A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn Macnamara

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At the age of two and twenty, Julia St. Claire is headed firmly and happily for the shelf. For years, she has watched her older sister pine for a man who barely acknowledges her. Determined to guard her heart against that sort of pain, Julia seeks nothing more than a civilized, sensible union. Then just such an arrangement is offered-by the man of her sister’s dreams- and Julia must choose: betray her sister or turn to her childhood friend, Benedict at the risk of opening her heart. Benedict Revelstoke has resigned his commission and returned to the social whirl of the ton, expecting to pick up his life where he left it: attending his club, gambling, and secretly loving Julia St. Claire. When he learns a rake has made her betrothal and reputation the object of a wager, he seeks to warn her. But when he betrays his feelings before the reticent Julia, he fears he has lost their longtime friendship-until she turns up at his townhouse with a scandalous proposal.

Rating: B

This is a very promising début from Ashlyn Macnamara. The writing and pacing were both good and there were none of those credulity-stretching moments that seem to have marred so many of the newer historical romances I’ve read recently.

I was pleased to discover that this book features not just one, but two of my favourite tropes in romantic fiction – forced marriage and ‘friends-become-lovers’. I should say at this point though that the ‘blurb’ is rather misleading in that one could be forgiven for thinking the story is about Julia St. Clare and her childhood friend Benedict Revelstoke. In fact, the book features two parallel stories – one featuring Julia and Benedict and the other, her older sister Sophia and Rufus, Earl of Highgate, and I would venture to say that this fact marks the book out as something a little bit different.
Both stories are given equal prominence which, on the plus side, means that the pace never slackens. The negative side however is that it doesn’t allow for a great deal of character and relationship development, and I know that some reviewers have said that they found the four different points-of-view to be distracting.

For me, the latter wasn’t a problem, but I did have some issues with the lack of depth in terms of the characterisation. I would have liked, for example, for Benedict’s awareness of his true feelings for Julia to have happened more slowly, over time, so that the reader could share in his gradual awakening. I also thought that the reason for Julia’s reluctance to love was somewhat flimsy and, in fact, unnecessary, given what she was seeing every day in her parents’ marriage.

I felt that Highgate was probably the most rounded character, even though we probably see less of him than of the other three protagonists. But there’s something about a wounded man with a bit of a murky past, isn’t there? I also found his romance with Sophia to be the more satisfying one in the end, although that’s not to say I didn’t like Julia and Benedict’s story as well.

Overall then, this is an engaging read with likeable characters (and a few not-so-likeable ones!) and a couple of well-executed storylines. The love scenes were romantic and sexy and the author did a good job in building the sexual tension between the ladies and their beaus.

If you’re looking for a new voice in historical romance, I would definitely recommend giving this book a try, and on the strength of this, I will certainly be on the lookout for future titles from this author.

With thanks to Ballantine Books and Edelweiss for the review copy.

The de Lacy Inheritance by Elizabeth Ashworth

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Using characters known to recorded history—including one to become the real Sheriff of Nottingham—Elizabeth Ashworth weaves a tale of loves lost and found during the exile of Richard the Lionheart

Richard Fitz-Eustace’s return from Palestine is far from joyous. Damned by leprosy, he must bid his family a final and sorrowful farewell and leave his estates at Halton Castle forever. Condemned to shun the company of others, he must now find a place of solitude where he can seek forgiveness for sins committed in the Holy Land for which he is certain he has earned God’s curse. Resolved to live out his life as a hermit, he journeys north into the newly named county of Lancashire. But this is no arbitrary journey; there is one last obligation to be undertaken for his grandmother—he must seek out her kinsman, Sir Robert de Lacy, at Cliderhou Castle and there press his consideration of her claim to his estate. While at Halton, Richard’s headstrong 14-year-old sister Johanna is distraught. Her other brother, ruthless and ambitious Roger, has returned to take his place as head of the family. He and Johanna’s mother have contrived a marriage for her to a wealthy old landowner, and without Richard’s protection there seems little she can do about it—unless of course she can escape and find him.

Rating: B+

I’ve had this on my “to read” list for a while, and decided to read it as a change from the steady diet of historical romance in which I’ve been indulging recently.

The de Lacy Inheritance was inspired by the old Lancashire legend of the hermit who lived beneath Cliderhou (Clitheroe) Castle.

