An Affair with a Spare
An Affair with a Spare is the third installment in Shana Galen’s Survivors series which features a group of former soldiers who have returned from the Napoleonic wars. These soldiers were part of a secret group who were assigned some of the most dangerous missions. Out of the thirty members of this elite group, only twelve survived, but life after the traumas of war isn’t proving easy.
Even though An Affair with a Spare is third in a series, it stands perfectly well on its own. Characters from the previous two books play small parts in this story, but it’s not necessary to have a full understanding of who they are and what part they play in the grand scheme of things.
Rafe Beaumont is the fifth son of an earl, and although he gets along reasonably well with his father, stepmother, and siblings, he’s never felt they understand who he is as a person. In fact, he firmly believes that only the men who fought beside him in the war really know him. Rafe is an exceedingly handsome man, and he’s learned to use his good looks to his benefit. In fact, his friends call him The Seducer, since his main job during the war was to seduce the wives of various Frenchmen in order to learn their secrets. Now, his former commanding officer has a similar job for Rafe in England; he’s required to learn the whereabouts of a French assassin by seducing the man’s beautiful daughter.
Collette Fortier never wanted to spy for the French, but her father’s life is on the line, and she’ll literally do anything to keep him alive. So, she journeys to London under an assumed name and does her best to get her hands on an extremely important British code. Unfortunately, she’s not all that adept at spying, and it soon becomes clear that she needs help, but she’s not sure who to trust.
When Collette and Rafe meet, neither is sure what to make of the other. Rafe is used to women everywhere falling at his feet, but Collette seems completely impervious to his charms. For her part, Collette has never met a man like Rafe before. He seems exactly the type of person who could be helpful in her quest to obtain the British codes, but she gets the distinct impression that he’s untrustworthy. After all, she’s not the least bit interested in anything even resembling a romantic entanglement, and that seems to be the only thing on Rafe’s mind.
As time passes and Rafe is no closer to uncovering the secrets he’s sure Collette is hiding, he becomes convinced that he needs to employ a new approach to get her to lower her guard. He decides to offer her friendship rather than a romantic relationship, and Collette slowly begins to succumb. Suddenly, everything Rafe thought he knew about himself and his relationship to his country is called into question. Will he be able to sacrifice the love he’s started to feel for Collette while at the same time fulfilling his mission?
Rafe turned out to be a difficult hero for me to warm up to. I liked him well enough as a supporting character in previous books, but I found myself irritated with him quite a bit of the time here. He initially comes off as a very vain and shallow individual, something that doesn’t work well for me; I like my heroes to have some depth. Fortunately, it becomes clear that there is more to Rafe than it at first seemed, and that in some ways, he’s actually a very insecure man who wonders if anyone will ever love him for anything beyond his personal appearance. This bit of vulnerability made it easier for me to warm to him.
As I previously stated, spying is not Collette’s strong suit. She knows what she needs to do, but she doesn’t seem capable of pulling it off. It’s not that she’s unintelligent, but the kind of intrigue she’s embroiled in requires a very specific skill set that she simply doesn’t have. As one might imagine, she doesn’t always make the best decisions, and I found myself a little frustrated with her at times. Her loyalty to her father is quite admirable though, and I was able to cut her some slack for that reason.
Collette and Rafe have great chemistry, and I loved watching them negotiate their feelings for one another. The conflict between them feels completely authentic, and I did wonder if they would be able to overcome the obstacles in their path and claim their HEA. Luckily, both are willing to compromise, a fact that made me smile since this isn’t always the case in many of today’s romances.
An Affair with a Spare is a strong, if imperfect, addition to a series I really enjoy. My favorite entry is still No Earls Allowed, but this one definitely has a great deal to recommend it.