Tag Archive | napoleonic

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Surrendering the Past (The Granville Legacy Series Book 1) by Pamela Lynne

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In a world of honor and obligation, falling in love can be a dangerous game. Captain Richard Granville has returned to London after serving the Crown in perilous missions fighting Napoleon’s army. Bone weary and distrustful of all around him, the captivating Jane Dawson awakens his long dormant desire for more than a solitary existence. When he learns she is betrothed to his father, the conniving and dangerous Earl of Litchfield, shadows of the past descend upon Richard, bringing along memories of a tortuous childhood and his failure to protect the person he had loved most.

Jane Dawson would pay any price to renew her family’s happiness, but is the cost of marrying Lord Litchfield too high? A woman of virtue and honor, she cannot break a promise once given, especially when doing so would ruin those she seeks to protect. But can she ignore the connection she feels to the wild soldier who understands both her duty and her heart?

Follow the men of the Granville family in this suspenseful Regency romance series as they discover that their family legacy is much darker than they realized, and that the future holds treasures they can only grasp by surrendering the past.

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EXCERPT

The short walk to Litchfield House served to be enough to numb the gentlemen in both body and spirit. The cold wind whipped around and through them, preparing them for the chill they were likely to find inside that evening. The convivial spirit the two enjoyed earlier was gone as each prepared to thwart whatever Lord Litchfield’s machinations would be. Though Richard was sure the evening would bring news of his brother’s betrothal, his father would never miss the chance to manipulate all those around him, even if only for his own amusement.

As they entered, a shrill, cackling laugh descended upon them, greeting them in much the same way the wind had earlier. The butler did not react to the sound as he took their outwear and handed them to a footman.

Richard raised his eyebrows and turned to Julian as they descended the steps into the grand hall. “It seems my father brought a harpy back with him from his last trip to hell.”

Julian barely smiled as they stepped toward the closed doors of the drawing room, where the butler was leading them. When the doors opened and they were announced, Richard scanned the room in his usual eagle-like fashion. His father’s men dotted the perimeter of the room. These were burley men who guarded the earl at all times. Richard did not recognize the faces, but he did not need to. He knew who they were and what their job was. He wondered briefly how his father always managed to find these men, always with the same look about them—mean, solid, yet short in stature. The earl would never have a subordinate looking down on him, not even one meant to intimidate.

Richard’s eyes next landed on his brother, Wesley, standing in the middle of the room surrounded by beautiful women whom Richard did not immediately recognize. He made a step toward the group when his father intercepted him.

“Ah, my son and my nephew. You have finally joined us.” The earl’s voice held a sickening sweetness that made Richard want to run. It was the voice Litchfield always gave when he was up to something vile—the performance before the mask was removed to reveal the evil underneath. Richard began to question his belief that the purpose of the evening was simply to celebrate Wesley’s betrothal, but rather something far more sinister.

Neither man responded but stood as the earl’s icy gaze trailed over his son. “It is good of you to make an appearance, Richard. I did not know if you were alive or dead these last two years.”

Richard’s outward appearance did not change as his father spoke. He retained the cold, emotionless expression he held when he walked through the door. Inside, he was reminding himself that he was no longer a child, and that voice need not send a bolt of fear straight through him. “You seemed to know enough to find me last week.”

“Yes, well, London is my town, is it not? I have many acquaintances here who like to fill me in on all the goings on. I am not fortunate enough to have friends in France or wherever it was you were all this time.” He paused once more to search Richard’s expression. Knowing full well what he was doing, Richard kept his gaze hard and unyielding. “Well, it is of no matter now. Your brother will be happy to see you.”

As the earl’s attention turned to Julian, Richard’s eyes once again wandered to his brother. Wesley seemed to stand straighter than the last time he saw him. As the eldest and heir to the considerable Litchfield estate, Wesley, Viscount Ashly, certainly had reason to be proud. However, it was not pride Richard read in his eyes as Wesley stared into his own, though, but curiosity mixed with something Richard could not name.

He father’s voice resonated beside him, but Richard barely heard him as the women in Wesley’s company came into focus. He recognized Rachel by the way she smiled sweetly in his direction. The years had been good to her. He remembered her as a slightly mousey, and mouthy, young lady, but the woman standing there was beautiful. He assumed the lack of a husband had kept her young and strong.

He nodded to her and turned his eyes to a smaller woman with many of the same features standing between Rachel and Wesley. She had a grip on his brother’s arm that left no doubt who she was. Kathleen. My future sister. The possessiveness in her expression hardened her otherwise lovely features, and Richard wondered at the cause of the protective stance. A slight look to the left of Wesley gave him his answer.

Captain Richard Granville was not often in the company of women. He had no sisters or any living female relations. He had often thought this was because the Granville men were so large and consuming that there was no room for delicacy, and the women just could not survive among them. There were, of course, the whores who followed the encampments along the battlefields and the occasional female spy who could never be trusted. But having so little experience with ladies in polite society, he was at first surprised and then gratified as a blush crept up this woman’s features as he held her eyes in his own. He heard the cackling laugh once more and watched as her blush intensified and turned into one of shame. She turned away, and Richard immediately missed having her eyes upon him. What was this angel doing in the den of the devil?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Pamela Lynne grew up in the American South, surrounded by Southern Gothic works by Faulkner, O’Connor and the like. These authors helped shape her evolving mind and continue to influence everything she produces as an adult. It was a Regency-era wit from across the Atlantic, however, who lit a life-long interest in 19th Century England.

Pamela cites Jane Austen as her primary literary influence and she delves into the darker aspects of Regency life in all her novels, most particularly in The Granville Legacy Series, where she explores the bonds of family and what it costs to break them.