The central characters are brother and sister, Richard and Johanna FitzEustace. Richard contracted leprosy during his time on crusade in the Holy Land and has come home to be read the “Mass of Separation”, which declares him effectively dead. He cannot see his family or oversee his lands; he cannot enter a church to pray, something which, to a person of that time, was a true hardship. Leprosy was seen as an affliction visited upon those who had sinned against the Lord rather than as an illness; and thus, Richard is cast out from society and denied the comfort of the church.

At the request of his grandmother, he journeys to Lancashire to seek out Sir Robert de Lacy, her kinsman, in order to put forward her request that he bequeath his lands to her upon his death. Richard undertakes the journey and, thanks to the kindness of some of the villagers, finds food and shelter near to Sir Robert’s castle. In the village is a well, reputed to have healing powers, and while he is waiting for de Lacy to return home from another of his estates, Richard avails himself of the waters and is miraculously (but plausibly) cured. (I actually looked this up – the water is described as having a strong smell of sulphur – and sulphur was an ingredient used in treatments for Leprosy). He has already determined to spend the rest of his away from the world, doing God’s work – and even though cured of his illness, Richard does not wish to go back on his promise to God and immediately be declared ‘clean’ so that he can take his place as head of the family.

Alongside Richard’s story runs that of his youngest sister, Johanna, who is fourteen at the start of the story. She is headstrong and frustrated by the restrictions placed on her as a woman in medieval society; but even though she protests her boundaries, she knows there is little she can do to escape them. Her mother wants to marry her off to a much older man; thanks to the intervention of her grandmother, she is able to escape and join the de Lacys at Cliderhou Castle. While there, she falls in love with the son of Robert de Wallai, the local Dean. De Wallai is distantly related to de Lacy, and has hopes of the de Lacy inheritance himself.

I enjoyed the book very much. The prose is straightforward and I found myself drawn into the story right away. The detail of Richard’s situation was interesting and informative, and I thought that the friendship that developed between him and Sir Robert was well-drawn.The world of twelfth-century England was skilfully evoked, and while the dialogue and terminology is fairly modern (not littered with ‘cod’ medievalisms), it never feels anachronistic.

Some reviewers have commented that the simplistic nature of the writing may have been more suited to a Young Adult novel. That may be the case, but when it comes down to it, a good story is a good story regardless of what genre it belongs to; the fact that I could give this to my thirteen-year-old daughter to read without having to worry about any unsuitable content is, I think, a positive thing.

How to Entice an Earl by Manda Collins

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Lady Madeline Essex is the last of the unwed “ducklings” in her family—and by far the most outspoken. But when she boldly enters London’s most notorious gaming house in search of fodder for her novel, even her sharp tongue can’t save her from the horrible crime she stumbles upon there. As luck would have it, first on the scene is the last man she wants to see her vulnerable. The one man who could tempt her heart…

Christian Monteith, the new Earl of Gresham, isn’t much for card rooms and gaming hells. But as a favor to his former commanding officer, he’s investigating a gamester for espionage on the night that Maddie ventures in looking more enticing than he’s ever seen her. Suddenly, his feelings for his friend aren’t so friendly anymore. And when her curiosity brings the impetuous novelist to the attention of a madman, Christian will stop at nothing to protect her—from a sinister plot that is far more dangerous than any stolen kiss…

Rating: C-

This Is the third (and final) novel in Manda Collins’ Ugly Ducklings series in which we follow the romantic adventures of three cousins who are regarded as rather odd by society because of their outspokenness, blue-stocking tendencies, and independent natures.

When I read the first book in the series, How to Dance with a Duke, I rated it at 3 stars on Goodreads and said that while I found it to be engaging in places, I was disappointed overall – and I experienced much the same reaction to this book.

The heroine is Lady Madeleine Essex, mostly known as Maddie (which immediately struck me as rather too modern in tone). Like her cousins Cecilia and Juliet, she is intelligent and independent of spirit – but sadly, her intelligence doesn’t preclude her from doing some incredibly stupid things. At the beginning of the book, she decides that she needs to attend a gaming hell in order to do some research for the novel she is planning to write (of which, incidentally, she never writes a single word during the whole course of the book). Naturally, the male friend she asks to take her refuses, so she inveigles her brother into taking her along.

