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Kissing the Countess
by Susan King
Signet
ISBN: 045121062X
November 2003
Historical Romance

Catriona MacConn is young when the local laird dispossesses all his tenants. He plans to replace the people with sheep. Catriona is the daughter of the vicar, and is brokenhearted at the loss of her friends. She sings a mourning song as the people leave the glen. As a result, she catches the attention of several remaining residents as well as the son and heir of the laird, Evan Mackenzie. Because he has arrived just as his father is evicting everyone, Catriona mistakenly assumes he is in agreement. Instead, he and his father have an argument, and Evan leaves to return to his mother in the lowlands.

Several years later, Catriona is collecting the old Scottish songs in an attempt to keep them from being lost forever. She recognizes the need to preserve the heritage and the unique songs from her glen. She roams the hills and meets with older residents.

One evening, as she is returning home, she finds an injured climber. She drags him to a ruined hut where she manages to treat his injuries. The night swiftly grows colder, and for some contrived reason, Catriona decides she has to go to the burn to get water, never mind that she has already melted snow for water several times. Naturally, she falls into the freezing water, and manages to get herself back to the hut. Since the fire is small and the roof nearly nonexistent, Evan demands she undress to prevent her from freezing to death. And since they have only her plaid to keep them warm, he insists she share it with him. Since Evan is already barely clothed, they are overcome with passion and make love. During this entire time, Evan fails to inform Catriona that he is, in fact, the new laird because of her obvious hatred of his deceased father.

Early the next morning her father, aunt, brother and his hiking friend appear, catching them. Both parties deny anything happened, but her father is outraged and demands that Evan marry Catriona. Catriona refuses until Evan reminds her she could be pregnant.

She reluctantly agrees, and after the wedding, she and Evan play host to several climbers, including a couple who are considering purchasing the land as a retreat.

Catriona continues to collect songs, while Evan tries to discourage her from risking her safety by crossing a damaged bridge. As they spend more time together, they fall in love, but a huge secret Catriona is keeping, and a blackmailing sheriff nearly destroy their marriage.

Kissing the Countess is not as good as the first two books in the series. Susan King uses the man scorned again as a plot device, and the scenario she used to get her characters to have sex felt contrived and stereotyped. The father and aunt are unsympathetic secondary characters, as are several of the climbers. The first two books wove a legend into the newly scientific focus of the Victorian era. This book lacks the legend, and the songs are not enough to carry the fanciful side of the story. Susan King has written better books. However, despite its drawbacks, this is worth reading, if only to finish out the trilogy.

Nancy Riggins-Hume, December 2003

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