Sophie Russell’s done a lot of growing up since the embezzlement scandal surrounding her father and his subsequent death. The three sisters have lost everything and been cast adrift to make their own way. Convinced their father’s death was murder, Bryony and Maddy take positions with two of the prime suspects on their list. Sophie, deemed too young, has been left in the care of her former nanny who still lives in a cottage on Renwick, the estate the girls used to call home. In the past, Sophie believed Renwick boring, preferring London and its shallow pursuits. Now she’s come to appreciate its peace and natural beauty. She’s also able to hone the cooking skills she learned from hanging out in the kitchens. Cooking is a form of art for Sophie, a feast for the senses and her escape from reality. When Nanny Gruen falls and breaks her leg while Sophie is out on the town spying on the current resident of Renwick, Viscount Griffiths, her removal from the cottage to recover leaves Sophie in dire straits.
Instead of crying and wringing her hands, Sophie packs her few meager belongings and heads to the manor house where she becomes the cook.
NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT is a devilishly delightful mistaken identity tale and murder mystery.
Sophie’s the whole package: gumption, wit, beauty, and determination. One of her most admirable qualities is her refusal to compromise her principles. She stands her ground, refusing to be overwhelmed or intimidated.
Alexander is mourning the loss of his half-brother and living under a cloud of suspicion regarding his wife Jessamine’s death when we first meet him. His inheritance of the title and ability to make money grow has made Society more accepting--at least on the surface. Alexander could care less about what others think of him. He’s lived under a state of high alert since his father married his stepmother, Adelia. Alexander believes she’s made several attempts on his life. Hence Dickens, his butler-cum-bodyguard, with Alexander since he was fourteen. Alexander can’t wait for the time he can remove Adelia’s hateful oppressive presence from his home.
Alexander is darkly handsome, realistic, blunt, and wickedly sensual. He’s well earned Sophie’s nickname, The Dark Viscount.
Adelia is a nasty piece of work and Alexander should be given a medal for tolerating her all this time.
Dickens and Prunella are the butler and stand in cook. They’re a wonderful addition to the story. Big hearted, honest, and a source of comfort and friendship to Alexander and Sophie.
Despite being the third in the Scandal at the House of Russell trilogy, NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT can be read as a standalone with no problems. Coming in at the end often leaves the reader feeling the loss of information from prior books. Fortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth in this case.
NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT opens in a bright, light-hearted, humorous vein with each page turn inexorably drawing the reader into a web of malice, betrayal, and madness. Ms. Stuart skillfully blends humor, tension, mystery, and sensuality. Her strong characters never tilt too far in either direction or compromise their beliefs. Such a balancing act can be difficult, especially when both characters are so strong. Sophie and Alexander walk that fine line wonderfully. The initial misunderstanding and double entendre’s intended or otherwise had me laughing to myself and were a nice break in the tension. Some of my favorites were:
Alexander’s conference with his new cook, Madame Camille aka Sophie…This whole scene is hilarious and rife with sexual tension, at least on Alexander’s side.
“I have very strong appetites,” he said slowly. “It takes a great deal to leave me sated, and I bore easily.”
“I promise my efforts won’t leave you bored,” she said.
Sophie on herself….”All right, I’m vain and realistic,” she amended. And later...She wasn’t going to pretend to be anything other than who she was. She’d been through enough, and she was tired of being tactful.
Sophie and Alexander were truly a delight to read. Through the humor, misunderstandings, and passion Ms. Stuart steadily builds the underlying tension to a heart pounding climax.
NEVER MARRY A VISCOUNT beautifully balances romance, suspense, mystery, and heat with characters you want to spend time with. A marvelous reading experience.