I can't remember the exact order of which authors I read first when I came back to reading romance a couple of years ago, but Celeste Bradley was right up there. The first book I read by her was the first book in the Royal Four series, To Wed a Scandalous Spy, and then I went and devoured all of her books in the Liar's Club series.
Elite spies, secret defenders of the king, The Royal Four are unsurpassed in courage, honor, and daring. Known to his brothers-in-arms as The Falcon, Lord Wyndham is the most secretive and aloof of the four. But when The Falcon meets the impetuous Lady Alicia, he discovers a soul mate whose hidden fire matches his own…
SEDUCING THE SPY - Lady Alicia Lawrence was cast out of polite society and branded a liar for a youthful mistake. When she overhears details of a conspiracy that could affect her country's fate, she turns to the one person who might believe her—Stanton Horne, Lord Wyndham. Posing as Wyndham's mistress in order to root out the enemy, Alicia is drawn into an uneasy partnership…and a wildly seductive liaison.
Lord Wyndham's uncanny ability to detect lies has made him a valuable member of the Royal Four, but in matters of romance it has proven a distinct liability. Alicia is the only woman whose thoughts he cannot read…and the only one whose sensual touch quenches every secret desire.
As the mission grows more dangerous and more personal, and each encounter with Alicia more fiery than the last, this daring spy must face his greatest challenge yet—learn to trust the passion in his heart…
I am not sure if it is the books themselves, or whether it is more about me, but the journey through the series has been a bit up and down.
Okay......hold on a second. I just went to check if I had any reviews of the other Celeste Bradley books that I had read, and you know what? There was, and I wrote basically the same intro without even realising. Worth reading more than once? Probably not, so maybe I will just push on and talk about this book.
Lady Alicia Lawrence is a pariah in the ton - tarnished by a youthful indiscretion. When she overhears a plot involving the deadly Chimera, she rushes off to Lord Wyndham, Stanton Horne to enlist him to help foil the dastardly plot against the Crown. Between them, they decide that the best way for that too happen is for Alicia to identify the voices of the men that she heard speaking, because they were sure to be at the upcoming house party (okay, orgy) that the King will be attending. In order to smooth the path back into society, Alicia agrees to act as Stanton's mistress for the duration of the house party. In order to do that she gets to spend his money, buying an entire new wardrobe, renting a house, and basically to make it look as though she really is his mystery.
Once at the house party, Alicia is an immediate hit with all the gentlemen, and Stanton gets the first inkling that maybe this transaction isn't necessarily going to be as easy as he thought. The thing is that Stanton's special skill is that he can always read the people around them to see whether they are telling the truth or not...everyone except Alicia of course.
Over the course of the party, the couples from the previous books are reintroduced, and for the most part because of their roles within the Royal Four, it is a successful, and meaningful interjection into the book.
As the book builds towards it's climax, the tension rises, aided by a couple of side trips to Alicia's childhood home, and involving her sisters in the climactic final scenes.
Overall, this was a bit better than the last book in the series, much better than the one before that. There were still some things that left me scratching my head. For example, the identities of the Royal Four are supposed to be ultra secret - no one can know who they are, and yet Alicia went straight to him. Another example is in relation to Alicia's scandalous past. Whilst she explained what happened to her to Stanton, it was all a little too vague for my liking. I am also not 100 percent sure that this book stands alone too well, given how many characters from the earlier books appear, and the ongoing thread in relation to the dreaded enemy spy, The Chimera.
In a way I am sad to see this series end, and I would kind of like to see another Liar's Club book, but to be honest I would like to see something a little different from Celeste Bradley now. I guess one way to do that will be to track down the only book that she has written that I haven't read yet - Fallen.
Overall - a very entertaining read.