Dearest Friends: A Jane Austen Inspired Novel, Pamela’s debut work, won the Independent Publishers 2016 IPPY Awards Bronze Medal for Romance.
Pamela currently lives in the rolling hills of Tennessee with her husband of more than a decade, three kids, two cats, and one very blond dog. She is still a Marianne hoping to grow into Elinor, or Clairee from Steel Magnolias.

Twitter: @pamelalynne1
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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pamela-Lynne-226234447711114/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Cantata of Love (Code Breakers #4) by Jacki Delecki

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Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

Look for more heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue, and sizzling romance with the release of Book Four in The Code Breaker Series.

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EXCERPT

Two weeks earlier in Paris

Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, resting face down on the settee, attempted to stand with the arrival of his unexpected guests in the drawing room. He was quite adroit at avoiding any pressure or pain from the gunshot wound in his arse by this nimble maneuver. Using his arms to push himself off the settee, he planted one leg at a time, twisting forward, preventing any backside contact.

Hurrying to greet the two nuns encased in black robes and white wimples, and to secure his dressing gown from revealing any part, he twisted a bit too quickly and fell backward on his wound. The sharp pain on impact was excruciating. “Son of a bitch.” He knocked over his brandy in the fall, spilling the liquid into his boots. “Double son of a bitch.”

Denby, his valet, rushed to greet the guests. A severe, tall nun held a young boy’s hand; a round nun carried a large portmanteau. Denby turned back at the commotion caused by the fall. He signaled impatiently with his hand for Michael to get off the floor. The tall nun’s penetrating gaze left Michael feeling fully exposed for every one of his transgressions.

Without any help from his valet, he was left to get off the floor. Hampered by his cumbersome, dressing gown, he struggled on all fours to obtain an upright position.

The boy giggled behind his hand at Michael’s gymnastics. The minx whispered to the tall nun whose austere lines softened when she leaned down to answer.

Now upright, he pulled himself up and walked forward with decorum of his rank, his hands holding his dressing gown together. He glanced at Denby, whose face was red. Could a stalwart of the cavalry be embarrassed by the censure of a nun?

“Sister Marie Therese and Sister Genevieve, may I present Lord Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal,” Denby said.

Michael bowed with the correct amount of aristocratic poise for greeting the sisters, who had just witnessed his disgraceful fall. He ignored the piercing pain that shot down his arse. “A pleasure, I’m sure. May I ring for tea?”

The round Sister Genevieve smiled. It was obvious that she had an amiable personality, unlike her tight-lipped and tight…superior.

“There is no time. Only a snack for Pierre for the journey.” Sister Marie Therese commanded.

Avoiding further pain, Michael nodded instead of bowing to the youth. “How do you do, Monsieur Pierre?”

With his eyes focused down, the boy whispered almost inaudibly, “Monsieur.” A hat covered his hair, little wisps of blond hair framed his pale face.

“We should make the switch quickly. The men watching your home will be suspicious of your entertainment of the Sisters of the Visitation.” Sister Marie Therese’s speech was clipped, her manner fixed. “Lord Kendal, remove your dressing gown.”

Michael stiffened. He had been imbibing generous amounts of brandy for the pain, but he had consumed nowhere near-enough to have imagined that a nun had just instructed him to get naked.

He turned to Denby for help, but the seasoned soldier’s gaze was on the ground, his face as bright a crimson as a chaste debutante.

Michael replied through gritted teeth, “Over my dead body.”

“Lord Kendal, it will be your dead body if we don’t make haste.”

Sister Marie Therese stepped closer. Her eyes flashed with authority, the same look he assumed she gave to Pierre and other wayward children. “You and Monsieur Denby will escape Paris and deliver Pierre to the safety of England. You will leave France disguised as Sisters of Visitation.”

In the seaside town of Berck, France

Lady Gabrielle De Valmont pushed back Lord Harcourt’s blond curls and applied the wet cloth to his burning brow. His long golden eyelashes brushed against his bright red cheekbones. In their days of hard travel from Paris, the earl’s gunshot wound had festered into a nasty infection.

At this moment, he rested, but, in the past days when the fever peaked, he thrashed, calling out about a book to woman named Henrietta. Desperate to soothe him, Gabrielle discovered he’d calm with the French songs of her childhood.

They couldn’t stay in the little village much longer without Napoleon’s or Fouche’s henchmen discovering them. Gabrielle had brought them to her former nanny’s tiny village of Berck, south of Calais, when it became obvious the earl couldn’t travel. They waited until the middle of the night to make their entrance into the village to avoid alerting the citizens.

For seven long days and nights, she had cared for the ill Earl. Their presence in the tiny town couldn’t be kept secret much longer. They had to leave Berck and France.

But how would they cross the channel with the French soldiers on alert, watching all the boats crossing the English Channel?

Monsieur Denby, Lord Harcourt’s valet, had assured her that he had a plan to divert their attention away.

Helpless and despondent from the exhaustion, she beseeched the Blessed Virgin for their safe escape and the earl’s recovery.

She also prayed that Lord Harcourt would forgive her and Mother Therese for their deception. When he understood what Fouche and Napoleon had planned for her, she knew the amiable gentleman wouldn’t abandon her to her terrible fate.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacqueline DeleckiAbout the Author: Jacki Delecki is a Best-Selling, Romantic Suspense writer. Delecki’s Grayce Walters Series, which chronicles the adventures of a Seattle animal acupuncturist, was an editor’s selection by USA Today. Delecki’s Romantic Regency The Code Breaker Series hit number one on Amazon. Both acclaimed series are available for purchase at http://www.JackiDelecki.com.

To learn more about Jacki and her books and to be the first to hear about contests and giveaways join her newsletter found on her website: www. JackiDelecki.com. Follow her on Facebook Jacki Delecki; Twitter @jackidelecki.

