The Uncompromising Lord Flint
I thoroughly enjoyed The Wild Warriners, and was excited when I finished the last book in that series (A Warriner to Seduce Her) and discovered Jake’s colleagues in the King’s Elite would be getting a series of their own. Unfortunately, The King’s Elite series has been a disappointment so far. The first book was underwhelming, and The Uncompromising Lord Flint is worse. I disliked both principal characters – individually and as a couple – and their love story is contrived and ridiculous. Reader, novels centered around an ultra-secretive band of elite spies working undercover for the British Government should be suspenseful, sexy, sophisticated and smart. Unfortunately, The Uncompromising Lord Flint is none of these things.
The Uncompromising Lord Flint picks up shortly after the events featured in The Mysterious Lord Millcroft with the King’s Elite hot on the trail of a deadly smuggling/espionage ring with links to Napoleon and is closing in on its leaders. When the novel opens, they’ve intercepted coded missives between members of the smuggling ring, and captured and imprisoned Lady Jessamine Fane, step-daughter to the deadly Comte de Saint-Aubin-de-Scellon, a suspected French ringleader. Jess was intimately involved in the day-to-day operations, and knows the identities of the major players in the smuggling ring on both sides of the channel. Until she can be taken to London to stand trial as a traitor to the Crown, she’s being held on a Royal Navy frigate and used as bait to draw the Comte out. Lord Peter Flint, a King’s Elite agent, is charged with overseeing the prisoner and coercing a confession whilst ensuring she doesn’t escape. Peter is determined to bring his prisoner to justice and to resist her feminine wiles; he’s learned the hard way that female prisoners can’t be trusted, and he has no intention of letting Lady Jessamine go free. Unfortunately, his best intentions are immediately tested when he meets the feisty, angry, beautiful Lady Jessamine, and falls instantly in lust with her body and her brain. Sigh.
He’s hot and haughty, and she’s – well, she’s not quite what you expect from a romance heroine. She’s annoying and dishonest and difficult, and she’s a traitor. [Note: This is not a spoiler.] But she isn’t quite the guilty criminal the King’s Elite believes her to be either. She’s a victim too. It’s complicated. I’m not going to waste this review dissecting her crimes or lack of awareness about their repercussions because from the get-go, Ms. Heath positions her as a sympathetic character deserving of our sympathies and Peter’s love. Unfortunately, despite the author’s best efforts to convince us of the same, Jess is conflicted about her role in the smuggling ring and spends the novel waffling over her own guilt. Oh reader, it grows tiresome all too quickly.
The Uncompromising Lord Flint unfolds as Peter struggles not to succumb to his attraction to his treasonous prisoner, and Jess tries to resist and escape her handsome, overbearing captor. She’s crafty and clever and sly and dishonest – but Peter can tell she has a heart of gold, and hidden layers… if only he can convince her to trust him. He’s confident, arrogant, and loyal to the King’s Elite and their mission – only he can’t seem to stop thinking with his little brain or believing Jess is also a victim of the smuggling ring. DESPITE ALL EVIDENCE AND HER STATEMENTS TO THE CONTRARY. She’s bait, he’s aloof, she escapes, he catches her, they argue, she’s bait, he’s aloof… repeat… until they wind up at his family’s estate and Peter’s mother intuits that Jess was victimized by the Comte, and that she’s destined to be the love of Peter’s life. I didn’t think this story could get any more ridiculous than the repetitive cat and mouse between Jess and Peter that marks the first half of the novel, but then they wind up fleeing the Comte and hiding away at Peter’s estate with his family, the novel simply grows silly and tedious.
Jess and Peter keep fighting their inconvenient attraction to one another – with unfortunate lapses that leave them (and us) bewildered by their feelings until Peter mysteriously senses what Jess needs in order to feel safe. Jess persists in keeping secrets (for too long) and waffles between loving and hating Peter, and while I was/am sympathetic to her experiences of abuse at the hands of the Comte and her mother, her character is mostly just annoying. Sorry, but she was. Peter… well, every time he made some derisive and/or condescending remark about women and his family in particular, I cringed. I don’t know if we were supposed to find his inability to understand the opposite sex funny or sad, but he comes across as a misogynist pig. His mother and sisters are reduced to embarrassing caricatures of what a loving family looks like, and they distract rather than enhance, the story.
Meanwhile, the Comte is on the loose and he hates Jess and wants to kill her. I wish Ms. Heath had spent more time developing this intriguingly evil character, but we only learn about him through the lens of Jess’s experience living with him. The Comte is evil and she does have a compelling story, but by the time Jess finally confesses the truth about her life, I’d lost interest in the narrative. Peter’s fellow agents work hard to keep the family safe – and it’s a good thing, because Peter is a distracted and bumbling fool in love.
I hoped for danger, intrigue and suspense when Ms. Heath introduced the King’s Elite. Instead, we’ve got distracted (and often inept) spies bewildered by the opposite sex, and in The Uncompromising Lord Flint we also get a feisty (I hate this word – but it fits) traitorous heroine/victim, and a hero who appears to think women aren’t worthy of his respect. It’s a trifecta of terrible. The story is silly, the romance isn’t romantic, and The Uncompromising Lord Flint is a rare Heath misfire.