Rating: 4 stars
Lady Phillipa Benning is a young, beautiful, fantastically wealthy widow and the undisputed queen (and Mean Girl) of London society. She has set her eyes on the Marquis of Broughton, who is equally eligible, wealthy and popular, but her arch rival from school, Lady Jane Cummings also seems to have him in her sights and the vexing man is not beyond playing the two ladies against each other. Things start getting complicated after Philippa, having arranged a tryst with Broughton in a library, ends up hidden in a sarcophagus overhearing what appears to be famed English spy The Blue Raven discussing an enemy plot with one of his superiors.
First of all, Philippa is shocked that unassuming and plain Marcus Worth (he doesn't even have a title!) could be the exciting and infamous Blue Raven who helped England defeat France. He's so tall and gawky and wears glasses and always seems too clumsy for his own good. He's nothing like what she would have expected a dashing spy to be (which when she thinks about it is probably why he was so good at it). Philippa's reputation in society is flawless and she gets invited everywhere. She makes a deal with Marcus that at the end of the season, she will be allowed to reveal the identity of the Blue Raven at her big ball in return for securing him entry to all the society events where he suspects the sinister French agent might strike.
Of course, as they continue working with each other, Philippa keeps getting distracted from her pursuit of Broughton (although she skilfully uses Marcus to try to make the other man jealous), finding herself fascinated by this quiet, intelligent and unassuming man and his dangerous mission. Marcus discovers that Philippa isn't just beautiful and cruel, but that she hides a lot from the wider world to maintain her position. She's fiercely intelligent and an excellent organiser and there is pain in her past that she's clearly not willing to talk about. Over the course of their quest to uncover the French spy, he also learns that she seems to have a near-photographic memory, which is very helpful when navigating large crowds.
Revealed pretty much takes the fairly common story of the charming and experienced society rake who falls in love with the plain and intellectual nobody and gender-reverses it. Not that Philippa is really the female equivalent of a rake. While she was previously married, it was not of very long duration and she plays at being a lot more experienced and sophisticated than she is in reality. She's certainly an alpha female, however, and her views and opinions are closely followed by the majority of the ton. Marcus Worth is very much not an alpha male, and while he's initially ready to brush off Philippa as a malicious and self-centred manipulator, he's also very observant and keeps seeing the things she keeps hidden from others. He's fascinated by the woman she could be, if she wasn't so busy dazzling her surrounding and claiming to be indifferent to everything.
I read The Scarlet Pimpernel at an impressionable age, so Regency spies have always held a fascination for me. There is more to the character of the Blue Raven that Philippa first suspects and she comes to discover over the course of her work with Marcus that spying isn't actually very glamorous and adventurous, but involves very real danger to everyone involved. Philippa starts out as really rather horrible and I can see why her personality could put some people off to begin with. To go with the previously mentioned gender reversal, it's nice to see that the heroine can be complex and a bit of a dick, only to be gradually changed and redeemed by falling for someone unexpected. Marcus is tall, bookish, gangly, bespectacled and has unruly hair - that's pretty much my ideal man. He struggles to convince his superiors that there really is a plot to watch out for. They believe him to be overly paranoid and just bored with his post-War desk duty (hence him having to ally with Philippa). Together, they make a very effective team, and they obviously fall in love along the way.
I've only read a few other Kate Noble romances (including book 4 in The Blue Raven series). Neither of them very very memorable and I was glad to discover that this was so much more entertaining and fun.
Judging a book by its cover: The cover is fairly generic for a Regency novel, but I will give the cover designer kudos for using a period appropriate dress (which is sadly so often not the case). As there is quite a bit of running around in gardens, the lady running either from or towards something is a suitable image, I guess, and the dress is fashionable enough to be something Lady Phillipa would wear.