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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Review: The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott

The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott
Paperback, 400 pages
NAL Trade
September 7, 2010
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review for HFBRT September event

“Katherine Sedley is born to wealth and privilege in seventeenth-century London, and her unconventional upbringing includes a mad mother who believes that she’s the queen and a father who is one of the most notorious libertines in Restoration England. She quickly becomes a favorite at the palace for her sly wit and daring, and soon attracts the attention of the married Duke of York, His Majesty’s brother. She snubs respectable marriage to become the duke’s mistress, but when her lover becomes King James II, she is suddenly cast into a tangle of political intrigue in which a wrong step can mean treason, exile, or death on the executioner’s block. As the risks rise, Katherine is forced to make the most perilous of choices: to remain loyal to the king -- or to England”

Unlike all of Scott’s recent releases about the mistresses of Charles II, this book is about the mistress of Charles’ brother, James II. While still remaining in a world that is entirely familiar and comfortable to me, I was able to explore another side to the world that I loved. Charles is still a frequent visitor to the story without being the center of attention. There was one scene in the novel where all of the mistresses of Charles II, as well as the Katherine Sedley and I think James II, were all in one room together and it was like being in a room full of friends.

As always, Scott really impresses here, the writing is phenomenal and exceptionally bawdy. I love Katherine’s spunk, fire, and personality. She was allowed to grow up in a sort of no rules atmosphere within the edges of the court – which really makes for great story telling. As much as I have enjoyed Charles’ story in the past, I really enjoyed learning about James. He sort of had an “other brother” syndrome and was always trying to prove himself. His relationship with Katherine was so exciting and one of my favorites. But I want to emphasize that this was while he was Duke of York, once he became King of England I really couldn’t stand him anymore. As he embraced Catholicism and became less favored by the people, his relationship with Katherine changed and I just didn’t feel it so much anymore.

My favorite quote from this book, which wasn’t actually from the story, but from the author’s note, really sums up this story well. As you may already know, King James II is eventually ousted in favor of his daughter Mary and her husband William, and this was made possible in part by Katherine’s father (who said the following) – “as the king has made my daughter a countess, the least I could do, in common gratitude, is to make his daughter a queen” (pg 383).

Susan Holloway Scott hits this one out of the park yet again!

If you are interested in reading a snippet of this story before you have the chance to pick it up and read the whole thing (because you will absolutely want to!) you can read an excerpt at her website.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Susan Holloway Scott:


royal harlot
Royal Harlot
[My Review]

the french mistress
he French Mistress

the kings favorit
The King’s Favorite

Find Susan Holloway Scott: Website (as Isabella Bradford) |Facebook | Twitter

Also today, as part of the HFBRT event:

Author guest post at All Thing's Royal

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. OMG I so loved that quote too! I laughed out loud at that one so freaking funny. I am glad you enjoyed it Heather I have to agree Susan is a new favorite of mine.

  2. I also loved that quote! It is nice to pick up a book that has familiar characters, but the protagonist is fresh. Great review Heather!

  3. Lizzy - I burst out laughing too - it was just the perfect quote.

    Arleigh - I have to agree with you - Katherine was certainly a fresh character, I had never heard of her before.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the book, it sounds like one to look for. Thanks for the review!

  5. What a great review! You completely stirred my enthusiasm for this novel! It's interesting that I haven't read many novels taking place in the time of Charles II, although I love the period, and this is a good way to start. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Many thanks for the wonderful review, Heather!
    I have to admit that I became pretty impatient with James after he was crowned, too, and I suspect that Katherine did is well. She had plenty of good reasons for breaking with him. But one of the aspects of her that I liked best was that, after her time as a royal mistress was done, she didn't just fade away, but continued to play her part at court. When the new regime of William & Mary followed James, she met and married one of William's trusted officers, the Earl of Portmore. At last she had her true love and husband, and I couldn't have been happier for her! :)

  7. Marie - I really enjoyed this book - have you had the opportunity to ready any of her books yet? I would say that she is one of my favorite authors.

    Irena - The only books I have read of this period are about the mistresses of this time - and were either by Susan Holloway Scott or Jean Plaidy. But it is a wonderful period to read about.

    Susan - It really was like he changed completely, and the things that I liked about him went out the window. Thanks for writing these books! They are awesome.

  8. Love Susan Holloway Scott's books, and can't wait to read this one, too. There aren't many authors who can carry off making readers fall in to love with the hero and then fall out of love, too. Thanks for the review!

  9. ILoveVersailles - I can't agree more. She really did a phenomenal job with changing how I felt about James!

  10. I just love this book too- and like you felt in the company of friends (especially in that scene you mention)! Susan is amazing and this book was perfect to my liking. Thanks Heather for the great review:)

  11. I will admit, I did not think I would be interested in this book, but after reading several of your posts based around this book and then this review...my thinking has been changed. I am very much intrigued, and your favorite quote has flamed the intrigue even more. Lately, I have not read much in the way of royal historical fiction, but am finding myself gearing up to change that...I think this may be a good book to add to a small list of books that I plan on plunging into soon.

  12. Lucy - I so enjoyed that scene - it really pulled all of the books together for me.

    Ibeeeg - I'm glad I could interest you in the book - I don't think you will be disappointed if you are interested in reading about royals even a little.


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