I enjoyed the first book in this series a lot, but found the second one here lacking somewhat. Our heroine, Heloise, is the sister for Nicolas from the first book. She’s a codebreaker, working to decipher documents for the government so she’s portrayed as a smart young woman. She’s convinced no one will ever marry her, since she has a scar on her forehead from an incident in her youth. Her secret vice is naughty underthings, since her mother taught her that ‘you never know when you’ll get in a carriage accident’ -really? At the start of the book, she’s just cracked a code that may help to find a missing agent and is anxious to share it with the man she’s been in love with for years.
William de L’isle, Viscount Ravenwood, has been a family friend to her brothers and her secret crush. Known as Raven, he’s an agent for the government and he’s one sexy rogue. While he has also been attracted to Heloise (whom he has nicknamed Hellcat), he has kept his distance since there is no way he would touch his best friend’s sister. Instead, he hosts debauched parties when he’s not out doing espionage, and makes it clear he is unworthy of any woman’s heart.
It’s one of those parties that Heloise sneaks into, (as you do when you’re a gently raised young woman, not!) and after telling Raven what she’s discovered, someone shoots at them. It’s not clear how someone knew she was at the party, much less in the secluded area with Raven, however. At any rate, one of her fellow codebreakers has recently been murdered, and she is on the hit list now. So of course, Raven decides that the best course of action is to spirit her out of the country on his ship in order to protect her while he goes about rescuing the missing agent. She isn’t sure this is the best idea, despite her craving for adventure.
“People will think we’ve eloped.”
“Not if they know either one of us,” he replied succinctly. “If we both disappear they’re more likely to assume I’ve murdered you and fled the country.”
So off they go to Spain, and as in the first book, Ms Bateman does a great job of depicting the country and its inhabitants recovering from the war. She’s clearly done her homework on the history of the area, and manages to write about it without sounding like a travel brochure.
Raven is equal parts annoyed with Heloise and madly attracted to her. She has a penchant for getting into dangerous situations, due in part to the fact she doesn’t truly believe someone is after her. When he tells her to stay put for her own safety, she merrily goes out and does what she pleased. In the first book, the heroine Marianne was street smart and able to look after herself; Heloise is the opposite, often acting TSTL for me. I know it’s supposed to mean she’s feisty and independent, it just comes off as a spoiled child instead. Through all the action and adventure, they banter and bicker, ratcheting up the sexual tension to the nth degree. Once the inevitable seduction happens, Raven is still convinced that he’s not good enough for her and keeps his distance. It takes some time, and a visit from his estranged grandfather, before he is able to change his attitude.
I don’t know, it wasn’t a bad book overall, but around the halfway mark I was losing interest and wishing it was done. Maybe I needed more visual interest of Raven like this: