April 2011 marks the debut of a new Canadian romance author to watch- Lecia Cornwall, author of Secrets of A Proper Countess (Avon). Born in Toronto, Lecia raised her family in Ottawa, and now lives in Calgary, Alberta.
I can't say that I am a voracious reader of romance novels, as I probably average only one book every two months or so. I will admit to much eye-rolling and under-my-breath cynical muttering before setting two separate romance novels aside as unreadable in the past month alone. I like writers like Jude Devereaux, Amanda Quick, and Julie Garwood- good writers who create books with plausible plots, great historical details, heroines with a bit of backbone, and romances that set pages aflame.
There was definitely no eye-rolling or muttering as I opened 'Secrets of a Proper Countess'. I was hooked in the first chapter, intrigued by the heroine Isobel Maitland, as she boldly seduces London's most notorious rake, the Marquess of Blackwood, at a masquerade ball.
Isobel, the widowed Countess of Ashdown, is forbidden by a restrictive clause in her deceased husband's will to exhibit any behaviour that would be deemed 'inappropriate' by her mother-in-law, the horrid Honoria. The cost of any indiscretions? The loss of custody of her beloved son Robin. However, emboldened by the anonimity offered by the costume she is wearing to the ball, Isobel takes the chance to seize a moment of happiness with a man she has long admired from afar.
The Marquess (Phineas) cannot get the bold, passionate, and mysterious woman from the masquerade ball out of his head, and is determined to find her again. He not only wants the opportunity to repeat their romantic encounter, but he also suspects that she may have some connection to a smuggling/spy ring that has been importing goods (and plots) from France. The Marquess' reputation as a rake is a carefully constructed cover. Phineas is actually an agent for the British government, and his bad reputation allows him to infiltrate the 'right' circles- where he can root out spies, traitors and other threats to his country.
Part Cinderella, part spy thriller, Secrets of a Proper Countess is fun and engaging, smartly written and features characters that ring true. If you are a fan of a good historical romance, do check this book out!
According to the author's blog, she has been working on a follow up, The Price of Temptation, which is currently scheduled to be released in January 2012. This book tells the story of one of the minor characters introduced in 'Secrets of a Proper Countess'- Evelyn Renshaw.
Read an excerpt of Secrets of a Proper Countess here.
Check out an interview with the author on Romance Novel News.com