by Susanna Craig
Series: Love and Let Spy #2
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Opposites attract more than trouble in the latest captivating Regency romance from Susanna Craig.
Amanda Bartlett, widowed Countess of Kingston, is a woman beyond reproach. Married at nineteen, she dutifully provided the Earl with an heir and a spare before his death three years ago. Since then, Amanda has lived a simple, quiet life. A life that, if she were honest, has become more than a trifle dull. So when an adventure literally drops into her lap, in the shape of a mysterious book, she intends to make the most of it—especially if it brings her closer to a charismatic stranger...
Major Langley Stanhope, an intelligence officer and master mimic known as the Magpie, needs to retrieve the code book that has fallen into Amanda’s hands. The mistaken delivery has put them both in grave danger and in a desperate race to unearth a traitor. It’s also stirred an intense, reckless attraction. Langley believes the life he leads is not suitable for a delicate widow, but it seems he may have underestimated the lady’s daring...and the depths of their mutual desire.
In true llama fashion, I picked up the first book in this series because of the interesting cover: the bold neon title juxtaposed with the women in regency dress. The book itself was just as fun as the cover suggested, so I was excited to pick up this one, and even more happy that it’s just as delightfully funny and quick-paced. While this is the second in the series, this book can easily be read as a stand-alone.
Langley is one of General Scott’s intelligence officers, known as the Magpie for his ability to take on different personas. Plucked from a childhood on the streets, he’s uneasy with his new title, especially since he views the mission that got him that ennoblement as a complete failure. He’s eager to get himself back in the good graces of his fellow officers, and how better than to retrieve a lost code book as quickly and efficiently as possible. But he didn’t count on the Countess of Kingston. Amanda’s life is dull. Widowed with two young sons, her life is hemmed by both her mother, anxious to keep her safe, and her children’s guardian, Lord Dulsworthy. When a mix-up leads to her getting a French cookbook instead of the math treatise she wanted for her son’s birthday, she initially thinks nothing of it – until Langley shows up and her life gets a little bit more exciting. With Amanda and her sons in danger and an unexpected but undeniable attraction, can they retrieve the code book before it falls into enemy hands?
“And I still want to help, Major Stanhope. I want to do something.” His expression didn’t budget. “Please. You haven’t the first idea how dull my life is.”
It was an incredibly foolish, childish thing to say, the sort of excuse Philip would give for rule-breaking, for scrambling up one of the tall trees in the square when his grandmother wasn’t looking.”
You know that scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Belle sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere?” That’s Amanda. Though her mother raised her with the constant reminders that she has to stay within the bounds of propriety, she’s always wanted to push them, though her biggest deviation was paying a clergyman to teach her subjects her ladies’ finishing school wouldn’t. Her biggest worries are preventing the boys’ guardian from sending her quiet and bookish older child off to boarding school and gently dissuading the same man’s marital advances. When Langley contacts her and reveals the importance of the supposed cookbook, it’s exactly the adventure she’s been looking for, and much to Langley’s surprise, she insists on helping. When circumstances lead to him pretending to be the boys’ tutor in order to protect the family, it’s even harder to deny the attraction between them. Langley is suffering under a heavy burden of guilt, but even he can’t resist Amanda’s enthusiasm for adventure. The relationship between the two of them built slowly but wasn’t lacking in chemistry, and they made an excellent team.
“So which is it to be today, my lady? The gentleman, or the rogue?”
He’d made his peace with what she wanted from him—or told himself he had.
But her answer stole his breath.
“You.” Her throat rippled beneath his lips as she swallowed and said it again. “You.”
The only link between the books in the series is General Scott, who’s determined to play matchmaker for his spies. It’s an absolutely silly premise but it still worked for me. I think the mystery plot of this book worked out much better than the previous book’s, though the villain was still pretty transparent. And while I missed the gothic novel interludes, Amanda’s boys were pretty good comic relief as well. The pacing worked perfectly for me and made it a lighthearted and humorous read, while still leaving plenty of time for establishing Amanda and Langley as people and as a couple.
Overall, I liked this book even more than the first, and I can’t wait to see what happens with Lord and Lady Sterling in the next one!