Saturday, April 22, 2006

One Night With a Spy by Celeste Bradley

When I first started reading romance again, Celeste Bradley was one of the first authors who I bought. I bought the first book in the Royal Four series (To Wed a Scandalous Spy) and then got all the books in The Liar's Club series and enjoyed them all (The Pretender was my favourite) and then I got the second book in The Royal Four series, and suddenly found that I didn't really like it anywhere as near as the rest. It was therefore with some trepidation that I bought One Night With A Spy not too long go. I am pleased to say that even though it was nowhere near as good as some of her earlier books, it was nowhere near as disappointing as Surrender to a Wicked Spy...somewhere in the middle!

The Royal Four are spies without compare—daring, dangerous, beholden only to the King. With the fate of the Crown in their charge, no temptation can interfere with the mission at hand. But as one spy is about to discover, some women refuse to play by the rules...and the results can be sinfully pleasurable…


For years, Lady Julia Barrowby has acted the part of an old man’s ornamental bride, never revealing that she has secretly helped the ailing Lord Barrowby in his work with the Royal Four. Now that her husband has died, Julia believes his place in the Four is hers by right. But convincing the remaining members will not be easy, especially with Marcus Ramsay, Lord Dryden, distracting her at every turn. Somehow, the mysterious Marcus seems to see into her very soul, effortlessly satisfying all her secret, forbidden longings…

Marcus stood next in line to be chosen for the Four, and he is not willing to be displaced by a woman, no matter how intriguing or beautiful she may be. Under orders to investigate Julia, Marcus discovers her diary, overflowing with years of loneliness and yearning. Fulfilling Julia’s fantasies is the perfect way to get closer to her, but seducing this fascinating creature is fast becoming more than a means to an end—it is his soul’s deepest desire…

Marcus, Lord Dryden is determined to become the next Fox, one of the members of the all powerful Royal Four, men who had their fingers on the pulse of just about every thing going on in England. It shouldn't be too difficult, after all he had done his apprenticeship - it was his for the taking. Or was it? Julia Barrowby had, in all but name, been acting as The Fox for the last three years. Her late husband, a much older man, had been officially The Fox, but he had chosen his own apprentice well and as he became more and more incapacitated Julia had taken over. Julia had links to the people who travelled in the fairs around the country, providing her with a large spy network of loyal people to let her know what was going on and where.

Since her husband's death, Julia has been inundated with young men who wish to gain her favour, and her estate, and it is to this group of men Marcus attaches himself in his current guise as Marcus Blythe-Goodman. Soon Marcus is only one of two serious contenders for Julia's affection. When a series of things starts going wrong (privies blowing up, wells being contaminated) Marcus and his main rival stay around to assist Julia and to try to protect her. It turns out that Julia has a pet lion and all of her servants are actually former members of the travelling troupe (acrobats etc). Marcus, however, has an advantage over his rival - he has read Julia's secret diaries which details her privatest fantasies, and Marcus was determined to be her fantasy man.

The problem for Julia is that no matter how well she performs her role, she does not meet all the criteria - for she comes from a humble background, being Jilly the horseback rider before she became the wife of Aldus Barrowby. Being betrayed by Marcus is almost enough to destroy his spirit, but not quite! Given all the lies that have been between them, what hope is there that they can be together.

Julia was a good character - intelligent, beautiful and yet more innocent than she appeared, and Marcus was great fun. I guess there wasn't a lot of honesty between them but the fact was that they were rivals for the same position, and Marcus was actively trying to find information to discredit Julia, so that lack of honesty was probably understandable.

Sometimes Celeste Bradley seems to try a bit too hard to be funny, and there were glimpses of that here again, but for the most part the author manages to control herself during this outing, in a way that the last book could really have benefitted from!

Overall, this was entertaining. I will get the next book so that I can have the complete set, however, if it isn't good then there is a fair chance that I won't be buying the next series that Bradley writes.

Rating 3.5/5

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