Genre: historical romance
Cover: lovely, but not a scene from the book.
Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, accepted long ago that his kidnapped brother was dead. When a cryptic note from investigator Tristan Bonnaud claims otherwise, Max seeks out Tristan’s sister, Lisette – and is infuriated to learn that Tristan has also mysteriously vanished. Have the siblings perpetrated an elaborate hoax? Or is the fiercely protective beauty as innocent as she claims?
Fearful that the powerful Duke will destroy Tristan’s career in his zeal for the truth, the clever Lisette convinces Max to accompany her to Paris in a joint search for their loved ones. But their journey takes a seductive twist when they pose as an ordinary husband and wife – not an English Duke with a tarnished family name, and the illegitimate daughter of a viscount – and discover an exhilarating passion free from the damning secrets of the past. With the line between danger and desire enticingly blurred, they discover that some mysteries, like those of the heart, are answered tenfold in the bliss of a true love.
Lisette and Tristan Bonnaud are the illegitimate children of an English Viscount, Ambrose Rathmoor, and his French mistress. They lived with their mother at the edge of his estate, while his two legal sons lived in the Manor house. The viscount kept promising to marry their mother, but it was difficult, first because of the ongoing war, marrying a French woman would cause a huge scandal, and later on he kept making excuses. The oldest son, George, really despised his father’s mistress and her two children, and did whatever he could to make their lives miserable. The second son though, Dominic, is good friends with Tristan and Lisette.
When Lisette is 14, their father dies, leaving George as the new Viscount. George immediately evicts them from their little cottage, and accuses Tristan of being a horsethief. They have no choice but to leave at once and sneak away to France. Dominic is coming with them, as he wants to protect them and does not want to be beholden to his older brother for every bite of food he takes.
Now years later, Lisette and Dominic have returned to England, where Dominic has started his own investigating company. They have all been working for the Sûreté in the past, and Dominic feels confident he can make it on his own. With Lisette as his administrative assistant. Lisette wants to be an investigator as well, but Dom keeps holding her off. Seeing how her mother suffered of the empty promises of her father, Lisette is determined to never marry, nor does she want to be some rich man’s mistress. Growing up as a bastard was hard enough, she will not subject her own children to it.
Then just after Dom left for a case in Edinburgh, a late night visitor comes knocking. The Duke of Lyons has apparently received a note from her brother Tristan, about his own missing older brother Peter. At age 6, Peter was kidnapped and never found, and when Max was 16, Peter was presumed dead, making Maximilian the heir. Which totally ruined his plans of a naval career. He grew up with parents who kept searching for their oldest son, neglecting the one left, parents who fought a lot, and a father who went mad in the end. He watched his mother take care of his father through those horrible years, and vows never to put a woman he loves through that. Yes, he is very afraid of going mad himself, as it apparently runs in the family.
When Tristan did not show up for their meeting, Max decided to come looking here for him. Lisette is very surprised, because with the horse thief thing hanging above his head, her brother would never be able to come to England again. George would for sure have him hanged for it. It takes a lot of arguing for her to get the Duke to believe her, and even more to agree to go to France together and look for Tristan. Lisette has been worried about him for a while now, as he has stopped writing her and Dom. But she won’t just tell Max where they lived, or where Tristan works, for fear of ruining his career. And of course Max will carelessly just do that. The new head of the Sûreté does not like Tristan, even though he is one of their best agents.
And so they travel together to France, without a chaperone, pretending to be married. Lisette already has made it clear that she does not want to become a mistress or a wife, which Max finds very hard to believe. And of course he wants to show her what she is missing, show her what real passion and desire is. In France they find some clues that lead them to Belgium, and they hope to finally find out the truth about Peter and Tristan.
Of course, if they do find Peter, Max will no longer be a rich Duke …
I was very happy when I won this book at Smexy’s Book blog, thank you again Mandi! Sabrina Jeffries is one of my favourite historical romance authors. People on my blog reacted that they loved this book, unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. I was unable to connect to the characters, and so it felt a bit flat for me.
It is certainly not a bad book though, as I did enjoy the story, which had some nice and original details. The high and mighty Duke, who wants to have everything his way, and pretending to be a commoner really opens up his eyes how “ordinary” people live and especially travel. Having to share a room and a bed with strangers at the Inn, sharing a bath to preserve hot bathwater. Not having the innkeeper fly at his slightest wish. Travelling with other people in the mail coach, and having to endure their noises and smells, instead of travelling in his own well sprung coach and having his own servants take care of everything.
During those travels Lisette and Max do grow closer together, sharing bits and pieces about their lives. Lisette has her mother’s example to warn her, the poverty they endured after her father died, and still she gives in to Max’s seducing her so easily. I really can’t admire that. Max keeps thinking she is lying to him, deceiving him, at every turn, and I grew tired of it. He is just not strong enough a hero for me. O sure, in the end he uses his powers as a Duke relentlessly, but I just can’t fall for him.
As always, I do enjoy Sabrina Jeffries writing style, the unique historical details she weaves into the story. This time, the characters just did not do it for me. But, as I said before, other readers really loved this book. For now, I am looking forward to reading about her brothers in the next books, and I will keep hoping George gets his due in the last one.
© 2013 Reviews by Aurian