Bookaholics's Reviews > The Countess and the King: A Novel of the Countess of Dorchester and King James II

The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott
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Sep 20, 10


The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott
Historical Romance- Sept 7th, 2010
4 1/2 stars

Katherine Sedley, the daughter of a mere baronet, was not blessed with either beauty or charms. But what she lacks in appearance, she makes up with her razor-sharp wit. Set in the decadent yet wildly dangerous royal court of King Charles II, Katherine captures the attention of the King’s brother, James Stuart, the Duke of York. Refusing to marry, she instead becomes the Duke’s mistress, sacrificing respectability for love and power. But when the King passes away and she becomes the new King’s mistress, can she navigate the treacherous court? With the growing tension between the King and the people, who will she follow?

For a historical novel with tons of facts crammed into it, this is a surprisingly easy to read and an ENJOYABLE historical novel. My grasp of the English history is rather pathetic. (I usually don’t read historicals unless it’s a regency romance.) Thankfully, Scott is a skillful writer who doesn’t rely on an information ‘dump’ to tell us the setting. Instead, she begins the book from the viewpoint of a child who discovers the court and its treachery and wonders, bit by bit. By following Katherine from her childhood, we are slowly introduced to the English politics in 1660s. So instead of having to learn Whigs from Tories in one huge, off-putting paragraph, we learn it as Katherine learns it - piece by piece. Slowly the events build up, until in the end, I felt like I know the distinction between those two English parties and their relevance to the plot. Unconsciously, I also learn more about English history than I ever will by trudging through a history book.

Though her lover, the Duke, is a royal prince, he is only a supporting player in this novel. The star of this book has always been Katherine. She’s so fully fleshed out and sympathetic character. Sure, I cringed at some of her bawdy humor, but I liked her all the same. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to best the duchess and keep the Duke’s constant attention to herself. I admired her resourcefulness and bravery. It is women like her that feminists should look up to. Given her limited circumstances - lower birth and ugliness, she makes uses her intelligence and managed to keep the duke’s attention for over seven years. She’s inspiring, to say the least. If you are a fan of light historical novels, you should definitely give this book a try.

Reviewed by Pauline from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club
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