VIRTUAL TOUR: A Raven’s Heart (Secrets and Spies #2) by K.C. Bateman

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In the war against France, Heloise Hampden is a high-value asset to the Crown. She’s cracked the enemy’s most recent communication, and for that, someone is trying to kill her. However, it’s the agent assigned to protect Heloise who poses the greatest threat to her heart: William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood. Heloise has quarreled with the man they call Raven since childhood, yet always maintained a chaste distance. She’s sure nothing will change, thanks to the disfiguring scar on her face. So why is she so enchanted by the sight of Raven’s jet-black hair, rakish smile, and wicked green eyes?

Nothing has changed. Raven still wonders how Hell-cat Hampden’s lithe body would feel pressed against his, but for the mission he must remind himself that the woman takes more pleasure in ancient languages than she does in seduction. His imprisonment six years ago broke him in a way that makes the prospect of love impossible. Still, his heart beats like mad whenever he’s within ten paces of Heloise, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe—even if that means taking her to Spain as an unwilling hostage. Protecting her from danger will be a challenge; protecting her from desire will be pure agony.

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EXCERPT

England, June 1816

“I’m a spy, not a bloody nursemaid!”

William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood, glared across the desk at his mentor, Lord Castlereagh.

The older man shook his head, supremely unmoved by his outburst. “Miss Hampden needs immediate protection. Someone’s targeting my code breakers and whoever killed Edward could also have discovered her identity. I can’t afford to lose her, too.”

Raven narrowed his eyes. “Use another agent.”

Castlereagh gave him one of those level, penetrating looks he so excelled at. “Who? Neither of her brothers are here; Nic’s in Paris, and Richard’s following a lead on that French forger he’s been after for months. Who else is left?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “We’ve lost too many good men. First Tony got himself killed in France, then Kit disappeared. There’s been no news of him for months.”

Raven frowned. He refused to consider the distasteful probability that his friend was dead. Kit was like him, a master of survival. He could be deep undercover. But with every week that went by with no word it became harder and harder to stay positive.

“And now another good man, Edward Lamb, had been murdered,” Castlereagh sighed. “I don’t want Miss Hampden to be next.”

The older man was a master of applying just the right amount of pressure and guilt. He hadn’t made it to head of the Foreign Office without knowing how to manipulate people.

“You think I should entrust her to a less competent operative?” Castlereagh mused softly. “You’re not burdened by false modesty, Ravenwood. You know you’re the best I have. I was hoping you’d use your exceptional talent for survival to keep Miss Hampden alive, too.”

Raven sighed, well aware he was being backed into a corner. If it had been anyone else he wouldn’t have hesitated.

But Heloise Hampden was the fly in his ointment. The spoke in his wheel.

A total bloody menace.

Hellcat Hampden had been the subject of his guilty daydreams for years. What had started out as adolescent musings had matured into fevered erotic fantasies that showed absolutely no sign of abating. He’d told himself the attraction was because she was forbidden, tried to lose himself in other, far more available women. Nothing had worked. And while he’d rarely paid much attention to the monotonous sermons preached by the clergy, he was fairly sure there was something in the bible that said “thou shalt not covet thy best friend’s little sister.” Or words to that effect.

He was the last person she should be entrusted to. He’d sworn to stay away from her. Had avoided her quite successfully—give or take a few blessedly brief skirmishes—for the past six years. Hell, he’d traveled to the far corners of war torn Europe to try to forget her.

And now here he was, drawn back to her by some malevolent twist of fate.

As if his life wasn’t cursed enough already.

Over the past few years they’d settled into an uneasy, albeit barbed, truce; it was a sad reflection on his twisted nature that he preferred sparring with her to holding a reasonable conversation with anyone else.

His blood thrummed at the prospect of seeing her again and he smiled in self-directed mockery. Few things increased his heartbeat anymore. In combat he was a master of his emotions, sleek and deadly and efficient. Fighting barely elevated his pulse. He could kill a man without breaking a sweat. But put him ten paces away from that slip of a girl and a furious drummer took up residence in his chest, battering away against his ribs.

He shook his head. Being near her was a torture he both craved and abhorred, but he had a duty to keep her safe. A duty to her family, to Castlereagh, to the whole damn country. Much as he’d like someone else to deal with her, he didn’t trust anyone else. She was his to torment.

Castlereagh, the old devil, smiled, as if he already sensed Raven’s grudging acceptance. “That’s settled, then. She’s safe at home right now. You can go over and get her in the morning.”

He rose and strode to the door of the study, then flashed an amused glance at Raven’s immaculate evening attire and the mask resting on the desk. “I apologize for interrupting your evening, Ravenwood. I’ll leave you to your entertainments.”

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, October 2016

Time and Setting: England and Spain, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

A Raven’s Heart is both the second in K.C. Bateman’s Secrets and Spies series and her second published book – and what an exciting new addition to the genre she is. I was originally urged to read her début novel To Steal a Heart when it was first published by a respected friend/reviewer who was extremely impressed by it, but for various reasons, kept putting it off; now I’m wondering why on earth I didn’t jump to it immediately, because my friend knew me better than I knew myself and I was quite blown away by A Raven’s Heart.

William de l’lsle, Viscount Ravenwood, is an embittered and changed man since he was kidnapped six years earlier in an attempt to blackmail his grandfather, the Duke of Avondale. The duke, however, refused to pay the ransom demanded by the blackmailers, and misguidedly attempted to thwart the plot by employing his own investigators. Eventually, Ravenswood effected his own rescue and revenged himself upon his grandfather by refusing to have anything to do with him. Raven (as he is commonly known) then became an agent for the crown, a role for which he is well suited having gained confidence, fearlessness and ruthlessness whilst in captivity where he faced death on a daily basis. He fully accepts the new darker side to his character, but he can do little about the simmering attraction he feels for Heloise, a girl who can’t simply be seduced and left.