Here, for me, was the point at which I started to get depressed about the direction the story was going to take. For one thing, putting a young woman in a series of pretty frocks and sending her to balls and Almacks does not an historical romance make – and for another, neither does sending the heroine into a gaming hell with the thought that –

“It was not at all unusual for ladies of the ton to seek out a bit of excitement by attending such parties… They might tarnish their reputations a bit by doing so, but the damage was hardly irreparable.“

From then on, Maddie is continually involved in situations that no well brought-up daughter of an earl should ever have contemplated. It’s not her fault that she ends up finding a dead body, but from then on, she insists on being involved in the “investigation” into the death, despite the frequent insistence of the hero (more of him shortly) that she is endangering herself by doing so. Even more annoyingly, she sees every move of his designed to protect her as an attempt on his part to question her intelligence and/or exclude her from said investigation.

The hero of the story is one Christian Monteith, the newly-minted Earl of Gresham, and a friend of Maddie’s, her cousins, and their husbands for a long time. The “friends-become-lovers” trope is rather a favourite of mine, so I had hoped that once the romance between Gresham and Maddie got underway, I would start to enjoy the book a little more. But as the story progressed, I realised that there was a sad lack of romantic and sexual tension between them and I really didn’t get a sense of the way their relationship transformed from their being friends to being lovers. It’s clear that there’s an attraction between them from the outset, but when, in one scene, they were talking as friends one moment, and in the next were all over each other without any build up, it felt forced.

Christian is a fairly likeable hero – handsome and honourable, he does care deeply for Maddie and wants to protect her while he makes inquiries and investigates the mystery surrounding the murder which leads to her brothers’ disappearance. There is brief mention of the fact that he is tormented by his sister’s suicide and that he has a fractured relationship with his mother, but apart from one brief scene, not much is made of it, although the author makes it clear that Christian’s urge to protect Maddie at all costs is somewhat born of his earlier inability to protect his sister and his subsequent guilt.

The mystery itself is fairly intriguing and was, I felt, more successful than the romance.

There were a number of production errors that I found irritating, and which could easily have been solved by the employment of a good proof-reader. For example, at one point, Gresham’s eyes are green; and a few pages later, they’re blue. And for some reason, Gresham is referred to as such – until, for some reason, his name reverts to Monteith… then back to Gresham for the bulk of the book… until once again, he is referred to as Monteith. I am disinclined to think that this is a case of the author’s not knowing that an earl is referred to by his title rather than his family name; it reads to me more like an uncorrected error.

My biggest peeve however, was with the fact that Maddie was so heedless of her reputation when, at the time the story is set, a woman’s reputation – particularly that of a young, unmarried woman – was so vitally important to her prospects in life. Not only does she visit a gaming hell with her brother, she attends a party hosted by a widow thought to be rather ‘fast’ with Gresham and finally talks her cousin’s husband into kitting her out so that she can enter a brothel disguised as a man.

Overall then, I didn’t find reading this book to be a particularly satisfying experience. It was mildly entertaining in places, and despite my reservations, I still think that Manda Colins is a good writer – but I felt that the characters never became more than one-dimensional and the romance fell sadly flat.

Captain Durant’s Countess (London List #2) by Maggie Robinson

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Tucked amid the pages of The London List, a newspaper that touts the city’s scandals, is a vaguely-worded ad for an intriguing job—one that requires a most wickedly uncommon candidate…

Maris has always been grateful that her marriage to the aging Earl of Kelby saved her from spinsterhood. Though their union has been more peaceful than passionate, she and the earl have spent ten happy years together. But his health is quickly failing, and unless Maris produces an heir, Kelby’s conniving nephew will inherit his estate. And if the earl can’t get the job done himself, he’ll find another man who can…

Captain Reynold Durant is known for both his loyalty to the Crown and an infamous record of ribaldry. Yet despite a financial worry of his own, even he is reluctant to accept Kelby’s lascivious assignment—until he meets the beautiful, beguiling Maris. Incited by duty and desire, the captain may be just the man they are looking for. But while he skillfully takes Maris to the heights of ecstasy she has longed for, she teaches him something even more valuable and unexpected…

Rating: C+

I admit that I’m normally a bit wary of this sort of plotline – elderly impotent husband employs young, virile man to impregnate his wife – for two reasons. First, it’s often used as an excuse to write lots and lots of sex without much by way of an actual story or characterisation, and second, if the two lovers are to get their HEA, the elderly husband has to conveniently die or be killed off.

Despite my misgivings however, I decided to give Captain Durant’s Countess a try and am happy to report that although there was plenty of sex and a convenient death, the overall story worked quite well; mainly, I think, due to the very engaging character the author has created in the eponymous captain.

