Liliane Desailly travels to Napoleonic France after receiving a plea for help from her French cousin. She learns she is the key to fulfilling her grandfather’s legacy, but to do so she must masquerade as a spy and courier secrets on behalf of the British Admiralty.
Sinclair Charlcroft is the British Admiralty’s last hope. Napoleon’s Grande Armée is poised to invade Britain, an English spy is missing and a traitor has infiltrated the Admiralty’s intelligence network.
Pursued by Napoleon’s agents, Liliane and Sinclair cannot reveal their true identities until they unlock the secrets of the legacy—and only then can they unlock the secrets in their hearts.
France, February 1805
Liliane sat opposite her cousin Solange, gingerly sipping a mug of honey mead. Around them the air was thick with smoke, layered with the pungent smell of onions, hops and sweat. The local village inn was loud with the lunchtime patronage of local farmers and fishermen whose conversations were punctuated with raucous laughter and ribald jokes. One of the men nudged his companion and gestured towards her. She fidgeted self-consciously and tucked her blue woolen shawl more securely across her shoulders. Goodness, they behaved like they’d never seen a woman in here before.
A hush momentarily descended upon the room. Solange leaned towards her and whispered. ‘Be ready, ma petite. He’s here.’
Liliane glanced over her shoulder. As her gaze swept the room she was arrested by the sight of a figure silhouetted in the doorway.
Heavens above. She momentarily closed her eyes, his image imprinting upon her brain. Now this man was definitely no fisherman. Even in the crowded noisy tavern his presence was imposing. Mesmerized, she studied him further. His body was encased in a white linen shirt and buff breeches, while ink black hair fell across his brow, drawing her attention to hooded eyes and a firmly set jaw. He stepped into the room and casually looked around the tavern, running his hand through his hair to push it back from his face. Her fingers tingled, and she lifted her own hand to her hair, twisting the sable strands between her fingers, wondering if his hair would feel as soft and silken.
Liliane froze. Oh Lord, he was watching her. The loose tendrils that tangled about her fingers singed as though she had been caught running her hands through his hair. The air around her seemed to ripple and she felt, rather than saw, the moment he decided to move. Holding her gaze, he moved from the doorway and light flooded back into the room. Her breath caught in her throat. It was incongruous that a man of his height could move with such surety and grace, almost a menacing prowl. Although one thing was certain, there was absolutely nothing dandified about him.
As he made his way through the tavern his commanding posture induced the inn’s patrons to step aside in deference. He drew closer and she jerked back around to face Solange. How mortifying to have been caught staring at him. She flicked a look of uncertainty towards her cousin. Surely he wasn’t the man they were here to meet? This man didn’t accord with the image she’d painted in her mind. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting—perhaps someone older, less imposing. Someone safe. Not someone whose very presence drew the attention of every person in the room. And certainly not someone who, with a single glance, could induce her to forget precisely why she was on the wrong side of the Channel, drinking mead and speaking in French, instead of shopping on Bond Street.
Publisher and Release Date: Escape Publishing, April 2016
Time and Setting: France & England, 1805
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 4 stars
Review by Sara
In wartime, the battles fought between spies can be deadly. Miss Liliane Desalilly, on the eve of her début into English society, instead finds herself drafted into the world of espionage by her French cousin. After a brief correspondence she is summoned to France and told to deliver a family heirloom to one of their grandfather’s old acquaintances. The mission seems simple enough until Liliane is partnered with the handsome Monsieur St. Clair to safely travel through the country. St. Claire’s angry response to her presence gets their association off to a poor start; however Liliane rises to the challenge of being an agent and proves her worth as the mission takes a dangerous turn.
Lord Sinclair Charlcroft has instructions from the War Office to find a missing agent and return him or the information he had safely back to England. Getting saddled with an inexperienced French agent by their local contact complicates things but his biggest distraction is how attracted he is to Liliane. Without breaking his cover as a local man hoping to subvert Napoleon’s army, Sin finds himself enjoying Liliane’s company while they retrace his friend’s last few steps before disappearing. When a Hussar Lieutenant working for Napoleon becomes suspicious of their movements Liliane defuses a tense confrontation by claiming she and Sin are eloping. Rather than believing their story at face value the Hussar pushes to see the marriage take place before he’ll leave them to their journey.
Without revealing the truth of their identities, Sin and Liliane are forced to marry in order to continue their mission. Liliane risks her future by succumbing to her growing feelings for Sin, unware that her new husband is much more than the simple Frenchman she believes him to be. As the evidence points to a possible double-agent within the French network of spies, Sin and Liliane separate with the agreement they will meet again to determine the course of their marriage. Little do either of them realize their reunion will be much sooner than they think.
Closer to Sin is the kind of début story that creates lifelong fans for an author. The prologue alone manages to illustrate just how dangerous a world Liliane is involving herself in. Nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. The heightened sense of uncertainty isn’t relaxed until the final pages of the book when everyone’s motives and loyalties are revealed, keeping me engrossed in their story. Just when I thought I had everything pegged, Ms. Squire would throw a twist into things to make me question how I missed the clues along with Sin or Liliane.
Liliane is a woman hoping to find adventure in her life before submitting to a cold society marriage, but I also could see her as a capable agent for the Crown. She can think on her feet and keeps her head as suspicions fall on everyone she thought she could trust. When the story shifts back to England and the lies are all ripped away I saw the other side of Liliane’s character, where her vulnerabilities and fears push her to making rash decisions. She felt human to me and was well matched with Sin, who had his own failings in his stubbornness and guarded nature.
I love that the story could go any number of ways in the potential sequels. There is a sense that the mission isn’t quite over for several secondary characters, but Sin and Liliane have played their part in keeping England safe for another day. I’ll be keeping an eye on Elizabeth Squire and would recommend Closer to Sin to readers who appreciate a little intrigue with their romance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Squire’s love of writing romance couldn’t be further from the life she had carved out for herself. Raised in outback and rural Australia, Elizabeth was determined to live a life vibrant with passion, travel, adventure and discovery—other than the one she had already lived through the pages of the innumerable she read and loved. And so, turning her back on a life in the bush, she invested a lot of years chasing her dreams—she enjoyed a career as a commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy, and counts white-water rafting the Zambezi River, travelling by safari truck through Africa, and back-packing through Eastern Europe with her young family as just a few of her many adventures.
But amongst the adventure, the urge to write intensified as story lines and dialogue continued to materialize from the recesses of her mind. She finally accepted that the voices in her head were really characters enmeshed in the tumultuous Georgian and Regency periods, vying for life on paper.
After a nomadic lifestyle, Elizabeth has now settled into her own home and loves nothing better than bringing her passionate heroines and daring rakes to life. She lives with her own hero and one true love, two beautiful daughters and two delinquent miniature long-haired dachshunds. Closer to Sin is Elizabeth’s debut novel.