Heloise Hampden is highly intelligent with an unusual gift for intricate code breaking. Her talent has been discovered and utilised in the continuing war against the French who are anxious to liberate Bonaparte from exile and return him to power. As a result of her success at breaking the complex coded messages intercepted by English agents, her life is in danger, and Raven is assigned by Lord Castlereagh, head of the Foreign Office, as her protector.

Raven grew up as a friend to Heloise’s brothers, and the strong bond of friendship continues given that they are all in the same dangerous business. There has always been a spark of attraction between Raven and Heloise which they don’t acknowledge but which they keep under wraps by sniping at each other with petty insults. Heloise deciphers a message from the French which relates to a friend of Raven’s – fellow spy, Kit Carlisle – who is being held prisoner by the French. The message speaks of the possibility of an exchange of prisoners – Kit, for one of their valuable operatives; the exchange to take place in a village in Spain near the French border. And Raven, ruthless though he is, is also a man of integrity and loyal to a fault, so there is no question that he will do all in his power to rescue his friend; and as he must protect Heloise – she will travel with him.

The sexual tension between the two main protagonists fairly sizzles from beginning to end; Ms. Bateman has a rare talent for character development, they are superbly drawn – realistic and plausible. I just loved the tortured and damaged, but utterly gorgeous, Raven – what’s not to love about this charismatic hunk, flaws and all? Heloise – or Hell-cat as Raven refers to her – is a feisty, beautiful, headstrong and perceptive young woman. She is in love with Raven and always has been, but recognises the need to keep this revelation to herself. Instead she chips away at his defences and forces him to face up to his own shortcomings and feelings. These are two of the most likeable characters I have encountered recently in HR; although Heloise is an enlightened and strong young woman, she still retains her vulnerability and femininity; and although Raven is a cynical, fearless, arrogant, alpha male, he still has that little-boy-lost feel to his personality that we all love to love.

I thoroughly appreciated Ms. Bateman’s eloquent writing style and her scholarship is evident in many subjects, but in particular, I loved her references to characters and languages from classical civilisation, which added another layer to an already fascinating and intriguing story. I found myself constantly referring to the kindle dictionary and actually learned a lot. I was impressed by the well researched, historically correct background to the story and the non fictional historical characters interwoven with the fictional. The story is romantic, witty, tense, funny and interesting and kept me enthralled to the end. Ms. Bateman certainly hit the ground running with this, her first series, Secrets and Spies and I look forward with anticipation to more from this talented author. Highly recommended.

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K.C BATEMAN IS OFFERING A COPY OF TO STEAL A HEART (BOOK ONE IN THE SECRETS AND SPIES SERIES TO THREE LUCKY WINNERS! ENTER THE GIVEAWAY AT RAFFLECOPTER, BELOW.
The Giveaway is open for seven days, and the winner will be notified shortly after the release date. Please leave a comment stating your preferred format.

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About the Author

kate-bateman-author-picKate Bateman (writing as K. C. Bateman) wrote her first historical romance in response to a $1 bet with her husband who rashly claimed she’d ‘never finish the thing.’ She gleefully proved him wrong with a historical set in the Italian Renaissance. Now writing for Random House Loveswept, her ‘Secrets & Spies’ Regency-era trilogy features her trademark feisty, intelligent heroines, wickedly inappropriate banter, and heroes you want to alternately strangle and kiss—all mixed up in the intrigue and turmoil of the Napoleonic wars.

When not traveling to exotic locations ‘for research’, Kate leads a double life as a fine art appraiser and on-screen antiques expert for several TV shows in the UK. She splits her time between Illinois and her native England and writes despite three inexhaustible children and a husband who has flatly refused to read any of her books ‘unless she hits the NY Times Bestseller list.’ It is—naturally—her fervent desire to force the semi-illiterate, number-loving cynic to do so. He still owes her that dollar.

Kate loves to hear from readers. Contact her on Twitter @katebateman, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, Goodreads or via her website at www.kcbateman.com

A License to Wed (Rebellious Brides #2) by Diana Quincy

a license to wed
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Lady Elinor Dunsmore made the mistake of falling for her older brother’s best friend, who vanished after a night of unbridled passion. Six years and a lifetime later, their eyes meet across a Paris salon. Her friends and family believe she’s dead, but Elle is very much alive. She’s now associated with a ruthless general, who wants her to seduce the man who broke her heart in order to learn his deepest secrets. Is Will a mild-mannered scholar—or the notorious agent they call The Razor?

The bastard son of an earl and an actress, Will Naismith always knew he was an unsuitable match for Elle Dunsmore, no matter how powerfully he ached for her. And yet he almost allowed his desires to spoil her glittering future. After the agony caused by Elle’s supposed death, Will has devoted himself to the Crown, but his entire life has been leading up to this unexpected reunion. As much as he still wants her, though, he must not succumb to lust once again. For his mission is delicate—and Elle is delectably dangerous.

Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, July 2016
Time and Setting: Regency England/Napoleonic France
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Review by Jenny Q

After the sudden death of Elinor Dunsmore, the young woman he loved, Will Naismith spent the next six years throwing himself into his work, traveling the globe and rooting out information close to home, all in service to the English crown. We first met him in Spy Fall, where he helped Elinor’s brother unmask a traitor and discover the whereabouts of Elinor’s daughter. Now in Paris on a new assignment, Will is shocked to come face-to-face with none other than Elinor herself, very much alive, the darling of post-Revolution society, and mistress of one of France’s most dangerous men. As Elle evades his questions, discounting the love they once shared, and continues to grace the arm of the man Will is tasked with stopping before he can divulge state secrets, Will realizes this Elinor is nothing like the woman he once loved beyond all reason, and she’s likely a traitor to her homeland. When one of his top agents goes missing and a connection to Elinor is uncovered, Will must put the past behind him and fulfill his duty to king and country, no matter the cost.

