One Thing Leads To A Lover by Susanna Craig
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Who’s That Earl, but don’t worry if you missed it; the main characters from that barely get a mention here, so it stands perfectly well alone. Although they’re part of the same series, this one feels different tonally; I’m not sure if it’s the setting - the first book was set in a remote location, this one in the heart of busy Regency London.
It’s definitely nice to see a heroine who’s a little bit older and more worldly for once. Amanda, Lady Kingston, is in her thirties, the widowed mother of two sons aged ten and eleven. Widowed three years now, she’s beginning to chafe under the rules imposed on her by polite society, and especially by her extremely stifling and rule-bound mother, who’s determined Amanda musn’t put a foot wrong, and oh, just incidentally, should immediately remarry suitably, and by suitably she means the older man who is her sons’ co-guardian, Lord Dull. I can’t even remember Dull’s full name, because he was that dull, but it conveniently abbreviated to Dull, which was very helpful!
It’s entirely chance that sees Amanda caught up in the world of spies and intrigue; a spy, faced with being caught with a stolen codebook, switches parcels with Amanda in a moment of desperation. Major Langley Stanhope, also known as the Magpie for both his skill with thievery and extraordinary skills of mimicry, is tasked with getting the codebook back. An interfering mother and Officious Lord Dull make things far more complicated than they need to be, though, and Stanhope is thrown repeatedly into the company of Amanda… who quickly figures out he’s not what he’s pretending to be, leaving him no choice but to take her into his confidence.
I really felt for Amanda. She was so obviously feeling utterly stifled in her proscribed little world, not even permitted to make choices for her sons like when or where they should go to school. Stanhope must have felt like suddenly starting to see the world in colour. I’m definitely intrigued if they will appear later in the series, since General Scott set them to infiltrate the Ton.
Susanna Craig writes such great stories, and every bit about them feels authentic to the period. There’s never anything which feels jarring or anachronistic. This is no exception, taking us deep into the underground network of spies during the Napoleonic wars at the same time we see the painful reality for a woman who is, in theory, in an excellent position - a wealthy widow - who is still legally trapped by her position and circumstances into almost being forced to marry a man she doesn’t want just to keep her children safe.
Though there is a serious threat to the lives of Amanda’s children late in the book, it’s dealt with fairly briefly and the story is otherwise not all that suspenseful; it’s a fun, escapist and thoroughly immersing read. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.