When Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, Countess of San Jaime, was twelve years old, she and her alchemist father were turned out of William Lacey's lands. "Turned away" is putting it mildly—as Ellie's father was to blame for the Lacey's lost family fortune, she and her father were lucky that the new Earl of Dorset only threw them out, rather than setting his dogs on them.
Four years later, Will is eighteen and headed to Queen Elizabeth's court in the hopes of snagging a rich bride in seek of a title. Someone like Lady Jane Perceval, whose family has plenty of money and would like the social standing to go along with it.
Little does Will know, Ellie and her father are at the Queen's court as well, but now, of course, Ellie's all grown up. When they reconnect, Will is floored by the lovely, witty, scholarly countess... until he finds out who her father is. Oddly, though, even after that discovery, he can't get Ellie out of his mind. Meanwhile, though, Lady Jane's dirtbag of a brother also has his eye on Ellie...
I loved this one. Utter bliss.
It's got loads of witty banter and makes for lots of swooning. It's got two—count 'em!—TWO really likable female leads and tons of period detail. The storyline is, yeah, ultimately predictable, but in a good way, and it's got lots of unpredictable stops along the way. There are cameos by Sir Walter Raleigh (he's a total lech and wears a massive codpiece) and Queen Elizabeth (she's Queen Elizabeth-y).
The Lacey family is adorable and rambunctious and lovable, and Ellie both loves and wants to strangle her absent-minded, selfish, obsessed father. When Will is a jerk, he owns up to it, and Ellie's never one to just stand around and wait to be rescued. (That said, she does get rescued a few times despite herself.)
Politics and religion and other aspects of the era all factor in to the storyline, creating a rich world for the adorbs characters to swan around in.
AND IT WORKS AS A STAND-ALONE!! (BUT, AT THE SAME TIME, IT'S NOT ALL OVER, BECAUSE THERE'S ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT LADY JANE!!)
Holy cow, it doesn't get much better than this. I'm so very, very happy, and I can't wait to sit down with The Queen's Lady.
Book source: Finished copy from the publisher.