Will Naismith is the last person Elle ever expected to see in Paris. Though she wants nothing more than to lose herself in his embrace – which still sets her heart racing after all these years – she has no choice but to keep him at arm’s length. That is until her ruthless companion – one of Napoléon’s generals – tasks her with seducing Will in an effort to uncover the identity of Le Rasoir, England’s top intelligence officer in France. Since the general is holding the whereabouts of her missing daughter over her head, Elle is forced to comply. Even though she has secrets of her own, nothing prepares her for the secrets Will is hiding or the lengths he is willing to go to in the name of duty. But as the two circle each other in an effort to outsmart and outlast, all while attempting to deny the connection between them, the game they are playing turns deadly, and both will have to decide what they are willing to risk for love, for each other, and for the chance at a future they never thought they could have together.

I had such high hopes for A License to Wed based on how much I enjoyed the first book in the series, Spy Fall. Finding out that Elinor was alive when everyone thought her dead for the past six years was a shocking twist, and I couldn’t wait to find out where she had been and how her loved ones would react to the news. Unfortunately, most of it fell flat for me. I couldn’t believe that Will didn’t immediately demand answers or keep pressing Elinor for the truth, and I found Elinor’s flippant treatment of her return from the dead to be very callous and selfish. Nor did I find a satisfactory explanation for where she’d been, how her family came to think she was dead in the first place, and why she never bothered to disabuse them of that notion. And so much of the angst between Will and Elinor could have been cleared up if they had just TALKED to each other. Misunderstandings are one of my least favorite plot devices in romance. To me, it’s a hallmark of a weak plot, and there was so much to work with in this story that it really could have been better developed. I thought I was going to get a tale of two spies caught up in a dangerous game of intrigue, but that’s really not what happened at all. And Will and Elinor’s romance lacked the witty banter and sexy innuendo that made Spy Fall so good.

I was invested enough to keep reading to see how it would all end, and there were some exciting moments and touching scenes of tenderness along the way. In browsing other reviews, my feelings are definitely in the minority. If you loved Spy Fall, you’ve got to read A License to Wed for the continuation of the story, but overall it did not live up to my (admittedly high) expectations.

Only Beloved (Survivor’s Club #7) by Mary Balogh

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For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again.

Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.

For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?

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Publisher and Release Date: Signet, May 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: 1820s, London and Cornwall, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Dora Debbins, music teacher to the children of Inglebrook in Gloucestershire enjoyed her life, but she still missed her younger sister Agnes, who had lived with Dora for a year after she was widowed. Agnes has recently married and moved away; both she and her husband had encouraged Dora to live with them, but Dora preferred feeling useful. Sometimes her mind wanders back to a party at nearby Middlebury Park, where Dora had played the harp and pianoforte after dinner. The Duke of Stanbrook had been especially kind to her, and Dora had felt more alive than ever in her entire life. But, as a thirty-nine-year-old spinster, Dora allowed herself to entertain no romantic notions.

Meanwhile, at Stanbrook House in London, George Crabbe waved farewell to his house guests and settled into his comfortable library chair, reflecting how nice it was to know that he could do anything, or nothing, with his time. During the past two years, he had traveled hither and yon attending the weddings of all six of his closest friends, all members of the Survivors’ Club. Now the weddings are over, and George finally admits to himself that he is lonely. He wants companionship, and wonders whether Dora Debbins might be the right woman for him.
Imagine Dora’s shock when George appears unexpectedly in her parlor, announces that he has just arrived from London, and asks, “I wondered, Miss Debbins, if you might do me the great honor of marrying me.”

Thus begins the seventh and final book in Mary Balogh’s Survivors’ Club series. The survivors – five men and one woman – each suffered traumatic injuries in the wars against Napoleon, and the Duke of Stanbrook, whose son had died in battle, opened his estate in Cornwall as a convalescent home. Out of more than two dozen officers who lived there, six had stayed for some three years, and the bond that developed between them was stronger perhaps than those of family. Each of the six previous books focused on one survivor’s struggles, their sometimes incomplete recovery, and their path to happiness in marriage. Although these are romances, Mary Balogh does not sugar-coat the realities of war and its aftermath. For this, she is to be commended, although sometimes it makes for uncomfortable reading.

Only Beloved is quite different from the other books, however. George was not a soldier injured in war. His only child was killed in battle, and shortly thereafter, his wife took her own life. Opening his home to those in need of longer-term care was one way of assuaging his grief. He has appeared in all six books, as a kind of loving father-figure to the others, but we know very little about him, really. And contrary to the standard romance plot, this books begins with the proposal and the wedding, and only afterwards tells the story of George and Dora truly falling in love.

This is a quiet book. Some readers may find the first half or so a bit slow, but I did not, probably because George and Dora are so well-written and their relationship so beautifully and gradually revealed. As an, *ahem*, older reader, I reveled in the notion that this mature couple could find romance and even passion as they experience the ordinary events of everyday life. But, if you’re looking for adventure, this book is not for you. There is no Great Villain or Big Secret shadowing their lives.

There are, however, a villain and some secrets – things which complicate but do not overshadow George and Dora’s lives. It becomes apparent to Dora that George, the deeply compassionate man who took on everyone else’s burdens, has never had anyone with whom to share his. George has suffered tremendously, but he is reticent to share his experience with anyone until his fear of losing Dora convincers him to open up. There is a bit of a mystery here, which is rather well done; I did not anticipate the outcome.

Dora has conflicted feelings about her parents. Her life was almost ruined when her father publicly accused her mother of infidelity. After her mother fled with her supposed lover, her parents divorced, and Dora gave up her hopes for a Season in London to stay home and raise Agnes. The two women have never forgiven their mother and also have some degree of resentment toward their rather distant father for his imprudent public accusation. When Dora learns that her mother, happily remarried for some twenty years, lives in London, that Agnes’ husband has been to see her, and that Agnes refuses do likewise, she is torn. She benefits from George’s huge talent for compassion and understanding, as he supports her through her decision whether to re-establish a relationship with her mother.

