Amelia Coomb, only seventeen, arrives in Paris to search of her fiancé's grave. Killed in the war, Quentin was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in France. France and England having been at war, the French cab driver treats Amelia with disrespect, and only the intervention of a kind man guides her to her fiancés last resting place. Amelia is grateful to the stranger who offers kind words. He is dressed from head to foot in black. Amelia assumes him to be a priest, and treats him accordingly. Because of her confusion and mourning, and not wanting to upset her, the man (actually Count Andreas Briccetti) gives her a fake name – that of a good friend of his – a priest from Italy. Amelia insists on offering him dinner, and when it is over, giving him the leftovers wrapped in a napkin, for she knows priests live in poverty. She sees Andreas several times in the week she is in Paris, and each time she feels closer to him. She even fancies herself a bit in love with the tall, handsome priest; but of course, that is simply a young girl's fancy, she thinks. After a tender good-bye, she leaves Paris and returns to England.
Four years later, she is invited to Venice by good friends, and having nothing to do, agrees. She goes to Venice, intending to look for her friend, the priest whose name Andreas gave her. She finally finds the church, but to her horror, learns that her friend has died. Sorrowfully, she goes back to her friend's house and dresses for a luxurious ball, given by a certain Count Andreas Briccetti. When she sees him, she recognises him right away, and in a fit of anger and shock, nearly pushes him off the pier.
Count Andreas never meant for Amelia to think he was a man of the cloth. He never imagined he'd need to explain his past charade to her — nor to conceal his real identity as a resistance fighter. But even as he attempts to protect Amelia from the intrigue and danger surrounding him, Andreas realizes that he's falling in love with the lovely English girl.
This was a very entertaining book set in Italy, with the Napoleonic wars as the background, and Austria's invasion of Italy as the setting. As the hero and heroine fall in love, their lives are very much in danger because of Andrea's convictions and patriotism. I couldn't help admiring the historical part of the book, all the while enjoying the romance and the characters. I recommend The Merchant Prince to anyone who loves regency romances, and is interested in the Austrian – Italian conflict.