After her late husband leaves her in debt to some dangerous people, Lady Gabrielle McCullough is forced to become a thief. In the intervening years, her skills have not gone unnoticed. After being recruited by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious do-gooder spiriting aristocrats out of revolutionary France, Gabrielle crosses the Channel for the most daring mission of her life. Accompanying her is the Earl of Sedgwick, a thief in his own right and an enticingly masculine presence. The man is not to be trusted—nor is Gabrielle’s body when he’s near.
Ramsey Barnes would not say he is an honorable man. His whole life has been based on a lie; why change now? Although it pains him to deceive the tantalizing Gabrielle, he’s working toward an altogether different objective: unmasking the Scarlet Pimpernel. If Ramsey fails, his blackmailer will ruin him. But when Ramsey’s confronted with the carnage of the Reign of Terror, he seeks refuge in Gabrielle’s heated embrace. Now he faces a terrible choice: betray the woman who’s stolen his heart—or risk losing everything.
Publisher and Release Date: Loveswept, August 2017
Time and Setting: Paris, 1793
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Sara
In Shana Galen’s latest book Traitor in Her Arms the legendary Scarlett Pimpernel and his mission to save French nobles during the Revolution is the catalyst to many events in the story. I was surprised how little we see of the man himself but he still plays a very important role. Two secret quests, one to save an innocent woman’s life and the other to learn the Pimpernel’s true identity bring heroine and hero together under the best and worst of circumstances.
Lady Gabrielle McCullough has a secret. The debts her late husband left behind put her on the verge of ruin but she’s been hiding the truth with the assistance of a wealthy friend. When selling paintings and family heirlooms wasn’t enough to settle things with a few unscrupulous money lenders, Gabrielle turned to thievery. Her skills have grown over time and she’s managed to grab more than a few choice pieces while attending the social gatherings of the Season. Her next target is an antique lapis lazuli necklace that belonged to Cleopatra which should earn her enough to pay off the final creditor. Breaking into the owner’s room to collect the necklace wasn’t a problem; however her task is complicated when she finds another thief is already in the room and has grabbed the jewels.
Ramsey Barnes, the Earl of Sedgewick hasn’t been very honest with the ton himself. Most of his deceptions are fairly harmless but when someone learns his deepest secret, Ramsey could face ruin. Unwilling to risk his lands and the people who depend on the earldom, Ramsay hopes that he can steal the rare and valuable necklace to bribe his blackmailer to give up her evidence against him. With the piece in hand Ramsay never expected Gabrielle McCullough to appear in the room on a similar mission to take the necklace. Ramsey distracts Gabrielle with a kiss and leaves the building with the jewels but all his effort is pointless when his blackmailer refuses to trade. Instead she uses her power over Ramsey to force him on an almost impossible mission with the promise of his freedom when the task is complete. With no other options Ramsey accepts her challenge to learn the true identity of the elusive Scarlett Pimpernel.
Gabrelle’s anger at losing the necklace to Ramsey is paired with frustration at her own attraction to the man. Her financial crisis hasn’t left Gabrielle any time to play the merry widow and any interest in Ramsey would distract her from collecting enough money to settle Lord McCullough’s debts. Fearing she’s out of time and options Gabrielle is saved from penury when she’s invited into a darkened drawing room and a stranger offers her the chance to become a heroine. The Scarlet Pimpernel is thought to be a myth in Gabrelle’s social circles but the man is real and he knows all about her skills at obtaining rare objects. He tells Gabrielle a tale of a Frenchwoman and her daughter who are slated for execution unless he can find and collect the precious Le Saphir Blanc bracelet. The Pimpernel believes that Gabrielle’s familiarity with Paris and her lock-picking skills will enable her to find the Le Saphir Blanc and negotiate for the woman’s release from prison. Gabrielle is hesitant to accept the Pimpernel’s mission but she cannot ignore the horrors happening on the Continent.
Traitor in Her Arms gets off to a slow start while Gabrielle and Ramsey’s different paths are laid out; however they quickly converge as the reality of the Revolution is revealed to them both. In the style of many an adventure, the couple soon find themselves protecting each other from unexpected dangers and complications to both of their missions. Ms. Galen pulls no punches when describing the fervor of the French citizens to destroy the nobility and some of the atrocities committed are very hard to digest. Both Ramsey and Gabrielle initially approach their tasks as either impersonal transactions or noble quests to save innocent lives, but when they see what the French are doing to their own it changes that perspective for them both and it forces them to reevaluate what is important in their own lives. The relationship between them grows from that new perspective and they each learn to trust despite Ramsey telling Gabrielle that it’s dangerous to put any faith in him.
The story requires a suspension of disbelief that can get in the way of the romance and the dual missions surrounding the Scarlet Pimpernel. Gabrielle may have good intentions in going to Paris but she’s completely out of her depth when it comes to the deceptions and maneuvering it takes to complete her job. Ramsey and other characters must come to her aid more often than not and it becomes frustrating to see just how useless she really is. It’s also somewhat disturbing to have Ramsey following along with Gabrielle and pushing her to succeed when we know that his motivations are mostly selfish. Their love story is awkwardly woven throughout important plot points and I cringed at a completely inappropriate sex scene while they’re running for their lives. Too much of the story’s focus is on the Revolution and the madness that had overtaken the French, giving less time for a believable romance to develop.
I’ve always enjoyed Shana Galen’s books for their romantic adventures but Traitor in Her Arms seems more intent on exploring the Scarlet Pimpernel’s legacy than showcasing its own main couple. I plan on continuing with the Scarlet Chronicles series but with an understanding that the books are historical fiction with a romantic slant.