A stolen kiss from a spy!
Working undercover for the government, Bartholomew Dyer must expose a nefarious plot to make Napoleon the ruler of England! He needs access to the highest echelons of Society to find those involved, so he’s forced to enlist the help of the woman who jilted him five years ago—Moira, Lady Rexford.
Moira’s widowed, yet still as captivating as ever, and Bart’s determined not to succumb to her charms a second time. But as they race against time Bart suspects it’s not their lives at greatest risk—it’s their hearts…
I’ve read a number of books by Georgie Lee over the last few years, and while I’ve enjoyed some more than others, she has yet to write the book that wows me and turns her into an auto-read author. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting, because although Courting Danger with Mr. Dyer, is a more than decent read, it doesn’t have the wow factor, either.
The eponymous Mr. Dyer – Bartholomew – is the fifth son of Lord Denning, who doesn’t care all that much about his children beyond his heir and his spare. Bart’s choice of career has alienated him from his father even further; as a successful and high-profile barrister, his name frequently appears in the newspapers, something his father dislikes intensely. What Denning doesn’t know, however, is that Bart also works for the Alien Office as part of a department dedicated to rooting out traitors working to undermine England’s safety and stability. The irony that the one part of his life that would probably make his father proud is the one part of it he can’t tell him about isn’t lost on Bart.
The book opens when Bart’s close friend and colleague, Frederick, Earl of Fallworth tells him that he will no longer assist him in his quest to foil the plot by a group known as the Rouge Noir to overthrow the government and hand England over to Bonaparte. Bart is frustrated and angry; someone like Freddie has the entrée to circles that are not easily accessible to Bart but Freddie is adamant. Since the loss of his young wife he has been a broken man, drinking heavily and taking little interest in the running of his home and estates. But now, he is determined to do better, and is unwilling to risk his safety – or that of his young son – any longer. Bart is surprised when their heated discussion is interrupted by Freddie’s sister, Moira, the widowed Countess of Rexford, and the woman whom, five years earlier, Bart had hoped to marry but whose family disdained him and encouraged her to marry elsewhere.
Knowing that the Rouge Noir has something big planned, but not yet having discovered its nature, Bart is willing to grasp at straws in order to get closer to the ringleaders and suggests that if Freddie can’t or won’t help, perhaps Moira could do so instead. A lady of her rank moves in the same social circles as his prime suspects and could be of great help – but Moira turns him down, unwilling to risk her life by becoming embroiled in his dangerous schemes. It’s only later, when she starts to consider her position in her brother’s household; how, when he remarries, she will be relegated to the status of hanger-on, and how stifled she had been in her own marriage that the idea of agreeing to help Bart takes hold of her mind.
Ms. Lee has crafted a strong, intriguing plotline and thrown in some nicely judged red-herrings along the way as Bart and Moira gradually uncover the truth about the Rouge Noir’s plans, but there’s a distinct lack of romantic chemistry between the principals that has affected my final grade for the book. Added to that, the hero is barely two-dimensional. Bart’s estrangement from his father is believable and their meeting late in the story is very well done, and his dismissal by Moira’s family five years earlier obviously still rankles, but other than that and the fact that he can never get married because his way of life wouldn’t be fair on a wife, I never felt as though I knew much about him.
Moira is the more strongly dawn of the two leads. She is a young woman at a crossroads in her life, realising she has outlived her usefulness to her family and, after five years of marriage to a much older man, wanting to experience a bit of adventure – but there’s no denying she has a couple of close-to-TSTL moments that made me wince. For someone with no experience of espionage, she manages to say all the right things to the right people on her first attempt and gets closer to the suspects quite easily – maybe I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Joanna Bourne, but I expect more complexity when it comes to spy stories.
Courting Danger with Mr. Dyer has a well-constructed plot that leads to an exciting (if rather too quick) dénouement, but the romance is sorely lacking. There’s only one reason given for the fact that Bart and Moira are unable to be together, and If we were told once that “she wanted a family and he wasn’t the man to give it to her”, we were told a dozen times, and I really dislike being hit over the head with the same plot point over and over again. Especially when it’s one that simply evaporates at the end. If you’re looking for an historical spy-fix that focuses on that aspect of the story more than the romance, then you might enjoy this book, but if you want one in which the romance takes equal-billing, then it’s probably not the book for you.