Connor Grant is in search of a lady. Not a bride, but a woman to become a skillful and seductive spy in the service of King James. In addition to being the King's personal assassin, Connor heads a group of female spies who aid him in his work, women with nothing left to lose.
Ariana Fitzroy is the perfect mark. Destitute, orphaned, and completely alone, she's missed her chance at an advantageous match at court and cheats at cards to survive. When Connor catches her in the act, he threatens to expose her, unless she joins his elite roster of spies.
She agrees and is whisked away to a deserted Scottish castle to begin her training. Ariana quickly takes to her lessons in seduction, deception, and hand-to-hand combat, but less easy to fight are her feelings of lust toward the ruggedly handsome Connor, feelings she suspects may be reciprocated.
When Connor recruits her help on a mysterious task, the pair must work together to track a dangerous target. But Ariana suspects Connor isn't telling her everything — not just about the mission, but also about his past. Will the secrets between them threaten their mission? And will they be able to fight their attraction as they wonder who they can trust?
Connor Grant has the task of recruiting and training lady spies to serve the king even while performing deadly missions at the king’s orders. He feels that he has sold a piece of his soul to do this in exchange for the change to restore him as the laird of his ancestral lands even as he works hard to care for and protect the troubled and vulnerable women that come under his care.
Ariana Fitzroy is reduced to cheating at cards to make ends meet after the deaths of her parents and brothers leaving her alone in the upper echelons of London society and court. She is discovered and given a choice of being outed as a cheat or being trained as a spy. She opts for the world of intrigue and not without some excitement for something new that may give her purpose once again.
Ariana is eager and a natural at the skills she needs to acquire. She enjoys her time with the other women and particularly as Connor is her trainer. She is no longer alone and starts to wonder what it would be like to be with Connor.
Connor learns the identity of his next two marks. One is troublesome as the man was once his childhood friend, but also son of the man who attacked and killed his father and people. Even still, Connor finds it difficult to believe the man has become a traitor to the crown. And what of this attraction he feels for Ariana? She is in his care and he is honor-bound not to take advantage not to mention he has nothing to offer her.
This was a first time with a new to me author and it was also the beginning of a new and exciting series. I loved the blend of espionage, history, and romance. There is a well-drawn and engaging cast of characters with Connor, the women spies, and a few others. The setting of London society and then rugged Scotland of the 17th century was colorful and interesting. But the two pronged plot of espionage missions and the slow building passionate romance was the best part.
Connor is an honorable and deeply troubled man after all he has been through. The past weighs on him heavily as does the responsibility he feels toward the women in his care. He hates that he was forced to coerce them during their weak moments into the King’s service and he works extra hard to make sure they are safe and equipped for their new lives. He yearns for Ariana and gives in to his attraction, but when he tries to do the honorable thing, he ends up hurting her because she has her own issues of the past.
Ariana is vulnerable because she is a lady alone without prospect or resources so she makes her own. The cheating is wrong, but is a necessity. She is relieved to be caught and offered a new life. The world that she enters is tough and filled with danger, but it suits her. She loves having the other women around her and grows to feel more than gratitude toward Connor. She’s rather impulsive and has a few stupid moments where she’s more lucky than right. She lets her past of being abandoned by others really do a number on her so that it dictates her actions with Connor.
The writing style and overall story kept me reading steadily and then riveted for the big ending. Some shockers there and had me very satisfied with the book and eager to continue on. So, I can easily recommend it to historical romance lovers who like suspense, a dashing and lethal hero, and a bold heroine.
My thanks to Diversion Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.