The Reluctant Countess

Avon (Would-Be Wallflowers, Bk. 2). Nov. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780063139572. pap. $9.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
In James’s second “Would-Be Wallflowers” novel (following How To Be a Wallflower), Lady Yasmin Régnier attracts scandal wherever she goes, and the British aristocracy cannot wait to judge her—for being French, her downfall by a rake, risqué fashion choices, or for a mother who was once Bonaparte’s mistress. The upstanding Earl of Lilford is determined never to put a foot wrong lest he follow in the footsteps of his parents’ impropriety. Regardless, he is obsessed with Yasmin’s joyous nature and dances with her at every event of the Season. Yasmin is baffled by Lilford’s attention as he abhors frivolousness and gossip, but when Yasmin sees Lilford’s younger sister Lydia behaving recklessly with her suitors, she tells Lilford in hopes of preventing Lydia’s ruination. After Lilford spends more time with Yasmin, the two embark on a secret affair and later engagement, but society’s and Lydia’s disapproval may prove to be too much for the couple to endure.
VERDICT Readers will admire how Yazmin’s positive attitude nullifies the critical voices around her, and her grandfather is an absolute delight. Unfortunately, Lilford’s controlling nature and his malicious sister tend to detract from the fun and romance of James’s Regency novel.
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