This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Berkley
Released on January 7,2014
A nice Regency era romance with a bit of espionage and smuggling thrown in for good measure just sounded all sorts of fun to me so I grabbed this one up and settled in for a bit of entertainment. The book easily met my expectations. I had some issues, but my overall feeling was pleasure with the story.
The story is about a nobleman who is more than he seems. The ‘Wandering’ Earl of Langford is none other than one of England’s most accomplished spies, The Shadow. Due to a traitor within the walls of government, his identity has been compromised and his superior informs him that he needs to retire. Julian feels cold dread at the idea of retiring. His work is his life. He will not- cannot return to the home he hasn’t seen since he was a child or to the frivolous life that he pretends to lead. Horrible things happened in his past and he is determined to make amends through his work. He would rather die for his country out in the field than languish as just another shallow nobleman
With that goal in mind, he presents his superior with the knowledge that he has information that will lead to the capture of their traitor. An overheard conversation in France indicates that a Miss Grace Hannah is involved in smuggling out information through her regular smuggling activities. Julian is given the mission as he hoped and returns home to Devon to act his part and investigate Miss Grace Hannah.
Grace lives as a poor relation and little better than a servant in her uncle’s home. Along with tending to his household, she also makes use of her stillroom knowledge to care for many of common folk and neighbors in her community. She doesn’t go into local society if for no other reason than to avoid the man who jilted her for another woman who is now his wife since they live in the neighborhood. It is on one of her errands that she encounters the frivolous and flirtatious Earl of Langford. At first she is amused by his empty-headed playfulness, but then she suspects that there is an observant, working mind behind those laughing blue eyes. She is put on her guard even as she feels a strong attraction to him. He cannot find out about her dealings with the local smugglers.
Julian is surprised and impressed with the woman he suspects is the traitor. He watches her closely even as he gets up a light flirtation with her. Things don’t quite add up, but he knows she is concealing something. Her secrets come out right about the time they are caught in a compromising situation. Not long after, they are married and he finds himself with a wife who will not be left behind as he continues his investigation into the traitor who has stepped up his efforts and grows dangerous with the knowledge that someone is onto his trail. Julian and Grace both discover that they each hide feelings for their new spouse except they have differing ideas of how this will affect their future. Julian’s plans to complete his mission and get back into active spywork remain unchanged and Grace can’t get him to share the secret from his past or change his mind about staying.
I enjoyed the story and the characters. There was a need to suspend belief over the normal behavior of people in that time for my enjoyment to take place, but I was good with that. I loved the dashing idea of a lady smuggler and an aristocratic spy teaming up. Their activities both working on the mission and forming a relationship kept my interest. The story swapped back and forth between them as narrators and I liked knowing their thoughts and motivations. Their passionate side came on quick considering she was a virgin, but again, I shrugged it off.
A few of the minor characters like Jack were really engaging, but some of the others were rather heavy-handed in their portrayals. The cruel uncle, the jilting suitor and his shrew of a wife, and the uncle’s cronies came on a bit strong. Even Julian’s attitude about his tainted blood and the part he played in that past event when he was a child was somewhat melodramatic for one with his experience and worldliness. This wasn’t enough to make me not enjoy the story, but it kept distracting me.
The spy plot was twisty enough that I was suspecting nearly everyone. I loved that part of the story, but I did feel that a few things were left unexplained in the end like the French guy, the shooting and what had the people involved so upset. This incident was never really explained in light of what happened afterward.
I felt like the stuff hindering their relationship got dusted under the rug rather quick considering how much importance they placed on it and let it throw up barriers to their relationship. Things ended before Julian and Grace’s future was settled satisfactorily. They kissed and made up and he told her his secret, but that was it. No hint as to where they would go from there. A few more pages would have done the trick and left me pretty satisfied with the results.
All in all, it’s a fun and engaging story that leaves me looking forward to more from this author. Historical Romances fans who like daring heroes and heroines and a bit of heat to their romance should try this one.
My thanks to Penguin group for sending me a copy of the story in exchange for my honest review thoughts.