The late Georgette Heyer’s much-loved novels may now be just a distant memory but Regency romance has never been more popular.
Across the Atlantic, a growing army of writers like Eva Leigh, Tessa Dare, Mary Balogh and Eloisa James have also made this period of history their own with luscious, passion-filled tales of love and intrigue in the highest echelons of England’s misbehaving aristocratic society.
And on both sides of the pond, readers are lapping up the devilish antics of handsome, hunky aristocrats and smart, feisty females in stories noted for their seductive brand of light comedy, clever plotting and sparkling romance.
Back with the second book in her lusciously entertaining Scandalous Ladies of London series is Eva Leigh, a talented writer whose gift is to bring a deliciously sexy, witty and contemporary flavour to the old-fashioned, tried-and-tested Regency formula.
In Counting on a Countess, Leigh introduces us to a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler for whom marriage is more than convenience… it’s a strategy.
Christopher ‘Kit’ Ellingsworth, a Battle of Waterloo veteran and the newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous lifestyle of women and gambling has all but emptied his coffers but he still dreams of one day creating a London pleasure garden ‘where every day is filled with happiness and beauty.’
It seems his hopes might just be fulfilled when a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune but there is a stipulation aimed to keep him on the straight and narrow. He must marry within one month to inherit the money.
And at a London ball, Kit spots a beautiful woman who might just be his perfect bride… the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce from Cornwall.
However, husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority. She is in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods and is desperate for funds to keep her smuggling operation afloat as it helps to keep the villagers back at her Cornish home from starving.
When the handsome earl offers to wed her in a marriage of convenience and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees. After all, her secrets could land her in prison, and an attentive, love-struck spouse would be more of a hindrance than a help.
But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit is counting on his countess to make his pleasure garden dreams a reality… and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time.
Leigh delivers passion with a capital P in this simmering, sexy and sensual romance between the courageous, contrary Tamsyn and the dashing and surprisingly dependable Kit as they negotiate the triumphs and disasters of the age-old courting game.
Their unfolding love story is intense, rapturous and wickedly entertaining, and takes us deep into the dark and dangerous corners of Regency London, and the wild lawlessness of the Cornish coast in the early 19th century.
Perfectly matched in charm and intelligence, Tamsyn and Kit are the ideal foil for each other and Leigh milks every ounce of enjoyment from a sizzling plot line brimming with intrigue, double-crossing, desire and captivating twists and turns.
Prepare to be swept away!
(Mills & Boon, paperback, £7.99)