It occurred to her that she’d never seen a man who was so…contained. Yes: That was precisely the right word. As though something in him, some potential, REQUIRED control. And whatever it was, whatever HE was, pulled at her. The way earth pulled water into it. It felt stronger than she was, and her entire life had depended upon her being stronger than anyone.

Redonk Nutshell: Widowed actress-turned-countess butts heads with a local handsome vicar

This book had me giggling hysterically many times, prompting my husband to ask what on earth I was reading. When I read aloud the first few exchanges between Evie Duggan and Adam Sylvaine he shook his head and carried on with whatever else he was doing. Well – I had thought it was hysterical.

Evie Duggan recently moved to Pennyroyal Green to escape the gossip mongers of London. Her husband’s recent passing earned her an unkind moniker of “The Black Widow,” and she’s hoping to start fresh. And quiet.  Gossip follows her, however, and the small country town quickly connects who she is. She wants desperately to make friends. She enlists the help of the town vicar, and local hero, Adam Sylvaine. Adam is a young, handsome man who holds the hearts of many of Pennyroyal’s residents in his hands. He’s intrigued by Evie, not because of her beauty or her reputation, but because he senses there is something curious brewing behind her facade. Evie is a master of manipulation and Adam is equally skilled at seeing through it. Putting them together makes for an excellent show.  Their chemistry is slow to burn but once it catches it’s hot and eternal.

I highlighted so many passages in this book. Ms. Long’s writing truly shines in this gem of a historical romance. Evie is a tortured yet enduring soul, and Adam is equally fascinating in his steadfast commitment to his complete acceptance of himself as he is and his expectations of himself. He doesn’t fall for Evie’s purposeful flirtatious, but instead for her rare unguarded moments.

There are some truly beautiful moments throughout the book that offer not only general wisdom, but also in-depth insight into each character. One that particularly stuck with me was with Adam and one of his elderly and ailing parishioners:

You see, Reverend, you may never know this, but love, real love, the kind that you fall in, isn’t like Corinthians. The “suffereth long” and “is kind” nonsense. It’s like the Song of Solomon. It’s jealousy and fire and floods. It’s everything that consumes. I defy even you to resist it should it visit you in this lifetime, no matter the circumstances, and I don’t know whether I would wish it upon you. It’s a…beautiful suffering.”

I’m definitely marking this as one of my favorite reads of 2012. If you’re new to Julie Ann Long or her Pennyroyal series, this would be an excellent one to start with.  It’ll stick with you. Oh. And I may or may not be totally crushing on Reverend Adam.

A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

Rating: A+

Romance: 4/5            Raunch: 2/5

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