AUDIO REVIEW: A Code of Love by Jacki Deleki, narrated by Pearl Hewitt

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Threatened by French spies, assassins, and calculating suitors, can Lady Henrietta Harcourt trust the infamous rake, Lord Cordelier Rathbourne, with her carefully guarded family secrets?

In his new, undisclosed position as Director of English Intelligence, Cord faces more peril keeping the brilliant, Harcourt family of code breakers safe than he did as undercover spy in Napoleonic France.

Cord’s passionate attraction for the indomitable Henrietta hasn’t diminished in his four years abroad, but neither has Henrietta’s memory of his libertine past.

In pursuit of the missing brother, Henrietta and Cord become entangled in a web of international intrigue, danger, and white hot passion.

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Publisher and Release Date: Doe Bay Publishing, July 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1802 London and Paris
Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

The members of Lady Henrietta (Hen) Harcourt’s family are experts at code deciphering and her older brother, Michael, has been in Paris on a secret mission, and has not been heard from in a while. Hen has trained in the code breaking arts alongside her beloved but ailing, Uncle Charles, and has undertaken some code work of her own, a very unusual and dangerous occupation for anyone, much less a young woman of good family in early nineteenth century England. When Michael sends Hen a code book for safe keeping, Hen’s life suddenly becomes threatened.

Enter Lord Cordelier (Cord) Rathbourne – an unusual name – a renowned rake whom Hen has known of for years in social circles, and to whom she is secretly attracted, albeit against her better judgement. Cord knows all about the Harcourt family’s unique talents. After all, he is their superior as the Director of English Intelligence. And years ago, he fell in love with Hen during her very first London season, but circumstances cut her promising season short and they fell out of touch.

Henrietta doesn’t know any of this; she only knows that Cord is a promiscuous rogue and she has never approved of him. She’s also very angry at her own unwanted attraction to him. She doesn’t know the real reasons behind his past actions and reputation – he was once a spy in Napoleonic France. Cord has always been attracted to Hen, not only for her beauty but also her keen intelligence and talent at code breaking and he wants the chance to win her heart as well as keep her and her family safe. But he struggles with keeping the true nature of his occupation from her while trying to court her.

I feel this story is best appreciated over frequent listenings since the strategies and spy games can be somewhat confusing. In fact, I’d say it’s possibly even more prominent than the central love story which, while pleasing to listen to, is a little on the tame side rather than searingly passionate. This is not a complaint, however – although if you enjoy your romances on the spicier side, you may be a bit disappointed. But if you like conspiracy, there’s plenty of that here.

I feel like I didn’t get to know Cord quite as well as I got to know Hen. I could feel Hen’s fears, her indignation, and her joy; all of these emotions are conveyed very well by Ms. Hewitt. The male characters, in comparison, seem a little stiff and formal, especially the Frenchmen. At the same time, however, Hen also comes across as a bit girlish and young, and her younger brother, Edward, is annoying and I feel done a little over the top for emotional manipulation.

What is extremely effective here, however, is the love and protectiveness that Hen feels for her family – her wayward brother, Michael and her beloved and ill Uncle Charles – as well as the love that Cord feels for Hen.

This story is rich in its exciting atmosphere of Napoleonic intrigue in both Paris and London, but this audiobook recording reminds me at times of a Georgette Heyer novel of manners. I think it’s because of the narrator, Pearl Hewitt, whose voice sounds more cozy than serious. Her reading, while crystal clear and pleasing to the ear, feels more comforting than suspenseful so I wasn’t quite sure if I should feel fear during the more tension-filled parts of the story or consolation that everything would turn out fine eventually. Which it always does in historical romance. Ms Hewitt’s voice doesn’t quite match the menacing content of this novel, and she reminds me a little of Ruth Sillers, who recently narrated Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders.

This is the first in Jacki Delecki’s Code Breakers series and its Epilogue promises even more adventures to come.

A well written and entertaining novel of spies, secrets, and seduction.

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