She’d chosen a perfect night for thieving. The Seine rippled a dull, gunmetal gray in the moonlight, and a concealing mist snaked low over the dirty water, blanketing the faint, fetid odor of refuse and rotten fish. Notre Dame lay behind her, Pont Royal to her left, though it was called Pont de L’égalité nowadays. Everything had a different name since the Revolution. Including the woman in front of him.
So starts this book, which is a written by a debut author who is one to watch out for. Set in France at the end of the Napoleonic wars, it features a spy and a former aristo who join forces. The spy is Nicolas Valette, and the former aristo is Marianne de Bonnard. She is desperate to protect her sister Sophie, after their parents died and their home was destroyed by fire. As a result she has been forced to work for her cousin as a thief (in addition to working as an aerialist at the circus). When a job to plant incriminating evidence in Valette’s office goes awry, she ends up making a deal with him to complete one mission.
Leaving Sophie in the care of one of Nicolas’ trusted men, Marianne begins to undergo a tough training regime. Nicolas knows how difficult the task will be, and does his best not to let his attraction to her show as he works with her.
Keeping her would be like trying to tame a snake: exciting—and potentially deadly. But hell, he loved a challenge. Life had lost its luster a long time ago; the promise of danger was all that kept him going. That, and revenge.
He is focused on destroying Napoleon to avenge the death of his brother, and isn’t interested in forming attachments to any woman. Of course, he is wickedly handsome, a total rogue who is devious, intelligent and devastatingly charming . Marianne feels like she is far removed from the women he would normally be attracted to – she’s slim and boyishly built, she can throw knives with deadly precision and has done whatever she could to survive. During the training, she dreams of getting even with him for the punishing exercises. And yet, the sexual chemistry between the two of them sizzles like mad.
Things don’t go as smoothly as they planned for their mission, and they have to escape to England, much against her wishes. Marianne doesn’t want to leave France, still worried about her sister’s safety but Nicolas convinces her that this is the only way to stay alive at that point. They take refuge with his family, and she is shocked to find out he is part of the English aristocracy. His family welcomes her without question, and soon she and Nicolas give in to the desire between them.
At that point, you’d think the story would be done but no…he is still obsessed with Napoleon, and she thinks there isn’t any future for them and slips away to return to France. There are some loose ends that each of them need to deal with before getting their HEA.
Sometimes I get frustrated with the whole ‘I hate you – I want to bed you‘ trope, but Ms Bateman managed to portray it in a very entertaining way. Spies are also a very popular occupation in historical romance these days as well it seems and again, this book delivers a strong plot to keep it fresh. It was a nice change to read a book set mostly in France instead of England, and she does a wonderful job of transporting the reader into the time period.
The next book features Nic’s sister Heloise, with Raven, a fellow spy who had a small part in this book.