This is a new-to-me author and I also believe this is her first book. I enjoyed her writing style and the idea of the story, but I thought her character development and the plot could have been a little stronger. I actually don’t think it would take much tweaking at all to make this a 5-star read for me.
Nate Kinlan, Earl of Rainsford, is one guilt-ridden, angsty dude who is also an intermittent agent for the Home Office. After reading the story, I can see why he is an intermittent agent. He is definitely not James Bond. Actually, I’d say more like Inspector Clouseau because the villain is definitely the smarter one and is the one who is in charge. When I first started reading, I took this all as a negative, but as I read, it dawned on me – Nate is more realistic than we usually see. I don’t remember him being described as the tallest man in any room; as the most handsome man in England; as the most physically fit, etc. Maybe he was and I just don’t remember it. To me, he came across as just an ordinary person – like you or me. How would we react if we were thrown into the same situation? I’m thinking it would be closer to the way Nate reacted than the way James Bond would react. That said, there were some things that should have been so very obvious – even to the most ordinary among us – and Nate totally missed them.
Susannah Cressingham has been in a very precarious situation for a number of years. When her parents died, she and her siblings came under the dubious guardianship of her dastardly uncle. He immediately rid their home of any sentimental or meaningful items and then married off her sister Isabella to a cruel Jamaican landowner. Then, her brother Ben was killed fighting Napoleon and Susannah was the only one left at the mercy of her uncle – who is a supporter of the French in the war.
Nate had promised his father he’d look after his older brother during the war – and he failed because his brother died. The news caused his father’s death, so he’s responsible for the deaths of two members of his own family. He also promised his best friend, Ben Cressingham, he would take care of his sisters. He’d save them from their uncle. He returned from the wars too late to save Isabella, but maybe he can still save Susannah. Her uncle has promised Susannah to Nate in exchange for Nate returning her dowry to him. But, will he honor his promise? Can he be trusted? Of course not!
I liked Nate and I liked Susannah, but I never became totally invested in their relationship. I think I personally would have liked it much better had Nate told Susannah everything from the beginning and then the two of them could work together to thwart her uncle’s traitorous plans. The story also made Sidmouth of the Home Office seem like an uncaring idiot who turned over an important investigation to an inept, inexperienced agent without any support or backup. I would think the Home Office would be very much invested in capturing a traitor who was funneling funds to Napoleon.
At any rate, I really liked the idea of the story and I enjoyed the author’s writing style, but I wish Nate had been a bit more skillful. Since my favorite genre is the combination of historical mystery and historical romance, I plan to read the second book in the series.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.