Michael Southey, AKA Michael Sommers is an English double agent sent to France and Austria to spy during the war. His latest disguise as a fencing master in Austria holds up quite well, until he happens upon a young boy, Edward Purcell, who had just been robbed and has no other way to return to England. He hires him as his assistant until Edward can save enough money to get England. What Michael doesn’t realize is that Edward is in reality Elizabeth DeQuincy, an English woman trying to make her way home disguised as a boy after running away from her brutish uncle shortly following her aunts death. What follow is a confusing tale of political intrigue and thwarted romance.
I will admit that I am still confused about this book. The first half of the book showed us Michael and Elizabeth (as Edward) giving fencing lessons, Michael avoiding a French Agent intent on capturing him, and Elizabeth thwarting duels and saving Michael’s life. The second half of the book shows Elizabeth and Michael almost never in the same room. Let alone in the same country.
I am not sure how love was supposed to grow between these two people while Michael didn’t know “he” (Edward) was a she (Elizabeth) and she couldn’t tell him. Along with a host of other characters including Austrian princes, French countesses and English officers, I unfortunately couldn’t suspend belief enough to buy into the ending of this story.
I was unaware that The Exiles was the second book in a series that started with A Question of Honor. It stands up quite well on its own. The story was well written, and the characters well drawn. I just wasn’t interested enough in French, English and Austrian politics to care much for this story.