Captain Reynold Durant is in his late twenties and, having sold his commission, is at a loose end, rattling around London making his living at the gambling tables and having (slightly) kinky sex with bored widows 😉

Before the story begins, it appears that he has been ‘engaged’ by impotent the Earl of Kelby to ‘service’ the latter’s wife so that Kelby can present an heir to inherit his entailed estates upon his demise. Initially needing the money, Reynold (or Reyn) assents to this, but later, changes his mind; however, the countess hasn’t and as her letters to him have gone unanswered, she tracks him down to the Reigning Monarchs Society, a rather select ‘club’ where members can indulge their sexual fantasies.

Reyn’s initial reaction is to try to scare her off by being crude (and remaining naked!), but Maris, Countess of Kelby is not easily cowed and he eventually – and reluctantly – agrees to keep to their bargain.

Despite this inauspicious beginning, Reyn shows himself to be a truly delightful man. He isn’t rich and titled; he’s not well-educated or well-read – in fact he has difficulty reading and writing (he possibly suffers from dyslexia), but he is intuitive and possessed of a natural intelligence and wit. He is also charmingly vulnerable and self-deprecating when it comes to his lack of education; the scene towards the end of the book where he admits his shortcomings to Maris is really heart-wrenching.

Maris is five years older than Reyn and her husband Henry has been more of a father-figure to her than a husband. He is very scholarly, and Maris was pleased to be able to help him with his studies, knowing that women were usually thought not to have sufficient intellect to be able to engage in such work. They think the world of each other, but now Henry is reaching the end of his life, he decides he needs an heir to inherit his estates and his massive collection of antiquities. His current heir is his nephew, David, who is presented as the villain of the piece – who cares nothing for Henry’s treasures and has already indicated his intention to dispose of everything by throwing it to the bottom of the lake!

Maris is rather a prickly character to begin with – understandably so, given the circumstances – but during the course of her short relationship with Reyn, she comes to realise that while she has been happy with Henry, she has nonetheless missed out on a lot that life has to offer and that she wants to do more with the rest of her life than spend it curating a museum.

For his part, Reyn has fallen hard for his countess even though he knows it can never come to anything. When the Earl dies and they have to part, he does not expect to see her ever again, but circumstances conspire to throw them together once more. In the intervening time, Reyn has bought a farm with the intention of breeding horses; he has thrown himself into repairing and re-building and has finally found his purpose in life.

Reyn and Maris get their HEA, and although I felt that the threat from the dastardly David was neutralised rather easily, it was done in a way that worked quite well within the context of the story.

Despite this and a couple of other niggles (convenient death, convenient reunion, the odd turn of phrase that sounded a bit too modern), I enjoyed Captain Durant’s Countess very much. Reynold Durant was a lovely hero; handsome, witty and charming, but with an attractive vulnerability about him that was completely endearing; and taken as a whole, I thought the book was an engaging and sexy read.

The Baron’s Betrothal by Miranda Davis

Poor William Tyler de Sayre, Lord Clun, finds true love while hoping to avoid the catastrophe altogether by arranging a marriage to someone he’s never met. At the same time, Lady Elizabeth Chapin Damogan, whose father betrothed her to the baron without so much as a ‘by your leave,’ will be damned if she marries a man she’s never met, much less a man who refuses to consider the possibility of love.

Rating: B+

The Baron’s Betrothal is a worthy follow up to The Duke’s Tattoo. Like the hero of that novel William Tyler de Sayre, Baron Clun is one of the so-called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, named thus because of their audacity and courageous service during the Napoleonic Wars.

Our heroine, Lady Elizabeth Damogan is an independent-minded young woman who, at the beginning of the book, has fled London to escape the marriage that her father has arranged for her. Cleverly, she reasons that the last place anyone will look for her is on the estate of the man from whom she is hiding; and thus she ends up living in a small cottage on Clun’s land in Shropshire.

Clun is a giant of a man – tall, dark and intimidating – and when he stumbles across Elizabeth for the first time, neither of them knows who the other is. Although they have been betrothed for the past year, they have never met. Clun soon discovers her identity, and decides to have a little fun at her expense by not immediately revealing himself to her, and teasing her about the decrepit state of her future husband.

While the pair experience a very strong physical attraction, they are also growing to like each other; and although Elizabeth is initially annoyed at Clun’s deception, she is nonetheless pleased to discover that her intended is a man she could easily love, rather than the “toothless old macaroni” of Clun’s description.

