The Railway Countess
Julia Justiss continues her Heirs in Waiting series with the very sweet-natured and somewhat predictable The Railway Countess, about two very typically atypical romance protagonists who still manage to find love in a way that amuses and entertains the reader.
Crispin d’Aubignon is a railway investor who bumps into Marcella Cranmor while waiting for her father, who happens to be a railway engineer, to arrive at his office. Crispin is utterly fascinated by the modern concept Marcella’s father has for a new line – and he’s soon utterly captivated and yet bemused by the equally modern Marcella, as well. He starts making up excuses to stop by Cranmor’s office to spend time with Marcella, but knows he can never marry her as he’s expected to do his duty by his family and marry a woman with money.
Marcella has a head for maths, enjoys helping her father design railways and no desire to marry, but her mother – hungry for wealth and title, at least in Marcella’s opinion – has pushed her into having a Season and making her society début. And who should she meet on the ballroom floor but Crispin, heir to his father, the tight-fisted Earl of Comeryn, as he shepherds his sister through a Season of her own?
Crispin is expected to marry to enrich his father’s coffers, but all he really wants to do is work as a railway engineer, an interest for which his father mocks him. Crispin and Marcella are both searching for love and an understanding partner, and vow to remain friends as they attempt to survive the Season together. Once she’s begun to introduce Crispin’s sister to the notion of social rebellion, Marcella begins to court a stable and staid gentlemen, and Crispin finds himself astir about both options. Will he have the courage to tell Marcella about his feelings? Will true love win all?
Well, it is a romance novel, so let’s not dispense with tradition. The author walks a fine line between an unusual, independent heroine and a very traditional girl-almost-marries-unforgivably-dull-man-when-she-wants to-boff-the-hero-silly plot. But I liked Crispin and Marcella and the connection the author creates between them sufficiently to give this book a qualified recommendation.
Marcella is an appealing heroine, modern but not anachronistically so. Crispin is a good person and a smart man who cares about others around him and doesn’t want to be a society fribble, gambling and drinking away the estate’s profits away like other ton types. They have nice, slow-burn chemistry straight out of the gate, and slowly come closer and closer to each other. It’s done with gentle, socially-respectful politeness but is also filled with fire.
But I do have to mark things down for the obvious plot twist with Marcella nearly marrying another man who does not have the decency to make her blood race and her heart thrum. If you don’t mind such a thing, though, The Railway Countess is a cozy love story that will likely get your summer off to a good start.