My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One Night with a Spy is the third book in the Royal Four series, which is an offshoot of the Liars Club series. It's been years since I last read any books by Celeste Bradley. I glommed her big-time, and then I decided to take a break so that I wouldn't get tired of her and Regency historicals (I don't like to get burned out on different genres). Now I am reminded why I am a fan of her writing.
Normally I have a low saturation point for witty, lighter Regency historical romances. Not that they are bad, I just prefer intense, darker romances. I think the Regency lord who happens to be a spy is a very trite, dull subject, so I am at the point now where I mostly give those a miss. But I have a few writers that I will read those by, Celeste Bradley would be high on the list. Ms. Bradley is able to write books that are a good balance of witty and intense. She also has a very good hand for a steamy read. And One Night with a Spy doesn't disappoint on any of those fronts.
Initially, I was predisposed to dislike Marcus. He was arrogant and a bit chauvinistic. Seemingly blinded by his ambitions, he had no problem insinuating himself in the widow, Lady Barrowby's affections with the ulterior motive of disproving her eligibility as the Fox, the member of the Royal Four who needed a replacement since Julia, Lady Barrowby's husband had died. He is low down enough to read her diaries, in an attempt to use it against her, but finds himself enthralled by the erotically detailed, sensual fantasies she has written down. Of course, he assumes that she is recording her true sexual adventures, and that makes him want to dislike her even more. However, his time 'seducing' Lady Barrowby culminates in his own seduction. He realizes that Julia is emminently qualified to serve as the Fox, having been her husband's groomed replacement, and in fact, acting as the Fox for the three years he was incapacitated with a stroke prior to his death. She's also very qualified to be the woman who steals his heart. Having seen this man gain a realization that he was way wrong in his estimations of Julia, I found myself shocked at his actions.
I do have admire that the author doesn't go the predictable route here. I wasn't sure how this would end, and that added a level of suspense to this story, along with the question about who and where the Chimera (a fierce antagonist of the Liar's Club) was. I was pretty much on Julia's team. I thought she earned the right to be Fox. Just because Marcus was a man didn't make him more qualified. And she was a lot more honorable and self-sacrificing than he was, although they both had their reasons for wanting the position as the Fox.
Although this didn't end up being as much of a favorite as the first two books in the Royal Four series, I really enjoyed it. I liked seeing Julia and Marcus' courtship, how Julia showed the great woman she was by her actions, and had Marcus falling deeply in love with her. The love scenes were very hot and sensual. Even though Marcus annoyed me, I could see why Julia loved him, and I understood why he was so ruthless in getting what he wanted. And he realized what was more important in the long run and went after it like a good hero should. The humor was good (as always), and the espionage elements were pretty intense. I also liked the aspects of the story involving Julia's adopted kin, the Fair Folk (who she had grown up with before she married Aldus, Lord Barrowby), and Julia's aged, toothless lion Sebastian's antics. Although brief, I liked the cameos from members of the Royal Four and a few of the characters from the Liar's Club books. I still mourn that she isn't writing those anymore. I loved that series. However, the Royal Four series is great too, and the good news is I still have one more book in this series to read. I think I'll be reading it soon.
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