George and Dora are expertly drawn. Dora is intelligent, modest, and sensible. Becoming a duchess does not make her giddy (as I believe it would me). Rank is not her purpose in marrying George, and she blossoms under his love and attention. George is downright adorable. His thoughtfulness – buying a harp for Dora, bringing her old piano to Penderris, encouraging her to play and sing for him – made me fall a little bit in love with him myself. They are the focus of the plot, but there are several vivid secondary characters. I was especially touched by the story of Dora’s mother and her husband and repelled by the gossipy Mrs. Parkinson.

I adored the story, and it was great fun to visit with all of the survivors, their spouses, and their growing families. The author spends a good deal of space on the backstory of the Survivors’ Club, which I found distracting. While technically this could be read as a standalone, I think that something would be lost from not knowing more about the Survivors.

Mary Balogh has been writing for more than thirty years, with seventy novels and almost thirty novellas to her credit. I believe that the Survivors’ Club series is her crowning achievement; all seven books are excellent stories of damaged people struggling to achieve some degree of recovery and happiness despite their injuries. I urge you to read them all.

The Lure of the Moonflower (Pink Carnation #12) by Lauren Willig

the lure of the moonflower

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In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.

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Publisher and Release Date: NAL, August 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Portugal, 1807/8
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Natalie

Let me begin by saying I have been reading the Pink Carnation series from (almost) the beginning. I have always loved the strong, funny, and exciting characters the author has scattered through her books. So, for the sake of transparency dear reader, this may not be the most un-biased review. When I first received The Lure of the Moonflower, I didn’t realize it was the last book in the series and was both sad to see a favorite series ending and skeptical. So many other series become strained as the author produces more and more books, stretching plots and characters thin but Lauren Willig had managed to keep her books fresh and quick witted. How could the final story in this series, the one that gives an inside look at the legendary Pink Carnation herself and an ending to her daring story, live up to the expectations I had from the first eleven books and assorted novellas?

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. As always Lauren Willig produces an intelligent, well researched, historically accurate plot with witty and interesting characters as well as the perfect dose of sexual tension. It is 1807 and Jane Wooliston is in Lisbon working as a British spy in the fight against Napoleon and his troops. Her mission is to find Mad Queen Maria, who has been hidden away. Jane’s effectiveness is restricted by the fact that she isn’t familiar with the country, nor can she speak the language. To complicate matters her contact is none other than Jack Reid, the French/British double agent who has proved to be loyal to no one but himself. Of course Jack is skeptical that Jane is a spy – let alone the legendary Pink Carnation – but after convincing him, the pair begin to admire and respect the other’s skills and commitment; and as they work together that admiration grows to mutual attraction.

As Jane and Jack roam the countryside, they realize how much alike they are and the sparks begin to fly. I not only loved the relationship between the couple, but I also adored that Ms Willig had several other favorite characters make small appearances throughout the book giving readers the chance to catch up with old friends along the way. It was both gratifying and sad to say goodbye to this wonderful, engaging series but I am so pleased with The Lure of the Moonflower. It went above and beyond my expectations and was the perfect finish to a great series!

A Mistress for Major Bartlett (Brides of Waterloo #2) by Annie Burrows

A mistress for major bartlett

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Major Tom Bartlett is shocked to discover the angel who nursed his battle wounds is darling of the ton Lady Sarah Latymor. One taste of her threatens both her impeccable reputation and his career!

An honorable man would ask for her hand, but Bartlett is considered an unrepentant rake by polite society; sweet Sarah would be spurned as his mistress and even as his wife. He demands she leave, but Sarah is just as determined to stay by his side—and in his bed!

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Publisher and Release Date: Mills & Boon Historical, June 2015
RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Belgium, 1815
Heat Level: 1.5
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

This is the second book in a trilogy of stories by different authors that are collectively entitled Brides of Waterloo, written to mark the two hundredth anniversary of that momentous battle.

I read the first book, Sarah Mallory’s A Lady for Lord Randall recently, and enjoyed it, so was eagerly anticipating this instalment, in which the heroine is Lady Sarah Latymor, sister to Justin Latymor, the titular Lord Randall of book one.

Towards the end of that book, Randall and his crack team of riflemen, known throughout the army as “Randall’s Rogues” because its members are the “raff and scaff of the military gathered into one troop”, are plunged into the thick of the fighting. During the onslaught, Sarah’s twin brother, Gideon, is killed and after the battle, she discovers Justin is Missing in Action. Devastated by the loss of her twin and possibly of her eldest brother, too, Sarah insists on joining the search for Justin, accompanied by Mary Endacott, the young schoolmistress with whom Justin is in love.

When Sarah is separated from the search-party, she stumbles across a badly wounded officer whose uniform indicates he must be part of her brother’s regiment. She defends him from a couple of French peasants who are intent upon murder, and with the help of two of his men, manages to convey him back to Brussels. She recalls the last time she’d seen Major Thomas Bartlett, tall and wickedly handsome, a man whose reputation with the ladies made it inconceivable that a respectable young woman like Sarah could ever have anything to do with him. But war makes for strange bedfellows, so to speak, and Sarah does the previously unthinkable. Instead of consigning the major to the local military hospital, where it is likely he will be viewed as too close to death to bother with, she is persuaded by his men to take him back to her rooms and nurse him herself.

In fact, she was going to have to breach practically every rule by which she’d lived. She’d always taken such pains to keep her reputation spotless that she’d never been without a chaperon, not even when visiting the ladies’ retiring room at a ball. She could scarcely believe she’d just encouraged two hardened criminals to install the regiment’s most notorious rake in her bedroom.

