Traitor's Kiss / Lover's Kiss
Mary Blayney
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Buy *Traitor's Kiss / Lover's Kiss (Pennistan Family)* by Mary Blayney online

Traitor's Kiss / Lover's Kiss (Pennistan Family)
Mary Blayney
720 pages
October 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Traitor's Kiss focuses on Lord Gabriel Pennistan, an English spy who has been imprisoned in France for his spying activities against Napoleon. As the date for his hanging approaches Gabriel, is rescued by Charlotte Parnell, who proceeds to hide him and smuggle him back to England. Charlotte is something of a mystery, a woman who appears to be a prostitute, who seems remote and untrusting, who needs money for some unknown purpose. When Gabriel discovers that Charlotte is rescuing orphans, his attitude toward her changes. Gabriel, once returned to England, still has to clear his name - and find the woman who rescued him to try to make a life with her.

This story is rather uneven. There are interesting sections, particularly when Gabriel and Charlotte try to keep him from being recaptured by the French, but there are also rather dull and complicated parts where I wasn't too sure what was going on. The story moves in fits and starts; the characterization of Charlotte is never very clear, although Gabriel's nature is well summed up by the end of the book. It’s not always clear what part several of the side characters play in the overall plots.

The romance side of the book also disappoints. Charlotte and Gabriel seem not to like each other too much, and her motives are often unclear. The very end of the book plays out more as I expected, with Gabriel working hard to try to show Charlotte she can trust him, but in much of the rest of the book the romance remains fairly uninteresting.

The setting - at the end of the war against Napoleon - is interesting, and despite the occasional Americanisms that slip into the dialogue and setting, it feels reasonably authentic. However, the book feels unsatisfying and didn't inspire this reader to search for any other books by Mary Blayney.

Lover's Kiss is more enjoyable than Traitor's Kiss, interesting from the start with a slightly unusual plot. When Major Michael Garrett comes across a semi-naked and half-frozen woman on his way to Manchester after leaving the army, he can't decide initially whether to help her or just carry on. She's probably a prostitute or some other trouble, but in the end he does stop to help her. As she begins to recover, he discovers that she's more of a lady than he thought and that she has escaped from kidnappers. Of course the lady, Lollie, is very suspicious of Michael, assuming he is one of the kidnappers. When she is returned to her home – her brother is the Duke of Meryon – Michael thinks that he will continue on his journey.

But the duke is still concerned for Lady Olivia Pennistan's safety and hires Michael to guard the house. Olivia is beginning to wish that she had been more intimate with Michael; after all, if your reputation is lost, you might as well have had some fun. But Michael's sense of honor might get in their way, along with the kidnappers who are still out there.

The first half of this book is really good as we travel with Michael and Olivia through difficult situations, adverse weather and constant fear of the motives of the other person. The author does very well to keep the interest levels up as the two spar verbally while trying to make sense of their situation. Unfortunately, the narrative goes a bit downhill once they return to the Duke of Meryon's house; a fair amount of time passes while not much happens. There’s little doubt as to how the book will end, and the actual romance side of the story is a little lacking. It is still an interesting read and better than Traitor's Kiss. A few links exist between these two stories, but none are particularly significant.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Helen Hancox, 2008

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