I expected a typical Regency with a jilted angry hero who’s come back for revenge (one of my favorite plots), but I was treated to a kidnapping, a spy, a Russian setting and a heroine who really isn’t as good as she seems. In fact, she has a big secret, and for once, it’s really a Big Secret, not so much a Big Misunderstanding.
Clayton is an apprentice at 15 year old Olivia Swift’s father’s paper mill. The two fall in love and then disaster strikes. Clayton finds out her father is counterfeiting bank drafts. He immediately tells Olivia, and warns her that he’s going to the authorities. She believes her dad must have made a horrible mistake, obviously her father wouldn’t be involved in criminal work. Or would he?
Clayton is taken to prison and her father tells Olivia he was hanged. Soon after, her father falls ill, and Olivia (who is a very typical selfish teenager) bails for London until she’s forced to see what ignoring the town and Mill has done to the people there. This changes Olivia. Thinking some good can come out of this, she sets her mind to running the Mill and seeing the villagers thrive.
10 years later, a dead man walks into her life.
Clayton wasn’t hanged, nor was he in prison. He’d been a spy (not a spoiler-this is all known by the 3rd chapter). Not the glamorous kind like James Bond, but the kind dragged from a prison and sent in to do work they wouldn’t send a dog in to do. And it made him hard. He had to be. And now he’s bought all the debts Olivia’s Mill owes, and is calling them in. He will ruin her father (unknowingly ruining Olivia, since she’s the one who runs it and owes the money).
Almost immediately after that, Olivia is kidnapped by some Russian thugs who believe that Clayton made contact with her because she’s in his spy ring. I kind of wish we’d seen more of Olivia before Clayton came back into her life. The majority of the story takes place in Russia, which is very cool. And there are some great characters.
However it’s a little convenient that Olivia speaks Russian (since for the most part they speak in Russian the whole book).
But I felt like the whole “Clayton’s going to ruin the Mill” hanging over their heads bothered me. Because it was such a tiny piece of what was going on, it was annoying to see it used to drive their distrust of each other forward.
But the action-packed plot and the mystery were really great and enjoyable. It kind of reminded me of the movie The Saint, with Val Kilmer a bit, and I do love that movie! I also think that while Olivia started out spoiled and childish, that she grew up and learned the value of hard work. This could have gone on to make her look like a Mary Sue, but with that Big Secret, it kind of made her more real. She made a choice, telling herself that the ends justified the means…but they maybe didn’t. It’s the best part of the book, seeing Olivia as not-so-perfect.
This book has so many things that work for it, and I think if anyone’s in the mood for a Regency Romance set in Russia with a princess, an emperor, a bad guy, a bad guy who maybe isn’t all the way bad, and a feisty heroine, go for it, this one’s for you!
***ARC courtesy of Avon Books