England, 1888. Quiet and scholarly Princess Emilie has always avoided adventure, until she’s forced to disguise herself as a tutor in the household of the imposing Duke of Ashland, a former soldier disfigured in battle and abandoned by his wife. When chance draws her into a secret liaison with the duke, Emilie can’t resist the opportunity to learn what lies behind his forbidding mask, and find out what adventure really means…
The duke never imagines that his son’s tutor and his mysterious golden-haired beauty are one and the same. But when the true identity of his lover is laid bare, Moreland must face the demons in his past in order to safeguard both his lady—and his heart.
It has been said that ” . . . it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Nothing was more true during the Napoleonic Era and the years after, when Western Europe was still recovering from war, rife with political secrets for the overthrow of one kingdom or another, and was a hotbed of espionage. England was also awash with spies and former spies, with those who secretly king and country undercover and whose knowledge of the dirty inner workings of government agencies could either be a blessing or a curse. For the three princesses whose stories comprise this new trilogy of historical romance novels, knowing an uncle whose influence reached to the farthest reaches of the British Isles was for them a life-saving factor. Emilie and her sisters were caught in the sights of those who would take their lives in order to change the course of history in their home country after the death of their parents. Now they are relying on their British uncle to find a way to keep them safe.
This is a very unusual story setting–a foreign, half-English princess who is masquerading as a male scholar and tutor for a man whose war injuries have warped his perception of himself and his loved ones, allowed it to drive him into seclusion. This situation is perfect for keeping a princess hidden in plain sight, so to speak, but as all good stories do, this one never allows the characters to have an easy time of it. It brings together two individuals who are hiding, for different reasons obviously, but both must find a way to live in a more normal setting while preserving their very lives. Add in an attraction that just wouldn’t go away and a youngster who is bent on doing his own thing, and you have a complicated, somewhat political romance novel that is full of human weakness and angst, fear, emotional ups and downs, mixed in with family loyalty and people who stand by one another no matter the stresses involved.
I have read other works by this author and have found her to be a very good writer, one who does her research and knows the historical context well as well as demonstrating an ease with the historical romance genre. She also makes this former English teacher’s heart glad in that she uses correct tenses and puts sentences together beautifully. ( Incidentally, one of my pet peeves is reading the past tense of kneel as kneeled when my English text always taught it was knelt. ) It is an entertaining read for those of us who enjoy a bit of suspense and mystery solving mixed in with their love affairs, and it is fun to watch the duke gradually unravel the identity of his tutor. There are surprises here and some resolution to the crises that made for lots of interest right up to the end. The story is sensual and certainly has a pervasive sexual tension throughout without being gratuitous and with sex scenes purely for the sake of putting sex scenes in the book to increase sales.
All in all, it was a fine piece of writing that I am happy to recommend to lovers of historical romance fiction. Not to be missed, IMHO. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.