A Lady's Secret Weapon
A Lady’s Secret Weapon is a book that with a few edits could have ascended to an A book. The criticisms are minor, but there are many minor criticisms and they do add up. Though I did enjoy the book overall, I had to lower the grade to account for the multitude of quibbles.
Miss Sydney Hunt owns and runs an employment agency that places people primarily in service positions with wealthy families. Having a mother who was in service herself, Sydney is very cognizant of the hardships that those in service face: Long hours, low pay and being at the mercy of their employers. She tries to even the playing field for those workers by inspecting the homes they would enter and negotiating better pay and working conditions. That is the part of the business that pays the bills. In a separate study in her building, Sydney and her agency employees work to protect their clients in other less ethical ways. These less than ethical means of advocacy have caused Sydney to cross paths more than once with an English spy network called Nexus. On one of Sydney’s clandestine missions, she and her two footmen come to the rescue of Nexus operative Ethan deBeau, Viscount Danforth.
Ethan deBeau has been training for Nexus for almost half his life. When he was 14, his parents died and he came under the protection of Lord Somerton (the Chief of Nexus). He and his sister Cora had an unusual upbringing in that instead of playing games or sewing samplers, they spent their time learning to throw knives and avoid detection. Ethan’s primary skill is seducing women for information and the war with Napolean has given him a lot of opportunities to use this skill. He has spent so much time doing this that sex has become almost mechanical rather than pleasurable for him. However, he continues to do it because he wants to be the next Chief of the Nexus organization.
While attempting to catch a spy, he is beaten up and ends up in a warehouse in London. His head injury prevents him from remembering much of the event, but he does remember the maid who nursed him back to health. He is just not sure what she looks like since she was in disguise. When Ethan encounters Miss Sydney Hunt/Henshaw at the Abbingdale Home for Displaced and Gifted Boys, something about her strikes a chord with him. The fact that she is sniffing around the same institution that might hold the kidnapped child he is searching for piques his interest even more.
There is much that is good about this book. I did like both the hero and heroine; I just did not love either of them. The storyline was interesting, but there were gaps in it that were never fully explained. I wanted to know more than I learned. Ethan was just a little too volatile for a spy that has over a decade’s worth of experience. He also does not seem to be too good at his job when he is not in the bedroom. Sydney was a little more likeable as a character, but the baggage she brings to the relationship does not entirely make sense. Some authors make the mistake of telling in an info dump instead of showing. This book might have benefited from just a little more telling. Too many questions in my mind were left unanswered. The secondary characters of Mick, Mac and Amelia were almost more interesting than the main characters. The ending was also just a tad abrupt and left this reader is some doubt as to the eventual HEA.
This is probably the best C+ book I have read. The author did make me want to know more about the characters. She did have an interesting if somewhat overused premise and I really enjoyed the interactions and back stories of the Hunt Agency secondary characters (less so the Nexus secondary characters). However, there were just too many gaps in the story and unanswered questions for this book to get a higher grade from me.