In the years following the French Revolution, French nobility escaped to London. Gavin Norwood, the Viscount Kendale, was in the English army fighting against the Revolution. His company got ambushed when they were betrayed by a woman, and now he dreams of revenge while mistrusting women everywhere. He spends his leisure time building a private army and following a French woman around town.
Marielle Lyon may or may not be a spy, but she certainly acts shifty, skulking around town and delivering papers to men in back alleyways. She also may or may not be impersonating the niece of a French aristocrat. The point is, no one really knows who she is or what she’s doing, and that makes her suspicious, so Kendale keeps spying on her. One fortuitous afternoon, Kendale rescues Marielle from some back-alley ruffians. They both get stabbed, so he takes her to his house to meet with a doctor. Then they have a suggestive conversation while she’s wearing a sheet and he’s wearing a robe. From her perspective, “She knew what he was thinking. She saw the desire in him. Smelled it. Women like her were never ignorant of their effects on men.”
From his perspective, “He knew French women to be very wily in their ways with men. A smart man would have nothing to do with them.” That’s the setup. And then there’s lots of suspicion and arousal and suspicion. They don’t know much about each other before Kendale pushes her against a wall and kisses her. He eventually asks her to be his mistress for two weeks because she’s sexy and mysterious, and she agrees because she finds him attractive.
Several times he takes her from behind, because he’s impatient, and that stood out to me only because many heroes lift up their lady’s legs and do them against a wall, face to face. Either it’s proof of his trust issues with women, or he’s not strong enough to carry her, or I’m just thinking too much about it.
Overall, I didn’t connect with either character. Marielle had a personal mission but she never revealed it to the reader until she told Kendale, so I didn’t sympathize with her much. And Kendale was just kind of oafish with his vendetta. He has a deserved reputation of being anti-social and rigid. Their relationship seemed to be based on sex and on the allure of having sex with someone mysterious. I didn’t feel like I really saw them fall in love.
The last part of the book reveals both of their motivations, and there’s even a little spy mission that was interesting and almost suspenseful. But the result felt a little lackluster and emotionless to me.
Kendale has two friends who were heroes in their own books, which I haven’t read. Those characters seemed livelier, I would recommend reading one of their previous books first to get a sense of the political situation and maybe more background. Then this book could have been more rewarding.
*ARC Provided by Jove
Click to purchase: Amazon
The Counterfeit Mistress
by Madeline Hunter
Release Date: September 24, 2013