Elissande Edgerton is a desperate woman, a virtual prisoner in the home of her tyrannical uncle. Only through marriage can she claim the freedom she craves. But how to catch the perfect man?
Lord Vere is used to baiting irresistible traps. As a secret agent for the government, he’s tracked down some of the most devious criminals in London, all the while maintaining his cover as one of Society’s most harmless—and idiotic—bachelors. But nothing can prepare him for the scandal of being ensnared by Elissande.
Forced into a marriage of convenience, Elissande and Vere are each about to discover they’re not the only one with a hidden agenda. With seduction their only weapon against each other—and a dark secret from the past endangering both their lives—can they learn to trust each other even as they surrender to a passion that won’t be denied?
Another complex, thoughtful historical romance set in the late 1890's, only this time the hero is really a spy for the Crown posing as an aristocratic idiot. The heroine is a desperate young woman who entraps him into marriage in order to get away from her horribly abusive uncle. The book had a lightheartedness to it with a dark underbelly. Overall, I liked it, but because both the hero and heroine are deceiving each other most of the time, their relationship took a long time to blossom since neither one of them trusted the other.
Elissande must deal with her horrid uncle that our hero, Vere, is trying to trap. The uncle is suspected of forging diamonds and selling them on the market. Elissande knows nothing about the diamonds. All she's worried about is getting away from him and protecting her aunt who is in a constant laudanum induced trance; her escape from the perverse cruelty perpetrated by her husband.
In order to set up the uncle, Vere and his fellow spies cook up a scheme in which one of them rents a nearby estate and has it infested with rats during a country estate party - uggh, I hate rats! I have a particular aversion to anything related to rats. The hostess of the country party (Vere's partner and ringleader of the group) goes to Elissande's nearby home while the uncle is away on a brief trip. She begs her to allow her friends to stay with them until they can clear up the rat situation. Elissande is hesitant at first but recognizes it as her only opportunity of escape! It's her chance to meet someone and marry them in three days before her uncle gets back! A long shot - but she goes for it! Elissande is determined!
Vere's act throughout the book, which was used to discourage anyone from realizing that he's really a spy, calls for a real stretch of the imagination. After a riding accident in his late teens, he pretends that the fall caused brain damage and he's been "a little simple" ever since. Everyone likes him and puts up with him, because he can't help it. He comes across as a big blundering, overgrown puppy while secretly collecting evidence for the Crown's spy ring.
Now, I must admit, implausible as it was, I liked this farfetched storyline. It came across as a screwball comedy. His initial meeting of Elissande is very funny, for when she catches her first glimpse of him, she's instantly taken by his handsome good looks, immediately setting her sights on him as her ticket out of hell. But once she realizes his "infirmity" he annoys her to no end and she sets her sights on his brother instead. It was amusing how the two of them wrangled with each other, she trying to avoid him while he is trying to keep her away from his too trusting brother, Freddie (from Thomas' first book, Private Arrangements). Elissande nearly reaches her goal, only Vere foils the attempt. In doing so, he winds up entangling himself - literally - in front of witnesses! Well, that settles it. Nearly choking on the irony of his predicament, he agrees to marry her.
Once they marry and Elissande has managed to escape from her uncle's clutches, the story becomes a bit more serious. For one thing, Vere is extremely angry that he's been trapped into marriage, even though he's been drawn to her from the instant he first met her. You see, upon his first meeting with Elissande he was nearly convinced that she was the dream girl he'd been imagining for years - until he realized she was nothing more than a vixen set on capturing his brother! He'd gotten his hopes up over her and then was bitterly disappointed upon the realization that she was nothing more than a schemer. Utter resentment sets in. Of course, he has no idea of why she did it.
Now married, he's in a predicament. He doesn't want to bed her, but after drinking an entire bottle of brandy - well... bed her he does! It doesn't help matters that she's throwing herself at him, bent on consummating the marriage to make sure her uncle can't have it annulled. How can Vere resist her in his drunken state? One little set back he didn't count on was that while drunk, he's himself, he's no longer Lord Vere, the idiot. Elissande is three sheets to the wind herself and doesn't notice the difference in his behavior until a few days later when she realizes he's faking everything! She questions him, but he just keeps playing dumb, keeping up the jovial act and helping her kindly with her hangover the next morning. He doesn't remember what he said to her or the fact he blew his cover - some spy!
I had some trouble with this plot point. It didn't sit well with me. The fact they're both so crocked for their first time in bed together - to the point where neither one can barely remember anything about it? Ummm, not good. Still, he keeps up his act as the dopey Lord Vere, but his real self shows through, particularly when he stops her uncle from brutally accosting her. Elissande sees the real side of him more and more. He's continues to stay angry with her, but it doesn't stop him from making love to her again. He resists her as much as he can but it's useless. It bugged me that he wasn't more understanding once he found out why she was so desperate to get away from her uncle. She wants him to tell her the truth about why he persists in the act, but he can't tell her because he's a spy!
Both are experts on acting - he as the idiot Lord Vere and she as the content and dutiful niece to her uncle and then as the happily married wife to Lord Vere. Pasting smiles on their faces, no one realizes what's really happening to them in their brittle sham of a marriage. It was a strange situation. Eventually, as is the case in all Sherry Thomas books, they each go through a lot of soul searching, secrets are revealed and they finally see the light and realize they can't live without one another, fallin in love despite their mistrust.
Don't let me forget to mention the great side story going on between Vere's brother Freddie and long time friend, Angelica who asks him to paint her nude. What? Yes... nude. Angelica has known and loved Freddie forever, yet has never been able to convey her feelings to him . She comes up with the posing nude idea in hopes it will spur Freddie into wanting her. I loved what happens between them! One particular moment when Vere pays an unexpected visit to Freddie's house is priceless!
Another scene I loved was when Vere tells Freddie the truth and the way Freddie lashes into him - it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I don't blame Freddie for being upset and it underlines how selfish Vere had been all those years making everyone think he was brain damaged. It opened Vere's eyes up to a lot of things.
Sherry Thomas has worked her magic again, although this is a slight departure for her, compared to her previous books. There's more humor and less anguish and no flashbacks. Vere and his charade was very cleverly written, especially the way she made him say and do things as Vere the idiot. I loved the way Elissande watched him and caught on to his act and then tried it on him herself. It was a turning point for them once he realized that he couldn't fool her anymore. Then they just had to work out the marriage business between them. Trust me, it all works out in the end! All in all, a great read all in one day, it was hard to put down! Highly recommended!