The Count

Helena Dela

Setting: London, England, and Munich, Germany, present day

Ella, a recently widowed book restoration expert, is so depressed she wants to die. Her boss offers a means to this end by introducing her to his friend, Rudi von Drachenfels, a German count who is plagued by a family curse. The wives of Rudi’s ancestors have historically died during or soon after the birth of their first child, which has been invariably male. Rudi wants to marry to continue hisline, but he also wants to protect his current girlfriend, Nadine, from the curse. Nadine convinces him to find a suitable woman to marry and bear his first child. After his cursed first wife dies, Rudi can safely marry Nadine.

Rudi outlines the plan to Ella, but he does not tell her about Nadine’s role in it. Impoverished Ella is about to lose her job, so she jumps at the chance to at least die a wealthy death.

Rudi marries Ella, performs ritualistic sex to achieve an heir, and installs her at his crumbling German castle. There, Ella has only a dour housekeeper and a bevy of family ghosts to keep her company during her pregnancy. To make matters worse, jealous Nadine cannot help maliciously meddling in Ella’s life, short though it may be.

This light-hearted fairy tale is a delight, largely due to its intriguing premise and the author’s fresh and humorous writing style. British author Helen Dela’s outrageously witty passages beg to be read out loud and shared.

Gothic elements include the labyrinthine untidy castle, several friendly and evil ghosts, a portrait gallery, the unfriendly housekeeper, an enigmatic hero, unrequited love, and threats on the heroine’s life.

Intrepid Ella’s situation and her amusing sense of humor endear her to the reader. Although Rudi’s motives may initially put the reader off, he soon develops a sincere attachment to Ella, which the reader will applaud. Snorts of laughter will punctuate the reader’s highly entertaining journey from cliffhanger to cliffhanger in this marriage-of-uncommon-convenience tale. Author Helena Dela will definitely develop an eager following in the U.S. if she continues in this vein.

ISBN 0-06-109884-1, 241 pp., $6.50, Harper (reprint), March 2000

–Kristi Lyn Glass, Publisher, Gothic Journal

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