Embroiled in a scheme to catch an assassin, Lady Claire Talbot will soon learn all that His Majesty’s spy Lord John Reyburn has to hide—and all that his heart is dying to reveal.
LOVE & LIES
At seventeen, Lady Claire Talbot thought she’d found her one true love. But, after rescuing her from a dangerous situation, in undue haste he fled to the Continent instead of marrying her. Now, after years of suppressing her romantic side and honing her practicality, Claire is on the verge of an altogether convenient match.
A man of few words but much passion, Lord John Reyburn always regretted his decision to turn back from Gretna Green. Now, wounded in more ways than one, he is in the place—but not the position—to correct his mistake. His mission in England is to capture an assassin. And, so, one of His Majesty’s more unconventional spies, John must add yet a further deceit: cold indifference to Claire’s impending marital bliss. For unless sweet loyalty and devotion couple with suspicion and betrayal, nothing can make things right.
Publisher and Release Date: Boroughs Publishing Group, July 2014
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance/Thriller
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This is a very well written, lovely, and most enjoyable story. The characters, the pacing of the action, and the charming love story kept me turning the pages until the very end. It almost has the feel of a Jane Austen novel, with the intricate descriptions and drama of the everyday lives of people in England in the Regency era. The story centers on honor and country and is particularly focused on the assassination plot surrounding the British Prime Minister at the time, Robert Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool.
Lady Claire Talbot and Lord John Reyburn are brother and sister-in-law. His brother, a duke, is married to her sister – and John and Claire became estranged after an aborted elopement five years earlier, when John gallantly offered to whisk Claire away from a distasteful arranged marriage. While on the journey to Scotland, however, they were set upon by a highwayman and John failed to be as brave as Claire had hoped. When they were saved by his brother who was traveling on his honeymoon, the elopement was hastily called off and John, humiliated, fled England.
John is a serious and quiet young man – I love the little detail that he wears spectacles – and a clerk in the Foreign Office but, above all, he is a very kind and honorable man. Determined to prove himself to his overbearing and extroverted elder brother and smarting from Claire’s disappointment, he becomes a spy. His latest mission of foiling the plot against Lord Liverpool sees him return to England, the ton and, of course, Claire.
But Claire is now engaged to her good friend, the handsome, striking, and ambitious Stephen, a newly minted viscount who has risen from humble origins to become a member of Parliament after action in the British army. Their betrothal is a friendship match but there is no passion between them.
So when John reappears, it throws Claire’s ordered world into emotional chaos. Soon, she questions her engagement as well as becoming suspicious of John’s covert activities. As in-laws, they stay under the same roof with his brother and their family, a situation that is extremely difficult for both of them.
John and Claire are very likeable and sensible protagonists. Their conversations are intelligent, passionate, and engaging. John’s honor in ferreting out the radicals plotting the assassination of the Prime Minister leads him to suspect her likeable fiancé, a development that upsets not only Claire, but John as well. He loves Claire and he doesn’t want to see her hurt; he also genuinely likes Stephen and, if circumstances were different, they might have become friends.
The attraction between Claire and John is palpable but I barely noticed that their love scenes are few and far between and very brief; there is only one real love scene. But it never feels like something is missing as their sexual tension is evident and the story is so gripping to read.
The family dynamics of John’s brother, sister-in-law, his mother, and his young niece and nephew paint a nice depiction of domestic life and the love of a close extended family. It’s a fascinating window into extraordinary happenings in an ordinary world.
Charlotte Russell writes clearly and concisely with a firm handle on the balance of emotions, conflict, and dialogue; this is her début and it’s very impressive. There are many great moments in this delightful story: the card game scene with John’s unsavory contact at White’s, the political dynamics of John’s investigation, and the history and misunderstandings to be resolved between Claire and John.
Ms Russell is talented writer I’ll be watching.