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Guarding the Countess*
Intrigues for a Wealthy Widow during the Restoration Era
The book begins with a dramatic scene of a man breaking into a woman’s bedchamber and attempting to assault her. The woman is Antonia, a recently out-of-mourning widow of some property and fortune. Ever since she has come out of mourning, she has been besieged by suitors. The one breaking into her bedroom was just refused by her last week, and he was hoping to force her hand. Meanwhile, Kit has returned from being a mercenary in Europe and is now a widower with a young daughter and little blunt. He hopes to come back to England to help his mother with her beer-making business. But soon after arriving back in England, he finds that his mother is dead. With a young daughter to support, he decides to approach his father, who never had anything to do with him growing up as he was illegitimate. His father is dead as well, and his half-brother is now the earl.
Julian, the earl, has a proposition for his brother. He, like so many others, is interested in the widow Antonia. In fact, he himself wishes to attempt to force her into a marriage and wants his brother to kidnap her. While Kit wishes for proper employment, he is desperate and agrees. Antonia, in the meantime, has been called to court to assist the queen, most likely because some of the king’s impoverished noble friends are hoping to gain her favor. As she heads to court, Kit saves her from danger, and she immediately hires him as her bodyguard.
Will Julian succeed in his evil plan? What court intrigues are ahead for Antonia? Will Kit kidnap her? Will he himself succumb to the widow’s charms?
This book takes place in the time of the Restoration. Antonia is a Puritan, so it’s interesting to see the social context of this. I also found it interesting that the author chose to make the heroine disfigured by smallpox; she caught it as she tended to her dying husband. Usually, in historical fiction, the heroine’s are beautiful and perfect physically. Instead, she has to deal with her disfigurement, which she finds difficult at times. Kit has his own difficulties, including dealing with a war injury that keeps him from continuing to do that line of work as well as having to raise his daughter on his own.