A refugee from the war in France, the tattered but elegant Marielle Lyon has established herself at the fringes of London society. Claiming to be the niece of an executed aristocrat, Marielle welcomes the gossip that she is a spy. The more eyes she has watching her, the better protected she is—and the better chance she has of completing her long-planned mission. Two of those eyes belong to the stoic, handsome Viscount Kendale. She leads him in a high-stakes dance, unaware that she is playing with the most dangerous kind of fire for a woman with a secret.
A warrior at heart, Gavin Norwood, Viscount Kendale, has no patience with the frivolities of society to which his title subjects him. He would still be in uniform if not for his older brother’s untimely death. After all he’s seen, Kendale doesn’t trust the French—or their femme fatales. He has set up a private surveillance network to ferret out undercover agents, and he believes he’s found one in the delicate, mysterious Marielle.
Ready to pounce on his tempting prey, Kendale arranges a meeting with Marielle, to confront her with the evidence he has amassed, and to interrogate and break her and learn the names of her contacts. Marielle is more enchanting and cunning than he anticipated, however, and as expert at using her feminine wiles as she is at weaving intrigues. To unmask her and learn the truth will require all of his formidable skills—both as an investigator and, as their game progresses, as a lover…
You know, I’m getting really annoyed with some historical romance readers! I made the decision a while ago not to read this series because there were quite a few negative reviews, and I really wish I had ignored them.
The historical romance genre at the moment is beyond bizarre. Disney fairy tales based on television shows like The Brady Bunch and House get raving five star reviews across the board, while richly-detailed historical books that actually capture the location and time period are blasted for being too… well, for being too everything but fluff.
Before its recent revamp, Madeline Hunter had a post on her website (and I have mentioned it before). It discussed how her books are historical romance, not historical fiction with romantic elements, as if she needed to apologise for her books! In America, historical romances are more popular, while in Britain, general historical fiction is the one that sells.
The thing is, Hunter does write the type of book more likely to be enjoyed by British (and Australian) readers. She might see her books as having the emphasis on the romance, but when I think of her writing, what I think of is how masterfully she weaves historically accurate behaviours into her characters’ day to day activities. I think of how she brings Georgian and Regency London to life in a way few authors do.
I think she’d be better loved by many readers if she did less of this, but I’m extremely glad she writes what she does.
The Counterfeit Mistress is the third book in the Fairbourne Quartet and I think the best so far. War is brewing and the time period is so exciting. I wasn’t expecting Marielle and Gavin to be my favourite pairing in this series, but I enjoyed every moment of reading about them. In lesser hands, their conflict and mixed politics would have led to “cute” antics that would drive me insane. Instead, Hunter handles them with maturity and sense.
This book takes you through all the layers of Georgian society. The Regency era is on the horizon. The war with Napoleon is on the horizon. French aristocrats are fleeing to England. Many things are changing. So many times I put the book down to do some research of my own. Such a fascinating time period and the author researched it superbly.
What didn’t I like? I don’t like that the characters use the word snuck (ugh – not outside of the US, thank you) and call their arse their ass. And seeing an otherwise well-researched book having English characters saying fall instead of autumn… Just NO. It’s quadruply annoying because of the attention to detail in every other aspect of the book.
The Counterfeit Mistress is a fantastic book. However, if you’re on the lookout for a Happy Days or Partridge Family rewrite done in long dresses, don’t bother.