REVIEW: The Guinea Stamp by Alice Chetwynd Ley
With England under the shadow of Napoleon’s invasion, the windswept coast of Devon has become a hotbed of intrigue—with spies and smugglers terrorising the county, no one is safe. No respectable lady should concern herself with romantic notions of spies and smugglers, but Joanna Fineton does not care.
When she discovers double agent Captain Jackson breaking into her family home, she is suddenly swept up into a tangled web of lies and conspiracy. Someone in the Fineton house is not who he appears to be—but can Joanna discover who the French spy is before his dastardly plan comes to fruition?
As the plot thickens and Joanna runs out of time to find the traitor, Captain Jackson’s grip on her heart tightens ever more — threatening not only to destroy her future, but England’s too…
‘The Guinea Stamp’ is an intriguing regency romance, perfect for fans of Georgette Heyer and Jane Aiken Hodge. It has also previously been published as ‘The Courting of Joanna’.
“The rank is but the guinea stamp
The man’s the gold, for a’ that.”
So here’s another of Alice Chetwynd Ley’s Regencies – this time one filled with spies and a novel weapon about which the officers of His Majesty’s Navy are understandably dubious. It’s also got a no nonsense heroine who makes her hero work for his HEA.
It’s early in the Napoleonic Wars and England prepares to fend off a French invasion. There are agents and spies all over the place but especially in coastal Devon – not that the long time smugglers let any of that stop them. One agent in particular plays a dangerous game by going into enemy territory and meeting with Bony himself. But who is this mysterious man at home both in England and France?
Meanwhile Joanna Feniton doesn’t suffer any fools – gladly or otherwise. Raised by her imperious grandmother who could probably depress the pretentions of Bonaparte himself and her quiet grandfather who seeks only the calm and quiet of his sanctum sanctorum library, Miss Feniton is cool, collected and intelligent. When she comes face to face with an intruder, does she scream or faint? Please. No, she demands answers and impresses said intruder – and we all know who he is – by her lack of hysterics. Joanna Feniton is that type of Englishwoman who can face down just about anything and frightens men with her abilities.
But she’s also a woman whose grandmother won’t allow her to forget the duty Joanna owes to her name and heritage and who has marshaled a suitable man of like rank, fortune and age with the understanding that he will make an offer and her granddaughter will accept it. Onto the scene arrives Algernon Chalcombe – well dressed but not a dandy, well liked by his fellows for, among other things, the university theatricals they used to get up to and not bad looking though no Adonis.
While managing her own courtship, Joanna also attempts to aid true love’s cause for her best friend Kitty and her fiancé Guy Dorlais a French émigré who has been raised in England and is thought an all around good fellow. Still, Guy won’t set a date for the wedding and Kitty can’t help but wonder why Guy isn’t volunteering in a militia like all the other patriotic young Englishmen of high spirits.
Will Joanna agree to settle for a loveless but grandmother sanctioned marriage of convenience? Will the French spy be uncovered in time? Will Robert Fulton’s bizarre invention ever work? And will Joanna realize that it’s not a man’s rank but his character that’s most important? “The Guinea Stamp” combines a little bit of “Sense and Sensibility” a touch of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” along with a fearless heroine who makes me think a little of Mrs. Peel – though without the karate chops – and a hero who has to keep on his toes to finally win his heroine. B+