I lost my romance virginity to Catherine Coulter, and, throughout the years, even though I find her romances a hit or miss proposition, I always buy her regency-era historicals. I’m very glad I read The Deception because her writing here is crisp, clever, and mostly very well done. The book didn’t earn a higher grade from me only because I wasn’t compelled to pick it up each time I put it down.
Half-French, half-English Evangeline de Beauchamps is forced by those holding her father, men in league with Napoleon, to pass herself off as a widow and hopeful nanny to her cousin-by-marriage Richard Clarendon, the Duke of Portsmouth (he’s a widower). The Duke’s small son, Edmund, becomes another pawn the spies hold over Eve’s head. Should she not do as she is told, Edmund and her father are goners.
From the moment Eve and Clarendon meet, we can see they are made for one another. The Duke, a legendary swordsman, has rather a bad reputation, but he is one of Coulter’s better heroes. He is smart, wickedly funny, and clever enough to know that unfashionable Eve is the one for him. While I haven’t read An Intimate Deception, this re-written historical has a very Regency-like flair, although it has been, for want of a better phrase, “sexed-up” with some risque dialogue and situations.
Eve is very attracted to the handsome Duke, and while she doesn’t have a sense of how lovely she is (she’s very tall and has a large bosom in a time when neither was considered a plus), she knows the Duke lusts after her. They engage in some very witty by-play. The character of Eve will be difficult for readers to get their hands on, but trust that the Duke knows best.
The suspense sub-plot works well enough, although Coulter went a bit overboard when she could have wrapped things up a bit sooner. To her credit, however, is how the Duke responded when he discovered what Eve was up to. It should suffice to say that readers who are tired of traditional betrayal scenes will appreciate how Coulter handled this one.
The characters of Edmund and Marianne, Clarendon’s mother, are well-written, adding both humor and fleshing out the human side of the Duke. Rarely have I read a romance where a child is more than a device, but that is not the case here. His love for his son Edmund makes Clarendon cry with affection. Marianne, whose relationship with her husband, Clarendon’s father, was a wonderful one, sees immediately that her son and Eve will suit. What a nice change from the malicious “mother-in-law” so often read in romances!
The scenes with the Duke and Eve together simply sparkle with good-natured humor and double entendres. Coulter has toned down her sensuality in recent books, and this is no exception, but her writing in general has become far more spare in recent years. There appears to be an error of sorts in the ordering of scenes during the consummation episode. After Clarendon takes Eve’s virginity, he engages in oral sex with her. It is not until later that he discovers her blood and cleans it off her thighs. This cast a gross pall over an otherwise enticing love scene.
Of the Regency Romances Coulter has re-written as full-length historicals in the past several years, this is the best of the lot. If you enjoyed The Wild Baron, another romance brimming with humor (although not a re-written Regency), you should enjoy this one. And, if you’ve given up on this author altogether, this might bring you back into the fold.