by Sophie Barnes
Series: Thornecliff Manor #3
Pub. Date: Dec. 29, 2015
An unexpected passion ignites as secrets are exposed in Sophie Barnes's captivating Regency-set romance...
Despite the diversions offered at Thorncliff Manor, former spy James, the Earl of Woodford, has one purpose in staying there. He must find an encoded book that exposes a conspiracy within the British aristocracy. And he must do so without revealing his purpose to the clever, tempting Chloe Heartly. The lady has a knack for appearing wherever it is least convenient. In the library. In the salon. And, especially, in his arms...
Somewhere within Thorncliff's labyrinth of rooms lies the journal Chloe desperately seeks. When she realizes the brooding, handsome earl is hunting the same quarry, Chloe enters into an uneasy partnership. But in the face of public danger and enemies hiding in plain sight, both must decide how much they're willing to risk to solve the mysteries of the heart.
This was a sweet historical romance, good for fans who like a bit of historical mystery/espionage without a lot of steam. This story takes place parallel to Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires, which I have not read. As the stories are taking place at the same time, I don't think it will matter which order you read them in.
The heroine of this second installment of the Thorncliff Manor books is Chloe, Lady Newbury. (Chloe's brother, Spencer, is the subject of the first book.) Chloe is recently widowed (about a year past) and suffered 6 years of marriage to a degenerate, violent and self-important bastard. After he was killed in a duel, his cousin came to take residence of her estate as heir and she is forced to go live with her parents. At her debut, Chloe was apparently a diamond of the first water... but after being duped in her marriage, she is wary of the institution and men altogether. She has traveled with her family to Thorncliff Manor for the season. And while Thornecliff is the place to make matches, Chloe is there for a cover purpose - to find the Political Journal and uncover the identities of The Electors. I liked Chloe quite a bit, and hated that she had such a horrid message. There was some animosity between Chloe and a couple of females with questionable morals, and I totally understood her jealousy and insecurity after the way her late husband behaved. I was really glad that she stood up to the catty witches and didn't let them run roughshod over her.
At Thornecliffe, Chloe keeps running (literally) into James, Earl of Woodruff. James is a spy with an eidetic memory, who has been ordered by the king to find the Political Journal. It has been James' mission to unmask The Electors for some time, as they were responsible for the murder of his parents when he was a young child. James is not the typical charming historical romance hero. He is bookish and intelligent, and not popular with his peers. He doesn't have many friends as they don't like his memory abilities, and saw him as damaged by his parents' death. I really liked James' character as well.
As for The Electors and their leader, I had a good idea of who he was before it was ever revealed. However it was not a clear-cut mystery by any means, and I was constantly doubting my suspicion. I enjoyed this part of the book and it kept the pace going fairly well. It seemed to me that the focus of this story was more on the espionage/mystery than building the romance. While we got a lot of detail in the interactions and conversations between James and Chloe, there was not any heat to the relationship. I would have liked to see more spark and passion to draw me in emotionally. The steamy potential was there, but it fell short of a complete surrender.
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She's lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor's degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she's been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Chloe considered telling her sister that there was such a thing as knowing too much, but she bit back the rejoinder and kept silent instead, unwilling to take their conversation in that particular direction.
“In all likelihood you’ll be right and my interest in whoever he is will prove pointless.” Fiona said as they passed a row of elm trees. Like a curtain pushed aside, they gave way to an impressive view of Thorncliff, the towering walls dwarfing anyone standing before them and likening them to ants. “Come to think of it, he did seem rather dull—as if it made no difference to him that he was about to arrive at the most fantastic estate in England. He should have been staring out of the window of that carriage with keen enthusiasm. Most young gentlemen would do so, but he did not.”
“No,” Chloe agreed as they turned onto the driveway that would take them straight up to the front door. “Perhaps coming here disagrees with him.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Fiona said. “It’s the most fascinating place in the world!”
“You say so only because you have not traveled the world.”
“Perhaps that’s our answer,” Fiona suggested. “Perhaps the man we saw, whoever he may be, has traveled to so many fine places that Thorncliff fails to entice.”
“Or maybe he’s just not the adventurous sort,” Chloe offered. “He may simply enjoy reading a good book, in which case he has no need of coming here at all and probably considers Thorncliff a complete waste of time.”
The words brought Fiona to an immediate halt. “Do you find it a complete waste of time, Chloe?”
A rush of emotion swept through Chloe. It almost felt as if an ebbing tide was tugging at her belly. “Of course not. Why on earth would you think such a thing when I’ve already told you how happy I am to be spending more time with you and the rest of the family?”
A puff of air escaped Fiona in the form of a sigh. “Perhaps you wanted to be kind and spare my feelings?”
Taking her sister by the hand, Chloe held on fast as she gazed into her troubled young eyes. “No. I would never be dishonest with you.”
“Are you certain? Because I am well aware of your fondness for reading as well as your lack of enthusiasm for socializing at the moment. Are you sure you wouldn’t have rather stayed at home with your books?”
Closing her eyes, Chloe struggled to ease the nerves that threatened to send her heart racing. “No. I would not. The Thorncliff library is vast. I mean to explore it during my stay here. As for socializing . . . I’ve just spent a year in mourning, Fiona. I need time to readjust.”
“I’m sorry,” Fiona said, biting her lip. “I just wish that I could do more to make you happy.”
“I am happy,” Chloe assured her. At the very least, she was free now, and that was pretty much the same thing. “Come, let’s find out who Lord Hainsworth’s companion is so we can put your curiosity to rest.”