I stopped reading (well, I read all of the Outlander series between August and December of last year and, well, nothing else really held my interest) for a few months here, and this book is a delightful read.
In 1813, Aster Tanner is well aware that women were not supposed to work, even if they were on their own and had no family to support them. That she works, and works for the military, is commented upon time and again. But that’s only part of the main story. Aster is the secretary/assistant for the Captain of the Records office, but that is only a cover story. He is really a cryptographer, and he’s been teaching Aster the tools of the trade as well. For two years, he’s been giving her puzzles of greater and greater difficulty to solve to hone her skills.
Iain McIntyre is Captain in the Second Dragoons, aka the Scots Greys. His particular unit did not see actual combat because they are intelligence. He is given a confidential assignment: Find a list of possible traitors to England in the war. It is known in the intelligence community such a list of seven names exists, but no one knows where it might be. Another part of his assignment is to watch over the Records office..where Aster is working. Iain visits the office and meets Aster unexpectedly..and she blurts out that she is actually the secretary in the office, which immediately puts her under (admittedly slight) suspicion of being one of the traitors on the list.
Eventually, the bad guys figure out what’s going on at the records office, but because Aster has never introduced herself to anyone (except Iaian) as the secretary, no one really knows who A. Tanner is, and thus is able to escape (with the encrypted list). What happens then is a cat-and-mouse with Iain looking for Aster, the bad guys, and the list, while the bad guys are looking for the list.
Needless to say, Aster and Iain have their happily ever after, and despite the espionage, the themes are not overall too heavy, and the book sets up for the next in the series because we don’t know who / where everyone on the list is..the mystery isn’t solved.