British agent Cora deBeau has spent the last three years seducing secrets from the most hardened of French spies while searching for her parents’ killer. When her latest assignment goes awry, she suffers at the hands of her French captor until Guy Trevelyan, the Earl of Helsford and master cryptographer, saves her during a daring rescue. Scarred and wary of men, Cora shies away from the one man who could heal her savaged heart.
After rescuing Cora from a French dungeon, Guy discovers it was one of his deciphered messages that led to her captivity. While her enemy tracks them across England, Guy strives to earn her forgiveness. But will he find the scars on her wounded soul run too deep?
Mild spoilers ahead.
He’s an idiot. She’s an idiot. Everyone is an idiot. Despite the author’s best intentions (I’ve read worse so I’m giving her some leeway), pretty much everyone in this book comes across an idiot at one point or another. Everything is explained to such a fine detail that the reader can’t help but feel the hammering continue after the nail has been buried into the two-by-four. Not only does this foreshadowing hit you like a steamroller, it makes every epiphany the characters have look like a dunce figuring out the obvious.
Devlyn’s attention to detail extends to physical descriptions and prolonged internal monologues. Here is another author who simply doesn’t trust her characters–or readers–to infer from context but feels obligated to paint the mural with a one haired brush. I could feel my IQ dropping reading either Cora or Guy piece together “complex” clues.
Speaking of internal monologues. If all the repetition would have been edited out this book would be a third of its current length. I was going to say half but my generosity only goes so far. I actually reached the point where I hoped the author would offer extraneous details on how Cora and Guy travel from and into Town. Actually, I would have gladly read the 460 kindle pages had there been more action.
If you take the plot apart, there’s real promise there. There’s a Nexus of spies, one of them has been compromised and two others have been sent to rescue this invaluable asset. Excuse me while I cough. There’s the Villain Valére who is as inept in villainy as only romantic foils have right to be (no, not even them). He sneaks over the Channel after them and tries to kidnap Cora several times, only succeeding when Cora foolishly becomes the bait without telling anyone to set the trap. There’s a coded message (the author obviously doesn’t know anything about decrypting), and then there’s the mystery of Cora’s parents’ murderer. There are so many plot elements and threads that could have made this book a brilliant read, had not the author chosen to focus on the romance.
And what kind of romance is that? Guy and Cora have known each other since childhood when they were friends and fellow spy trainees with her brother Ethan. Only he didn’t fall in love with Cora until three years earlier at a masquerade where she was on her first mission. That’s also when Cora fell in love with Guy and buried her hopes to become his wife, since being a spy would tarnish her reputation beyond repair for a respectable match. Except we never get to see them fall in love. We never really find out why they love each other.
Sure the reasons might have been mentioned in the long, long, long internal monologues, but as a reader I didn’t feel like I was ever shown the reasons why. Telling me something is so, isn’t enough anymore. It stopped being enough years ago. I need proof and I need to be shown. They keep saving each other’s lives, you say. To that I would argue it’s what they were brought up to do. They have a higher purpose as agents for the Crown.
I haven’t even mentioned the abundance of bad smut writing clichés, nor that the BDSM tendencies equal to a villain’s characterisation, or the incident where the hero threatened to out a gay man–and thus have him lawfully hanged–not because of his prejudice against buggery but because the gay marquis dared to question Cora’s ladyhood.
I’m sorry Alicia. Unless we make this one of the taste test books, this really isn’t a book I would recommend to you or to anyone.
P.S. Just think of all the bad books I must have read not to hate this one. Two stars doesn’t mean I think book is okay, it means it’s a bad bad book I didn’t hate.