm biased, because I didn't want Lucien to be hurt (hahaha, he's got my heart), but when she proposed an ultimatum? Gaah. Cringe-worthy moment for me. That's not to say that I don't understand what she's trying to get at, but, heeeey. Guy is thinking about the future, your future together, even thinking of you bearing his children, for goodness sake, and there you are, listing your demands before he can have you. I know, can't really blame the girl for trying, for trying to understand and break through Lucien's world. (After all, how many of us can comply with the "ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies" policy?) Another thing, when she (of course) didn't stay in her room, defiantly going after him in the Grotto ... making him choose again, revenge over love. Then the thing happened, then they had to separate ... I see it from both sides, so this one's a tough one, but ultimately, my loyalties lie with Lucien (mortal enemies, come on!). But then. And this is after reading the entire story. I was left with the feeling that Alice will take really, really good care of Lucien. Good enough for me. :D
Then there's Damien Knight. I didn't even know how disparaged spies were, but this is his twin we're talking about! His twin, and he's failed to understand Lucien. :( Just didn't seem right. And I know, it's said that Damien is the respected one, admired and beloved, but he just came across as cold. (Heh. Damien's cold as ice while Lucien's hot as sin. And yes. That's from Sarah MacLean's list, lol.) And then he has the audacity to go to Alice and propose to her and "make things right." Wth, D, that's how low your opinion is of your brother? Or that's how far you are willing to go to hurt him? And that horrid proposal, lol. I hope whoever he'll marry will have fun making him melt. But then. Oh, but then. We get towards the end and we see that Damien is not indifferent. Oh, no, not at all. That scene with Lucien and Damien....so lost, so heartbreaking. And then they clear up misunderstandings ... I'm intrigued, what can I say. I'm intrigued and soon I'll be reading Damien's story. :D
Hmmmm. Good read. I really liked the book. The hero (he's a hardened man with a tortured secret/past, charming as hell, he cooks! and he can dance! an...moreHmmmm. Good read. I really liked the book. The hero (he's a hardened man with a tortured secret/past, charming as hell, he cooks! and he can dance! and he's with respect and ambition and a driving force that's allowed him to survive) and heroine (she's loyal and headstrong, brave and capable; was willing to fight for the people she loved, willing to sacrifice without being weak) were both very intriguing, stubborn, and interesting and their love for their siblings -- admirable and piercing ... and I couldn't help but be charmed by these two survivors. The banter was awesome and it kept me on my toes. Lots of moments stand out, of course, one of them being the part where he teaches her the basics of kissing. Wow. I mean, yeah, hot. And to think, that was just a kiss (and that was only the beginning of their many "mind-drugging" kisses). Good Lord, when you get to the actual lovemaking .... Talk about sparks and fire and burning and passion. The journey they had to get to know each other (ie: through the tasks/challenges, their understanding, the way they can tell through the other person's eyes) - - I was so very happy for their happy ending.(less)
Halfway through, I found myself yelling at the characters for all The Big Assumptions they're making. Would've saved a lot if trouble if they had just...moreHalfway through, I found myself yelling at the characters for all The Big Assumptions they're making. Would've saved a lot if trouble if they had just, oh, I don't know... talked?(less)
3.5 stars. I flew through the first part of the story because I wanted to get over the whole Big Secret and Big Mis part. Suddenly found myself slowin...more3.5 stars. I flew through the first part of the story because I wanted to get over the whole Big Secret and Big Mis part. Suddenly found myself slowing down when I got to the better half of the story.(less)