Lady Hermione Merryhew, daughter of an impoverished marquess, already has her share of problems. The last thing she needs is an intruder in her bedroom, especially not a fugitive thief. She should scream, but the shabby rascal is a man from her past.
Six years ago, at her first ball, dashing Lieutenant Mark Thayne failed to steal a kiss, but succeeded in stealing a little of her heart. She’s older and wiser now. She can’t toss him to the wolves. Besides, she wants that kiss.
Now Viscount Faringay, Mark has never forgotten Lady Hermione, but he mustn’t involve her in his dangerous life. He’s infiltrated the Crimson Band, violent revolutionaries who plan a bloodbath in London, and if he survives the night he will be able to destroy them. Hermione is involved, however, and only he can protect her.
Dear Ms. Beverley,
Since I haven’t read too many of your Company of Rogues books, I didn’t catch the fact that Lady Hermione is the sister of one of them and that was how this book would tie in with that series. Ah well, though I quickly tired of the Rogues taking over the second half of the story, I enjoyed the first part quite a lot.
Oh, dear – the “we met years ago and have never forgotten each other” trope gets used. But he was on the verge of shipping out to possible death and she was at her first dance so … maybe, yeah I’ll accept it. And while each has thought of the other, neither has turned the meeting into any great romantic beau ideal. Yet when they meet again, the interest and a few tiny sparks are still there. Which makes it too funny when he almost gets her killed and she’s ready to rip him a new one for it. Hermione is definitely no shrinking violet or silly ninny.
He’s an aristo working for the government but not as a spy in France or against Boney. Instead, Boney is put away and the problem is home grown but something Mark understands and dreads since his French mother lost so many of her family to Madame Guillotine before losing her mind entirely. His stake is more personal than the usual noble English Romance Spy.
I, as well as Hermione, find it difficult to believe that good, solid Englishmen could possibly run amuck as happened during the French Terror. Unless there’s footie involved, do the English run amuck? You do provide lots of evidence that this actually was an era when times were hard enough for the government to take such possibilities seriously.
Before too long, some interesting secondary characters get added to the mix. Mark’s friend Braydon is an interesting guy with a top notch valet. Watching them turn Mark from a scraggly looking spy into a tonnish man about town is amusing – and since Braydon is only lending Mark his third best pair of Hessions and his fourth best hat, it doesn’t cost him much. Meanwhile Hermione decides to stay with her Great Uncle Moneybags – I mean Edgar – even after she and her impoverished sister learn he plans to will them some money after all. Her conscience gets the better of her at the thought of not doing everything she can to discover a cure for his mysterious Oriental disease. So it’s off to newly gas lit London to hunt for a possible doctor which leads to making contact with a group of people Hermione had completely forgot.
When Mark and Hermione first arrive in London, things are zipping along as tautly as before with deadly menace potentially everywhere and Mark worried for his life. Then suddenly the book is grafted into the Rogues World which then seems to take over. Hermione’s self possession and strength dissolve as the Rogues commandeer her agency.
Then grief strikes as she thinks Thayne dead. This I thought was well done with Hermione expressing stunned feelings complete with moments of anger, tears and bizarre behavior. She makes a total cake of herself at the Arden ball. At this point, she loses me a bit when she starts to wallow in pages of maudlin. The taut thriller is nowhere to be found.
Then everything is just as quickly back on track with that crisis over and an emotion fueled anticipated wedding night followed by a polite grilling. Even Mark is annoyed at how the Rogues begin to question his motives and suitability to marry Hermione – acting as stand-ins for their lost member, her brother Roger. But the crowning annoyance is when Hermione begins to explain to Edgar everything we already know! Why? Are readers – who’ve been playing along at home now in need of a recap? Not this bored reader. The book definitely shows signs of sliding which is finalized by a slightly anti-climactic finish to the villains who had mostly disappeared from sight by then as well as an extended epilogue.
I did enjoy the first half of the story. I love that Mark not only wants to get married but has daydreams of being married to Hermione. Braydon is well set up for his coming book and Edgar turns out to be a sweetie as well as a sharp cookie in taking care of his great-niece. But the second half of the book is riddled with issues that lowered the final grade to a C+