The Code of Love
After reading a string of light romances, it was a definite turn in the opposite direction to read The Code of Love, a somber story of intrigue set in both France and England. The Napoleonic conflict is its central theme, with Napoleon as an actual character and the unease and misery of the French as its backdrop. Although I have read a significant number of historical European romances, seldom have I read one with such intimate “behind the scenes” action from the French point of view.
Delphine Dalgleish lives on the French island of Ile de France with her widowed mother on their beloved family plantation, Saint-Amour. The daughter of revolutionary general, Delphine is a Bonapartist through and through and an unusual French woman in that she delights in the every day running of their plantation and does it well. But since women cannot hold title to land, her cousin, Armand de Belfort, holds stewardship of their family home though the property means little to him other than the benefits it provides.
Gideon Landor is a British officer and French prisoner on Ile de France. Despite the fact that the French allow the imprisoned officers to live in the finest accommodations, Gideon is one who won’t be placated with their social events and patronizing visits – he wants to return to his country. When he attempts to escape one night, with the “assistance” of a local French friend, Delphine’s cousin Belfort, Gideon is caught, brutally beaten, and interrogated, and almost loses his life before the local authorities come to his rescue.
Upon returning to his regular quarters, the battered Gideon must attend a formal reception that very night where he meets Delphine Dalgleish, the woman referred to as the idol of the island. He knows she is a colonial but she appears to be a pure product of Paris with her exquisite dress and empty expression. Half drawn and half repelled, Gideon enters into a debate of sorts with Delphine and realizes there is more to this angelic looking being than her appearance would indicate. When Gideon realizes only moments later that the lady’s cousin had betrayed him in his previous escape attempt, he steals Belfort’s yacht and successfully escapes.
When the British invade Ile de France, Delphine and her mother travel to Paris where Napoleon seeks a meeting with Delphine and convinces her to travel to England as a spy. Blinded to any cause other than the French, Delphine not only accepts Napoleon¹s assignments but also agrees to become romantically involved and even marry if she must to gain the information her dictator requires. Her blind devotion at times was worthy of respect and other times appeared as a major case of TSTL.
Not long after arriving in London, Delphine, as she feared, encounters Gideon at one of the many social affairs they attend. Believing Gideon is a double agent working for France, Delphine despises him for betraying his own country and can barely hide her contempt behind an icy politeness. Gideon’s view is quite different however – he is pleasantly surprised to see Delphine and somewhat disturbed at his growing fixation with her. Although Gideon is Britain’s top spy, he is a gentle hero who treats women with nothing but respect and is actually described on several occasions as having tears in his eyes. He has to be the most beta hero I have ever come across. Although assertive when required, he commands respect with his kindness and is a hero one could actually live with in real life.
At first I thought The Code of Love was slow reading because of its many references to French mannerisms, customs, and usage of the language but decided after a while that the book was slow-moving – period. I can’t classify it as boring since it is an all-encompassing story about an aspect of the French/English conflict not often seen in romance and one where you don’t find many HEAs either. Its sluggishness may have been due in part to the fact that the leads spend little time together with long separations a common event.
Gideon and Delphine’s story is heartrending at times and filled with perilous action segments that are convincing rather than contrived. Delphine’s mission and French ties serve the book well and it is her actions that move the book forward. I don’t claim to be an expert on the inner workings of France in the early 1800s but it certainly appears to be historically accurate.
Although the romance is not front and central, it remains a moving one nonetheless. Gideon’s protection of Delphine, despite her traitorous actions, is both touching and inspirational. Despite my appreciation for the historical backdrop, the fact remains that this may have received DIK status if there had been less history and more of Gideon and Delphine as a couple.