This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Released on March 4, 2014
Whenever I’m looking for historical romance with a touch of daring and dash on the lighter side, I can count on this author to see me through. It’s been a while since I picked up one of her books and the catchy title and gorgeous jewel-tone cover caught my eye. This was a book that got up to all sorts of high jinks and really can’t be taken seriously as a historical if the reader is to have any enjoyment in this story.
I was aware going into this that I was picking up the third book in a series that from what I could tell had moderate ties to each other. Thus I was prepared to feel my way through the world building and ongoing storyline. I managed to get up to speed eventually, but it wasn’t easy and it was a tad spoilerish so I would definitely recommend reading these in order.
With that all covered, I entered the story meeting precocious and intrepid, Lily Dawson, one of the three fabulous courtesan Diamonds who hit the Ton by storm. Lily is dubbed the Countess of Charm for her winning ways with even the Prince Regent himself. She is the last of her threesome since the other two married and became respectable. This leaves her feeling left out and uncertain of her own future. But she still has her work. She is the only one who can fulfill an important mission because Lily is more than she seems. She is a trained spy and for this mission, she must seduce a duke so he will let her close enough to discover evidence that he is the traitor and assassin who is killing off and selling information about England’s spy network. There is just one barrier to her scheme. Lily has been in love with the Earl of Darlington even while he trailed around after her friend and barely noticed her existence. The Duke is his father and she is about to bring heartbreak and shame to an already grieving household who just endured the death of the duchess.
Darlington has no idea what Lily is up to, but he will not let her succeed with his father. The duchess hasn’t even been dead a year and the duke has surrounded himself with a fast crowd determined to embarrass the family and sully the duchess’ good name. Darlington was always one for a good time himself, but now he has become the responsible one determined to care for the dukedom and the family name. He tries several times to intercept Lily from sinking her claws into the duke. He doesn’t know if she is looking for a protector, a husband or just money, but he’ll do what he has to do. He fails and finds her at the duke’s house party, but now he begins to discover several things. Lily is behaving oddly and not like a loose woman just after what she can gain. She’s up to something. There is also the fact that now he finds his motives for keeping her from the duke include the desire to keep her for himself.
The story follows a twisting plot told from alternating points of view of nothing is what it seems to the end even while an unlikely romance develops. Lily’s feelings for Darlington cause her to lose focus on her mission and his emerging feelings for her cause him no end of confusion as he tries to figure out what is going on.
Truthfully, the spy/action part of the plot is light stuff and its meant to be. I wanted to laugh every time she said she could handle things and she was trained. She had some impressive moves and she was smart and brave, but she really was in over her head. She gets rescued several times by Darlington even though she is convinced that she was handling things just fine. He catches her out a few times and sees right through her ploys so she’s not that good at the spying part though she has her shining moments like when she tracked down one of the villains. Her thing as a courtesan is a bit on the thin side too. This is one of those fake-courtesan stories though at least she really is a fallen woman by the standards of the day. Her story is very sad and this just endeared her too me because she didn’t let her circumstances beat her. I did feel that she was in a tough spot having to act the part of who she was not for the sake of her work for the country, but I was a little impatient with her attitude that Darlington should ‘know I’m not really that kind of girl and how dare he think the worst of me when I’m rubbing up against his recently widowed father like I’m in heat’. The only way he could know the truth since she put on a big act was if he had developed ESP. Fortunately, this direction of her thoughts was not pushed too much and she was able accept that this was the downside to espionage work and she saw where he was coming from a little too when she pushed past the pain of the past when he didn’t notice her.
This leads me to the fun part of this piece. Darlington and Lily’s intrigues were hilarious and fun. I loved the way these two started out plotting against each other, sneaking around for their nefarious purposes, sharing stolen moments and finally grudgingly working together. It is while Darlington seeks to figure out Lily’s motives that he gets a good look at what was under his nose all this time. He sees what he felt for her friend wasn’t the real deal and that his feelings for Lily are the real deal. He has been forced to grow up and accept responsibility since his mother died and in so doing he has grown up when it comes to relationships too. He is a natural protector and even when he had no reason to trust Lily, he does and he defends her honor in spite of her reputation. I loved seeing that. Lily has had a hard life. She made some poor decisions, but she owns them and has made the best of her life. I love that about her. She felt unworthy of Darlington, but it is obvious that she truly is worthy. They are so passionate that they can’t seem to help themselves half the time.
Now, I definitely want to go back and read the other two stories. I’m also crossing my fingers that Flynn, one of the side characters, gets his story. This one was just a fun reading jaunt that delivered on the capers, passion and moments of excitement that I’ve come to enjoy about this author’s work. Light historical romance lovers should pick this one up- and probably start at the beginning of the series unlike me.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca and Net Galley for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.