Sarah is simultaneously amazed at herself and terrified. Not only is she going to jepoardise her reputation, but looking after a seriously injured man is a huge responsibility, and not one she feels adequately prepared to cope with.

All her life, she’s struggled with feelings of inadequacy; she’s not beautiful enough, not clever enough, not resourceful enough, not brave enough. She knows what everyone thinks of her, that she’s a “spoiled, empty-headed society miss”, whose thoughtlessness causes problems for others to solve. Yet Ms Burrows shows us over and again that despite what she thinks, Sarah is not those things, and gives us enough backstory to explain how she came to those conclusions. And like Sarah, Tom Bartlett is a man with little self-esteem; his father was a bankrupt who committed suicide and left his son to the care of relatives who mistreated him; and he has grown up feeling as though he is worthless.

The thing I most enjoyed about the book is something for which others have criticised it; namely that it is principally a “two-hander” that takes place in one room. Personally, I think that is the ideal setting for two people who don’t know each other to spend time together getting to know each other and falling in love – and that’s exactly what happens. Sarah gains confidence as she begins to see that Tom is improving in her care, and he finds that having someone around who thinks the best of him rather than the worst, enables him to see himself more clearly and perhaps realise that he isn’t as black as he’s been painted. The part that doesn’t quite ring true, and why I haven’t graded the book more highly, is in Tom’s persistence in the belief that he isn’t worthy of Sarah, and her insistence that she doesn’t want to get married, even after they’ve slept together. The latter is always something I find problematic in historicals, given the importance placed on virginity and the stigma attached to unwed mothers and their children.

Apart from those things though, A Mistress for Major Bartlett is an enjoyable, well-told story, in which the author has made excellent use of her historical backdrop. So many books set at this period reference Waterloo, but few of them take the reader there or use it as more than a convenient reference point. Here, the descriptions of the aftermath of battle at the beginning of the book are vividly powerful, putting the reader firmly on those blood-soaked fields of Belgium. Both protagonists are well-rounded characters and the slow-burn romance between them is very nicely done. It’s an enjoyable, quick read, and one I’d certainly recommend to anyone who likes their historical romance to be sprinkled liberally with actual history!

Captured Countess by Ann Lethbridge

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Never trust a spy!

Nicoletta, the Countess Vilandry, is on a dangerous mission — to lure fellow spy Gabriel D’Arcy into bed and into revealing his true loyalties. With such sensual games at play and such strong sensations awakened, suddenly Nicky’s dangerously close to exposing her real identity.

Gabe knows that the countess has been sent to seduce him. The only question is to what end? He’s never met such a captivating woman—and he’s determined to enjoy every seductive second she spends as his very willing captive!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This book has been recently re-issued under the title GABRIEL D’ARCY.

Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical, December 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Napoleonic era, Cornwall and France
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

Gabriel (Gabe) D’Arcy is a handsome but impoverished marquess who exudes a devil-may-care attitude of charm and sensuality as he mingles in a polite society that whispers about his native loyalties. But that’s okay since Gabe is making a living as a spy in Napoleonic England. He works for an elite but unorthodox secret spy ring called Sceptre and the gossip about his activities works to his advantage.

Nicoletta, the beautiful Countess of Vilandry, was born Nicky Rideau, a wealthy French aristocrat whose parents were killed in riots during the Reign of Terror. Saved by a ruthless and unhappy marriage arranged by her uncle to an older and influential man, her life was spared but at a great and heartbreaking cost to both her and her younger sister, Minette, who has gone missing and whom Nicky seeks. Nicky is also a spy, but she was coerced into service in order to be able to return to France to find her missing sister. Her mission? To uncover the truth of Gabe’s true loyalties – French or English? Her weapon? Seduction.

Gabe is a smart man, however, and knows exactly what the beautiful countess is up to. And he decides to play her game to his own ends. He needs to find the reason that Nicky was sent. As a result, neither Nicky nor Gabe trust each other as each thinks the other is loyal to France.

But Nicky and Gabe are also very attracted to each other and their passion threatens to get in the way of the mission, thwart their goals, and reveal their loyalties. Nicky and Gabe are a mature older couple who – against their better judgement – engage in what both believe is only a casual affair even as they slowly fall in love and begin – reluctantly – to trust each other.

Nicky is a brave heroine, a survivor who carries the weight of the past and the world on her shoulders. She is smart, too, and doesn’t make dumb decisions which put her into situations from which Gabe must “rescue” her. She has a goal in mind and she stays the course. Gabe admires Nicky and comes to protect and love her as she has never been cared for before. Theirs is a sexy and poignant love story and both hero and heroine are strong individuals who come to let down their guards and let love in.

Ann Lethbridge pens an exciting and fast-paced tale that takes the reader from a hot and stuffy ballroom in England, on a long and tiring journey to a crumbling estate on the Cornish coast – complete with secret passages and caves – and, finally, on a dangerous sea voyage to France. Rich descriptions of topography and rest stops at local inns along the way add colorful imagery to a gripping story. Along the way, Nicky and Gabe play a sensual game where passionate feelings war with logic and the goals of their respective missions. Their romance is as prominent as the espionage creating a captivating historical picture.

Fiction also meets history when the King of England makes a pivotal appearance near the end in this romantic story of intrigue. If you enjoy the thrilling spy stories of Donna Thorland and Shana Galen, you will enjoy this book.

Misadventures in Seduction (novella) by Robyn DeHart

missed
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With five siblings to care for, Prudence Hixsby’s duty comes first, even if it means becoming a spinster. When the eldest – and most cherished – of her younger brothers decides to join the war, however, Prudence is determined to keep him safe. So she strikes a bargain with an old acquaintance: her body in exchange for her brother’s safety. In the dead of the night, she slips into the bed of a man whose touch is both fierce and passionate… little knowing she’s just seduced the wrong man. Harrison Carlisle, the Duke of Sutcliffe, never imagined that the lovely Prudence would honor his bed, or just how bewitching those lush curves could be. Yet he keeps a gentleman’s silence. After all, a spy for the Crown can ill afford to marry. But when Prudence’s brother is killed, they find themselves uniting to track down the traitorous murderer. And while death lurks within the shadowy world of espionage, there is also passion… and the unbidden thrill of a seduction!

