I like that so much in summary! But again, there are too many plot details. Molly ends up rooming at a boarding house run by a kind old lady and her sister with a secret. Danforthe, not wanting Molly to fail, sends his mistress to her for a few new gowns on his dime. This leads to a rivalry between the two women as he pursues Molly more publicly. Meanwhile, Lady Mercy, Molly’s ex-employer, has moved to Sydney Dovedale to pursue Rafe, Molly’s ex-fiance. The scandal mirroring Carver’s pursual of Molly causes one of his evil rake buddies to bet that Carver can’t take Molly to bed.
Carver refuses the bet, but after he throws over the Baroness for Molly, she shows up on Covington, (the bettor’s,) arm and proceeds to tell an entire dinner party that Carver’s only with Molly as part of a Gregorian She’s All That. Which is a plot point that comes up with suspicious regularity in these kinds of books. I digress.
Amending their contract to include the previously forbidden Tomfollerie, Molly becomes Carver’s mistress for 6 weeks, (I also just read that plot in Courtney Milan’s Unraveled.) She leads a double life, dowdy seamstress by day, wild seductress by night, but Carver’s still unsatisfied and decides to make it official, by displaying her as his mistress publicly. After a disastrous dinner party, Carver takes her to his family estates to ahem, ride out the length of their arrangement. There, he learns to be the Earl he’s been neglecting since his father’s death while Molly dazzles those around her with her natural Countess-ness. Big Mis, secret babies x 2, wrap up the beta romance, wrap up the secret, make up, HEA.
With my second Sydney Dovedale romance in the books, I think I can articulate what bothered me about both this novel and the first in the series. Despite being the same length as other historical romances, they feel over long, especially at the beginning. Partially it’s all the plot points. I could do with about half. Mercy’s romance is superfluous and the landlady’s secret didn’t work for me. Mostly, though, it’s because Fresina writes good dialogue, but her descriptions can be dry and overstuffed, which makes the frequent exposition scenes drag. The heroine’s deteriorating eyesight is mentioned so frequently, in such blurry detail, but it’s not important to the plot.
I did like Molly. She was a hard worker and determined, but not shrewish or holier than thou. She wasn’t perfect, but tried to be good and nice to everyone and that translated to being a good Countess. Carver’s growth was awfully fast, but it had some basis in the text, (his kind of weird collecting of homeless boys.) Despite both dealing with wealthy men seducing fallen women, Carver and Molly read very differently from Sophie and Russ, which is nice. I just wish the sense of fun in the dialogue came through in the rest of the narrative.