While it is true that Romance-land contains no shortage of spies or family series, there are still spy romances out there well-written enough to grab and hold a reader’s attention. While I admit that the premise of a family of lovable spies seemed a bit much for me to go along with initially, Miranda Hartwell and Andrew MacLeod’s story was one I could not help enjoying.
Miranda Hartwell is no ordinary Victorian lady. At thirty, she has travelled widely and kept journals of her sojourns. While she has published some of her travel essays, she now wishes to organize her memoirs and also to travel again. For this, she requires the assistance of a secretary and she hires one Andrew Mac Gregor for the job. An unmarried lady hiring an unmarried – and relatively young – male secretary scandalizes Miranda’s family and will no doubt horrify Society once Miranda and her secretary set off for foreign lands far from the chapronage of Miranda’s aunts.
Unbeknownst to Miranda, her secretary is not the mild-mannered academic he appears to be, but is instead an experienced spy on a mission to protect Miranda. Without spoiling the plot, it would be fair to point out that Miranda’s last voyage did not go smoothly and hints are given in the prologue that she might have stumbled into something of great importance. This matter is, in fact, so important that Miranda requires Andrew’s protection.
Miranda initially finds her employee’s prying and constant presence an irritant, but, as time goes on, she finds Andrew to be pleasant company. The attraction between the two is obviously more than a close employer-employee working relationship, but each feels compelled to behave at least somewhat within the rules of class and etiquette required in their time. Miranda and Andrew are both intelligent, strong-willed and ultimately likable characters – qualities which allow them to really carry the story.
The heroine in jeopardy, the likable family (both the already happily married and the soon-to-be sequel characters) constantly milling about, and the bizarre family spying business could have made this book hackneyed beyond belief. However, Miranda and Andrew are both well-drawn as tortured souls finding haven in each other. Their love story is enjoyable enough to rise above the eyeroll-inducing backdrop of the strangely chipper family spy ring and keep one turning the pages. While a few of the scenes featuring Andrew’s family chafed at my nerves, most of the book focuses on the couple and is therefore truly enjoyable.
While the spy plot is one that can be found in dozens of books, most of those do not have the good fortune to feature such a likable lead couple. At times the backstory here is good and at times it is annoying. Still, Miranda and Andrew make it all worth reading in the end. Most of the time, they are more mature than the average Romance-land couple and their story was, therefore, rather refreshing.