Forced to do the bidding of a corrupt government minister, Marianne de Bonnard agrees to plant incriminating evidence in the offices of France’s most notorious spymaster. Under cover of night, the tightrope-walking thief puts her skills to good use—until her aerial stunt is foiled when her target appears in the window and, with consummate poise, helps Marianne off the wire and into his lair. The tremors that run through her body are not just from fear; there’s an unwanted frisson of desire there, too. But is it because of her elegant, wickedly handsome host . . . or his proposition?
Nicolas Valette has had plans for his graceful trespasser since he witnessed her unique skills at the Cirque Olympique. Sinuous as a cat, Marianne is perfect for his next mission, but she refuses his generous offer for fear of disobeying her family’s tormenter. When their mutual enemy auctions off her virginity to the highest bidder, Nicolas leaps at the chance to purchase her cooperation. Keeping her will be like trying to tame a wild animal, but what’s life without a little risk? Besides, Nicolas and Marianne both want the same thing: revenge—and, perhaps, something else that’s equally delicious.
Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, 23 February 2016
Time and Setting: France, 1815
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Jill
A thief. With a parasol. On a tightrope. Even in his strange world, it was a first.
In Paris of 1815, Napoleon is once again in power after his escape from exile on Elba. France is a hotbed of lying, spying and intrigue. With the allies closing in on Napoleon from outside, many from inside France are also plotting his downfall. For Nicolas Valette, one of police minister Joseph Fouché’s most trusted agents, national patriotism and personal revenge go hand-in-hand.
Marianne Bonnard is a performer at the Cirque Olympique. But her talents are also being used by Jean-Jacques Duval, minister for the Department of Morals. Four years ago she made a deal with Duval that would protect her younger sister, Sophie and allow her to continue working at the circus instead of becoming a prostitute. Her skills allow her to gather information and evidence for Duval, and to plant documents to incriminate his enemies for extortion and blackmail.
Small, agile and fearless, Marianne is just the person Valette needs for a job. When Valette saves both sisters by ‘buying’ them at a brothel sale, he offers them his protection. Marianne knows she owes him, and has no choice in now working for Valette. Taken to an abandoned château in the country, Valette trains her for their mission to free a Royalist supporter imprisoned in the Château de Vincennes, one of France’s most heavily fortified prisons.
This is the debut novel of K.C. Bateman and is a polished and very fine historical romance. Set in Napoleonic France of 1815 (and also for a short time in England later in the story) the different setting alone is enough to gain high marks. Add to that the action and adventure scenes, the competent writing and the building sexual tension between the protagonists, and this is thoroughly deserving of 4 stars.
Marianne though strong and independent, is full of self-doubt about her appearance and sexuality. At only nineteen, she’s had to grow up quickly, taking on the responsibility of her own life as well as that of her younger sister, since their parents’ deaths five years earlier. At times charming, Valette can also be a bully, using threats to make Marianne work hard and train for the mission. Valette is much older, but the sixteen-year age difference between he and Marianne, isn’t obvious. It is afterall a different era, and their relationship doesn’t come across as creepy or inappropriate.
There are only a few minor issues here. Having read a similar plot recently about spies in Napoleonic France of 1815, the writing here is good, but not great when compared to some other historical romance authors. However, this is Ms Bateman’s début. It’s really the plot and setting that carry this novel. The other things may be out of her hands: the title and cover. Ordinarily it doesn’t bother me if the title and cover are fluff. But I don’t think either the title or cover here suit the story.
For readers looking for something different in plot and setting to the usual suspects in historical romances, To Steal a Heart is a recommended read.