Saturday, 23 December 2017
#CBR9 Book 113: "A View to a Kiss" by Caroline Linden
Rating: 3.5 stars
Lady Mariah Dunmore is the daughter of a highly regarded diplomat, and has lived most of her life abroad with her very understanding mother and father. They would like her to find a nice man to marry, but seem perfectly fine with her taking her time and as they have such a good marriage themselves, no problem with her wanting to marry for love. Sadly, Mariah finds all the gentlemen of the London season rather tedious and uninspiring, until she meets a mysterious man in the shadows on the balcony at her parents' ball, who charms her with his boldness and conversation. To her intense frustration, according to her mother (and the extensive guest list), there was no one called "Harry" among the evening's guests.
This is because Harry Sinclair was attending the ball in disguise, working as a spy for the home office. Wearing the guise of the elderly and cranky Lord Worth, his job is to keep an eye on Lady Mariah's father, as the Home Office suspect someone may want to harm him in some way. In the daytime, Harry poses as the lowly secretary for yet another high ranking nobleman involved in politics, mostly transcribing long letters about gardening and horticulture. He's snuck out on the balcony for a break when he comes across Lady Mariah, and although he knows she is far beyond him in every way, can't help but strike up a flirtation with her. While Harry's mother appear to be well-born (but was disowned by her family when she eloped with his father), his father is a retired actor who runs a playhouse. Harry hopes he can make enough connections spying for the Home Office to eventually establish himself in politics, so he can help the many poor and destitute of England.
While they are deeply ill-suited, Harry can't seem to stay away from places where Mariah will be, and soon starts climbing up the trellis outside her bedroom window for midnight meetings with her in her bedroom. He keeps being very secretive about his identity and background, but makes it very clear to her (although not why) that the reason they have to meet all clandestine-like is because her parents would never approve of him. Can the high-born lady and the commoner ever find happiness together, or will Harry be shot for trespassing with Lord Dunmore discovers him in his daughter's bedroom?
For a book purportedly about spies, this book is really very slow and not all that much of an exciting nature happens. There is a brief action sequence in the last third of the book, but I really must admit I had been hoping for a bit more suspense than this book provided. If the hero wasn't a commoner, trying to win the hand of a woman way above his station (which you just don't see very often - a duke can marry a serving maid, or a dressmaker, or even a lowly seamstress, but wealthy ladies don't just marry nobodies), this would be a very solid 3-star book. It may still be, but I really did appreciate a romantic couple a bit outside the norm, even if most of their romance developed because the hero broke into her bedroom - which is probably a bit objectionable in itself (although Lady Mariah does seem pleased as punch about it, and he never takes any liberties that she's not offering up with enthusiasm).
Come to think of it, the lives of low-level spies are probably not all that exciting, and surveillance is probably both tedious and time-consuming. I wasn't necessarily expecting this to be the romance equivalent of a James Bond movie, but there could have been a bit more action and drama. I read romance for escapism - let me get carried away for a bit.
Caroline Linden has written some pretty good romances, this is one of her earlier efforts, and I'm not super excited. Since I have paid money for the entire trilogy, I suspect I'll get round to reading them eventually, but it makes me sad that this is not as entertaining as some of her later books.
Judging a book by its cover: I don't have a whole lot to say about this cover, because it's neither very exciting, nor particularly objectionable. A handsome dude and a lady who are at least partially (but possibly wholly) naked are about to kiss. This is a romance, you should probably expect that sort of thing to be happening. At least by choosing this approach, there is no chance of the outfits being deeply wrong for the period in question.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.