A very dangerous attraction...
Julian Harcourt, duc de Valere, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she's been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor.
And an even more dangerous secret...
Sarah Smith's mission is to find out whether the Duc's trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent...
Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions.
Have you ever read a book where the idea was just so much better than the actual experience of reading it? This is one of those books for me.
I really, really loved the set up of this book, and was completely blown away by the first chapter (which really was a prologue) which was involving, exciting and heart breaking. Our hero, Julien Harcourt, duc de Valere, lives in London. He is a French nobleman who has escaped from the French Revolution with his mother and started a new life in England. His family did not however escape unscathed from the Revolution. Not only was his family's wealth lost, but his father was killed, and it was thought that his two younger brothers were also. Whilst Julien is accepted by the ton, he is also somewhat outside the narrow rules that govern behaviour within the ton, and so he has worked very hard to build up the family wealth again, providing shelter for his English born mother. Julien has never however given up hope that perhaps some of his family has escaped their supposed, and so is in constant contact with France, and has on occasion travelled there.
It is this contact that brings Julien to the attention of the British government, and in turn brings Miss Sarah Smith into his life. Sarah is governess to the children of a high ranking government agent and at short notice she is given an ultimatum: accept the role of spying on the Duc by infiltrating his household or lose your position. Sarah has never known any family and spent all her formative years in an orphanage and so feels she has no choice but to accept the role or risk being on the streets, no matter how ill equipped she may be. She is to pretend to be Madamoiselle Serafina Artois, daughter of family friends of the Valere who supposedly escaped the troubles and is now coming to England to marry Julien as she is his mother's choice of bride for her handsome son.
While I loved the set up for Julien, and can only remember reading one other romance which had any hint of this type of character, I felt that the character of Sarah was less successful. Whilst I sort of liked Sarah, I was as unconvinced at her ability to be able to pull off this ruse as she was, and often thought that she was putting herself into unnecessary and unlikely situations to be able to drag the story forward.
There was certainly plenty of drama in the story. From a governess pretending to be a spy, to a Duc who may or may not have been a traitor, trips into some of the seedier parts of London that are often not mentioned in historical romances (or if they are it is in relation to a do-gooder doing charity work there), to a perilous trip to Paris where aristocrats were still very much in danger, to a daring rescue and unlikely revelation regarding identities and the bad guys at the end, there should have been enough to make this a captivating story. In the end I don't think I was captivated as such. Maybe interested is a better way of putting it.
It took me a few days of thinking of the right word to describe my reaction, and in the end I came up with the word skimming. It felt as though the action moved from one point to the next propelled by unlikely plot twists and scenarios with the reader just skimming along with them. I wanted more depth, and more emotion, and to be more invested with our main couple. If anything I preferred the sections where Julien was moving his cause forward despite Sarah's actions (for example in Paris) whereas generally a romance should be about the two halves that come together to make a whole.
The set up for the next two books in the Sons of the Revolution trilogy is started up in this novel, and they sound exactly like something I would enjoy reading, so while I didn't necessarily love this book, I haven't yet given up on Shana Galen.
Her next book, The Making of a Gentleman, sounds as though it features my favourite type of hero - those dark, tortured men whose scars are often more than just physical and is due out in October of this year
Thanks to Sourcebooks for the review copy.
For other opinions:
Readin' and Dreamin'
Edited to add: You can win a copy of this book if you are interested over at Hist-Fic Chick.