But therein lies the rub. Clun, the product of an unhappy marriage, his mother an incredibly bitter and malicious woman, doesn’t want a love match. He wants a sensible marriage, unencumbered by emotional entanglements – his parents had supposedly married for love, but their marriage had very quickly turned to disaster and he wants none of it. So Clun and Eizabeth are at an impasse: he doesn’t want love; she won’t marry without it. And thus we have the basis of the on/off nature of their relationship.

London society being what it is, they can’t avoid each other – and the more they see of each other, the more each realises the importance to them of the other. Clun and Elizabeth are a well-matched couple – her natural optimism counters his tendency to pessimism and while she is more than capable of standing up for herself (and has, in fact, had to be fairly self-reliant for her entire life), she nonethetless brings out – and quite likes – his protective side. Their encounters in the earlier part of the book sparkle with humour and good-natured teasing; and later, when things become fraught between them, their heartache and disappointment is palpable.

Both characters grow within the story, and their eventual HEA is well-deserved as they’ve both had to suffer and work for it. Elizabeth eventually comes to realise that if she is not to lose Clun altogether, then she will have to compromise on her insistence on love; Clun has to admit that he has, in fact, fallen head over heels and be prepared to trust Elizabeth with his heart.

Miranda Davis has a gift for writing spirited, witty dialogue and for creating likeable, well-drawn characters. In addition to the principals, she has created a strong supporting cast, which includes the other three “Horsemen” , Tyler Rodwell – Clun’s half-brother and steward – Clun’s harpy of a mother, Elizabeth’s reclusive father and assorted bit-players, all of whom are deftly delineated.

If I have a reservation about the book, it’s to do with the epilogue because I felt it was too much of a change in tone after Clun and Elizabeth had resolved their differences. I understand why it’s there and the points it’s intended to make; I just thought it was a rather traumatic – albeit perfectly reaslistic – way to make them.

I admit that although I enjoyed The Duke’s Tattoo, I liked The Baron’s Betrothal even more; the characters felt more naturalistic and the premise more plausible. It’s warm and funny and by the end of the book, I felt confident that Clun and Elizabeth really were going to live “happily ever after” and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next instalment.

Disclaimer: I know the author, read this book in an earlier draft and have proof-read the final version. That said, this is an impartial review, based solely on the writing and content.

The Reluctant Earl by C.J Chase

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Alone in a gentleman’s bedchamber, rummaging through his clothing-governess Leah Vance risks social ruin. Only by selling political information can she pay for her sister’s care. And the letter she found in Julian DeChambrelle’s coat could be valuable-if the ex-sea captain himself had not just walked in.

As a navy officer, Julian knew his purpose. As a new earl, he’s plagued by trivialities and marriage-obsessed females. Miss Vance’s independence is intriguing-and useful. In return for relaying false information, he will pay her handsomely. But trusting her, even caring for her? That would be pure folly. Yet when he sees the danger that surrounds her, it may be too late to stop himself….

Rating: C

England after the Napoleonic Wars was a country that had been brought almost to its knees. Indeed, life over here, given the restrictions on trade resulting from the wars, was much harder for the ordinary, working man than it was in France. Added to that, a run of bad winters and poor harvests meant that food was scarce and many were starving, so it was perhaps not surprising that some began to look across the Channel and consider emulating the way that the French had dealt with society’s huge inequalities some twenty years earlier.

This is the historical background against which the action of The Reluctant Earl is set. The novel opens with Julian DeChambelle, the new Earl Chambleton receiving anonymous information to the effect that his recently deceased father may have been murdered. The late earl was known to have been sympathetic to the plight of the common people, and to have been trying to further their cause in Parliament.
In order to attempt to solve the mystery of his father’s death, Julian visits his estranged sister, whose husband is a member of the government, and in doing so, meets Leah Vance, who is governess to his niece. It is an inauspicious meeting ; as when they meet, Leah is searching his room for information which she can sell in order provide care for her mentally ill sister.

Naturally, Julian is mistrustful, but instead of exposing Leah’s activities he decides instead to turn them to his advantage, and gets her to supply false information to the group of rebels she is helping.
Chambleton, formerly a Captain in the Navy, is finding it difficult to adjust to his new responsibilities, especially as he had never expected to inherit the title; and Leah knows that she may soon be unable to continue to provide for her sister as her charge is to make her come-out shortly and will no longer have need of a governess. Thus, both of them are somewhat adrift and unsure of their place in society.

