“He had made jokes for himself, expecting no one else to catch them,
and indeed no one else had.” (103) Yep.
While as well-written as all of Duran’s Victorian romances, Written on Your Skin never really captured my interest and wasn’t my cup of tea, although it did have some great moments. To find out if it might be your cup of tea, please read on.
Phin is a spy working for Her Majesty’s government in Hong Kong. Poisoned at a party, he finds help in the surprising form of Mina Masters. A beautiful flibbertigibbet to whom he is attracted against his better judgement, she surprises him by saving his life and helping him escape. Four years later, Phin’s inheritance of an earldom has allowed him to leave the service and he is flailing against himself and his past with a controlled, narcotic enhanced stupor. Mina re-enters his world when she calls in the debt owed for his life. Together, they are trying to track down her missing mother, but Mina is a complicated woman hiding behind as many masks as he is. Phin, for his part, is also trying to keep Mina safe by limiting her participation and, very much against her wishes, her appearances in public.
Trust is the through-line in Duran’s work and Written on Your Skin is no different. Both Phin and Mina have life experiences that have driven them to create false fronts for the world. He simply doesn’t know what to do with himself or how to act naturally around his old friends, in particular the louche set he used to run with. Mina has learned to play dumb, coquette, bohemian, or whatever it takes to protect herself and control her circumstances. Each has fought battles to get where they are. Magnetically drawn to each other, they have to break through all of their posturing and self-protection. How do they trust each other? Can they trust themselves?
The quality of the writing is consistent with the rest of Duran’s books, I just don’t really enjoy a lot of MacGuffin-y machinations. I’m not sure if the book had too many, or if it just felt that way because I was never really that engrossed by the story. It’s probably the latter.
Books by Meredith Duran:
The (Shameful) Tally 2014 and links to my other reviews.