War Office agent Mason Cabot is determined to stop the British mole who is passing military secrets to the French. When he encounters Lady Alexandra Markham—alluring and far above his reach—he discovers she’s equally determined to stop him from arresting her brother. Soon, Mason not only wants to arrest the traitor, he also wants to possess Alexandra…a woman whom his illegitimacy makes him too unworthy to obtain The daughter of an earl who has always lived by the stifling rules of propriety, Lady Alexandra Markham will do anything to save her brother from being arrested, including being forced into a pretend marriage with Mason, who represents everything she can never have–freedom, adventure, passion. When she falls in love with him beneath the masquerade of the Venetian night, her proper life is forever changed…a life which can never include an illegitimate spy. Their two different worlds push them apart. But when an enemy seeks revenge, Mason must overcome his feelings of anger and betrayal to save Alexandra.
Publisher and Release Date: The Wild Rose Press, September 2014
Time and Setting: Napoleonic era, England and Italy
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Lady Alexandra Markham, like most women in history, has no freedom or say about her path in life. Though the privileged daughter of the Earl of Sedgwick, she’s somewhat of a wallflower in her fifth London season. Frankly, she hasn’t wanted to get married to her beloved brother Thomas’ childhood friend, Ben, and has been putting it off, holding out for something – hopefully – better.
But when Thomas disappears without a word, she instantly becomes suspicious and fears for his life. She recklessly investigates on her own. She believes he may have been kidnapped by the French in order to obtain the military plans in her father’s possession. Instead of going to their father with her concerns, however, she disguises herself as a man, copies the plans, and then tries to exchange them for information about Thomas. But the scheme goes terribly wrong.
At a seedy tavern, Alexandra is discovered by Mason Cabot, a spy for the English Home Office, dressed as a humble villager enjoying his pleasures. He learns that she is a woman willing to die for her brother and so begins a seductive game of cat and mouse where Alexandra refuses to believe that her brother has turned traitor while Mason tries to uncover the truth, fight his attraction to her, and protect her from danger.
Alexandra is an interesting character. She’s strong, yes, but she knows her duty as well, as much as she chafes against it. Her father treats her like a child – “go to your room!” – and has little time for her beyond getting her off his hands. She envies Mason’s freedom compared to hers.
When she is with Mason, Alexandra feels that a different life might be within her reach, a love match. It’s ironic that she wants freedom and adventure just as Mason has had more than enough of it.
Mason is tired of being a spy and, with it, the false impersonations and keeping hidden needs, confidences, and desires in check. With Alexandra, for the first time, he finds himself revealing his true nature and feelings. With her, he wants to tell the entire truth, but he cannot as his life – as well as her brother’s – depends on the utmost secrecy.
Mason is an admirable, honorable, and sexy hero. Though the bastard son of an earl, he was raised the son of a Bristol merchant so he is socially leagues below Alexandra. Because of this, he can’t stand the hypocrisy of the ton and wrongly assumes that Alexandra is just like them. But he doesn’t know that Alexandra has always been on the outside looking in.
Mason is attracted to Alexandra’s beauty, willfulness, and strength; she’s unlike any blueblood he has ever encountered. The attraction is mutual as Alexandra learns the lengths that Mason will go to protect not only her, but also England.
The sexual tension between Alexandra and Mason sizzles and burns bright. As they navigate a marriage of convenience so that he can protect her, their relationship becomes much more than mere attraction. They will do anything to save each other from danger, even give each other up.
The espionage plot is in no way a diversion from this sexy romance; it builds alongside their budding relationship at a nice and steady pace. The closer they become, the more dangerous the game.
This historical romance debut by Sabrina Howard is so obscure I had to manually create a record for it in Goodreads. I find this odd since it is for sale for Kindle on Amazon and is a very well written and breathlessly romantic story that grabbed me from page one. I would compare her writing and the story to those lovely romances by Katharine Ashe.
From the English countryside to London, and Italy, this is a lush and romantic historical where traitors and intrigue abound.