The Marked Lord by Sharon Ibbotson
Some scars aren’t visible on the outside. Sophy knows that all too well. Orphaned at eight, widowed at sixteen when her husband of a single day fell to the revolutionaries of France, she became a spy for the British and used her beauty and wits to survive. Now compromised, she must return home at last, to her not quite stepbrother, Lord Ravenscourt.
Fitz carries his scars on the outside, legacy of the terrible fire which killed his mother and left him badly burned and with a phobia of fire. Not even a candle can he bear, living his life in a cold darkness only Sophy has never seemed to mind. But she’s not the girl he remembers, sweet but scatter-brained; a decade teaching at a Swiss school has turned her into a coolly beautiful woman he can’t keep away from.
Except, of course, we the reader know Sophy was never in Switzerland at all. And it’s obvious a titanic showdown is coming when Fitz discovers the truth. Even so, I was shocked when after he did find out what Sophy had been doing, he accused her of having spent her life playing games; ten years as a spy in a hostile nation is the furthest thing from playing games I could imagine, and yet Sophy, for all her wit and courage, didn’t spit back at him for it.
I’d probably have let that one go because of Ibbotson’s thoughtful examination of how PTSD can be caused by and manifest in so many different ways, but she also hit on one of my pet hates; nobody writing anything set in France should ever have a hotel called ‘Hotel de Ville’, because that’s a specific term meaning ‘town hall’. It shows an unfortunate ignorance of France and a lack of research I can’t excuse, and therefore I have to knock this one down to four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.