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Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Publishing, September 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Susan

What begins as an exciting adventure ignited by mistaken identities that manifest into a sensual romance, Misadventures in Seduction, a Masquerading Mistress novella by Robyn DeHart, falters at the endin,g rushing the couple into a matrimonial union that isn’t convincing. The early stages of Harrison Carlisle and Prudence Hixsby’s union are finely scripted. The Duke of Sutcliffe and the Hixsby family’s spinster are brought together under unusual circumstances, giving their desire for one another an opportunity to catch fire. Add an elite spy organization and a traitor to King George intent on funding Napoleon’s return to power while posing as a liaison between the king and the spy ring, and the gist of the story sounds entirely thrilling.

Prudence and Harrison’s reaction to one another has all the makings of the reader’s favorite daytime so-opera couple. In an effort to keep her impetuous brother safe after he joins the British army, Prudence agrees to have a one-night stand with an influential figure who can secure a position for her brother that will keep him away from the front lines.   Unfortunately, Pru slips into Harrison’s bed instead, and has an evening filled with sensual love-making. The body language and graphic descriptions are tasteful while stirring carnal thoughts, but by the time Pru realizes that it was Harrison whom she had bedded, the moment has passed the point of affecting readers.

Harrison is again involved in another case of mistaken identity when the influential figure whom Pru had intended to bed pretends to be him (Harrison) in an assassination attempt on the Prince Regent. This part of the tale draws the reader deeper into the plot but the author skims over important pieces of information which would make the connection for the reader. There is a pivotal scene when the king’s men have cornered Harrison and Pru and the two escape, but the tension is contrived and written expressly in order to give Pru a chance to use a blade and act as the protective figure. From this point on, the story has an artificial tone as the pair discovers the identity of the traitor/assassin and they confront him.

Cases of mistaken identity draw the protagonists together and later influence them to join forces, knowing they make a good team. If the ending of the story had been as well developed as the beginning, this would have made for a thoroughly engaging Regency Romance.

The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener

Published by Gallery Books, 27 November 2012

Blurb

Chance led to Charlotte Raven’s transformation from chimney sweep to wealthy, educated noblewoman, but she still walks a delicate tightrope between two worlds, unable to turn her back on the ruthless crime lord who was once her childhood protector.
When Lord Edward Durnham is tapped to solve the mystery of England’s rapidly disappearing gold, his search leads him to the stews of London, and Charlotte becomes his intriguing guide to the city’s dark, forbidding underworld. But as her involvement brings Charlotte to the attention of men who have no qualms about who they hurt, and as Edward forges a grudging alliance with the dangerous ghosts of Charlotte’s former life, she faces a choice: to continue living in limbo, or to close the door on the past and risk her heart and her happiness on an unpredictable future.

Heat Level 1 Mystery/Romance

Regency/Napoleonic

REVIEW RATING: 4.5 STARS

Review by Caz

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – although it eventually missed out on getting a 5 star rating, of which more later.

The heroine, Charlotte Raven is an unusual one in that she was once a street urchin and has retained her links to London’s underworld, mainly through her friendship with Luke Bracken, who has risen through the ranks of the criminal fraternity to become what we might now term a gangland boss. Although she is well aware of the restrictions that come with her position as a young, unmarried woman, she is nonetheless very direct in her manner and is not afraid to come forward with information that could help others while possibly endangering her own position in society. I liked that she was fairly straightforward with Edward, too – there is no Big Misunderstanding between them in order to drive the story – she is honest about her attraction to him, even though she is wary of acting upon it.

Her relationship with Luke is very well drawn. They share a bond that neither is willing or able to break, even though Charlotte makes it clear several times that she loves him like a brother, Luke can’t help torturing himself with his desire that she will return to him and love him in a romantic way. Their relationship is dysfunctional, messy and not good for either of them, but there is a real depth to its portrayal that makes it quite compelling to read.

Edward, the romantic hero is less well fleshed out, I felt. He’s all a reader would expect in such a character – handsome, titled, rich and clever – but I never really felt like I got to know him. That said, he and Charlotte make an attractive couple, and the parts of the book where they are working together have a real undercurrent of sexual tension. But this is part of the reason for the 4.5 stars instead of 5 – and why I hope that perhaps we will encounter Edward and Charlotte in a future novel – the ending of the novel is rather inconclusive. On one level, that works very well as we are shown Charlotte, finally free of her demons and realising that she can now be her own person in a position to make her own decisions. On another, it’s a little frustrating that we don’t get at least a glimpse of the hero and heroine together at the end of the book. Looking at it in a positive light however, I suppose that gives the reader the chance to draw their own conclusions and it certainly makes Charlotte into a stronger person.

In her author’s note, Michelle Diener points out that her inspiration for the plot of the novel is drawn from the real-life attempt by Napoleon Bonaparte to destabilise the British establishment by undermining its financial system, thereby bringing about revolution and chaos. The story in the book centres around the gradual realisation on the part of Charlotte and Edward of the attempt, by a small group of so-called gentlemen to enrich themselves by smuggling gold out of England and into the hands of the French government.

This was a real page turner for me, one of those books I was eager to pick up during every spare moment I had. The thriller element was very well done indeed, and kept me guessing as to the identities of the conspirators right up until the reveal; and Charlotte’s progression from someone who feels she belonges nowhere to a woman who finally knows who she is, was extremely engaging.

With thanks to Gallery Books and Edelweiss for the review copy.

About me

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.