by Candace Camp

May 1997
ISBN: 1-55166-297-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Mira Books
Mass Market Paperback

Camilla Ferrand is an unprincipled little liar!! Well, actually she's not that bad, but to Benedict Wincross she's all that and more. Through no fault of his own, Benedict, Lord Rawdon, has ended up as her "pretend" fiancÚ-turned-husband, and is sharing a room with this fiery woman in her family's home. All he wanted was to find out who is betraying England to French spies, his job one of surveillance and information-gathering designed to reveal a traitor. He did not intend to get mixed up in Camilla's stories!

Camilla Ferrand, educated and independent blue-stocking, had sworn never to marry, and had only invented a fiancÚ as a sop to her grandfather's concern! She certainly never expected to find herself falling in love with the man she'd "hired" to fill the role, nor did she expect to arrive at Chevington Place and find her scatterbrained aunt had announced to all and sundry that Camilla and Benedict were man and wife!

This is truly a "patience" novel - one that requires patience on the part of the reader to reach the reward contained within. At the beginning, Camilla is little more than an empty-headed twit, helplessly tangled in the web of lies she has created and stubbornly refusing to take the simplest solution. I have to confess I was ready to give up on her after several chapters into the book, but the character of Benedict, angry, intelligent, and quite sensual, kept me going and I'm glad he did.

This tale develops into a first rate romance with a cracklingly good story to go along with it. Camilla matures rapidly into a woman aware of her own awakening sensuality and only too responsive to the man who is bringing these feelings to life. She still acts idiotically at times, but much less often and with much greater provocation. Benedict is delightful, irritated to an explosive degree by the set of circumstances he finds himself stuck in, yet unwillingly drawn to Camilla. When he finally gives in to his yearnings - watch out Camilla, you don't stand a chance!!

The settings are well-drawn, and the adventures these two lovers experience seem natural and unforced. Smuggling was a well-known source of concern for authorities during the Napoleonic wars and this story fits right in. If you have chance to read this book, stay with it and remember that once you pass the first few chapters, you'll be captured by the story of Camilla and Benedict (and also trying to unmask the traitor yourself)!

Reviewed in November 2001 by Celia.

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