The principal story – Julian’s search for the truth about his father’s death – is well put together, with plenty of mystery, action and opportunities to further the burgeoning romance between the earl and the governess. I confess I found the fact that both protagonists had sisters who needed specialist care rather too much of a coincidence, but the story worked overall.

The historical background to the romance is well-researched and very interesting. Used as I am to reading about rakish dukes and beautiful debutantes, I realised when reading this that in the majority of those other novels, there is little or no comment on the political situation, the food shortages and the riots. I was especially intrigued by the mention of the Spa Fields Riots which took place late in 1816, and of the plot to assassinate the Prince Regent in 1817 – and have been motivated to find out more.

This title comes from Harlequin’s Love Inspired line, and so there is some discussion of faith. Both Julian and Leah have lost theirs, and the last part of the book in particular deals with both of them realising (separately) that they need to learn to place more of their trust in the Almighty. I will admit that this aspect of the book wasn’t important to me, and there were a couple of times that I thought – “ah, yes – I’m being reminded this is a ‘Christian’ novel” – but in the grand scheme of things, I can accept a little proselytising now and again! After all, at the time the novel is set, religion played a more important part in people’s lives than it does for many of us today, so the issue is not out of place.

The blend of mystery and romance works reasonably well, although I’d say the mystery is more to the forefront than the romance; but overall, this is an easy, comfortable (and informative) read

With thanks to Harlequin and NetGalley for the review copy

Miss Jacobson’s Journey by Carola Dunn

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Originally published in 1992, this review is of the Kindle edition, published October 2010.

‘Improper and impious!’ her family cried, but in a most unladylike fashion, Miriam Jacobson defied her parents. Finding the thought of marriage stupefying, she rejected the eminently suitable bridegroom they had selected. Instead, she chose adventure, traveling the Continent and assisting her physician’s uncle in his labors.Following the good doctor’s death and the outbreak of war, Miriam decides her time for adventure is over. To secure passage to England, she accepts a patriotic mission from the banking family, Rothschild, though it means enduring a lengthy journey through France and Spain in the company of two insufferable gentlemen–one an intolerant aristocrat and the second a member of her own faith who seems to harbor a personal grudge against her, and is somehow disturbingly familiar…

Rating: B

Another fabulous trad. Regency, this time also featuring a large dollop of history alongside the romance.

We first meet the eponymous Miss Jacobson (Miriam) at the age of eighteen on the day she is to meet the young man her parents – and the matchmaker – have chosen for her to marry, but on glimpsing the rather gawky youth selected, she immediately rejects him rather cruelly. Instead, she announces her decision to accompany her uncle – a doctor – on his upcoming travels to Europe.

This is in 1802, and shortly afterwards travel between England and the Continent becomes difficult and dangerous, and Miriam is unable to return home.

We meet her again some nine years later when, after the death of her uncle, she decides to make the attempt to get back to England. Her quest for transport leads her to a meeting with Jakob Rothschild, who recruits her to assist two couriers – Isaac Cohen and Felix, Viscount Roworth – who are to smuggle badly needed gold through France and into Spain and into the coffers of the Duke of Wellington.
In return for her assistance, Rothschild guarantees to arrange Miriam’s passage home, and she agrees.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their journey. Felix and Isaac are initially very hostile towards each other. In the early stages, Felix is often insulting and makes many derogatory remarks about Jews, which are quite hard to read in this day and age, although I imagine his attitude is typical of the men of his time.

The relationships between Miriam and the men are very well-drawn, and I especially enjoyed reading about Felix’s progress from bigotry to tolerance and sympathy. He is soon won over by Isaac’s loyalty and Miriam’s resourcefulness, and the three of them become fast friends.

All does not go smoothly however, as in the course of their journey, the men are imprisoned, they are pursued and Felix is badly injured meaning that Isaac has to continue alone. Also serving to complicate matters is the fact that both the men are falling for Miriam and she for them. Felix – tall, strong, blond and blue-eyed – is the embodiment of her girlish dreams, yet Isaac (who she now knows to be the young man she rejected all those years ago) has changed much from the weedy scholar she first met, and has grown into a handsome and compassionate man – and Miriam is torn between them.

I found this to be enjoyable and engaging and am really looking forward to reading the other books in the trilogy – Lord Roworth’s Reward and Captain Ingram’s Inheritance.