Publication Date: June 22, 2016
Mrs. Valerie Carlton is the widow of a soldier that died in the Peninsular Wars. When she marries for love, Valerie’s social-climbing father disowns her. With her husband gone, she finds herself making her way as a governess. When an employer’s son gets a little too aggressive, Valerie finds herself without a job or a reference. Making her way to the home of a friend, Valerie’s pocket is picked and that’s when she meets Sir Tarquin Arlingby, a much sought after bachelor headed to his family’s home to appease his matchmaking mama. Tarquin isn’t looking for love but finds the young widow quite appealing and as they connect, recognizes some skills that could be useful on a covert quest for the realm. Can Tarquin and Valerie work together for the good of England and then part ways, or have they built a bond that will last?
The author, Alicia Quigley, gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.
There’s a formula to Regency Romance. There is the rake who has slept with a million women and the woman who is either a virgin or widow who was married to a cruel husband. Boy meets girl, and while trying to have sex with one million and one, he finds that his personal parts no longer work and surmises that they are not functioning out of loyalty to the angelic flower he met and who usually hates him (oddly, an std never enters the realm of possibility). Alicia Quigley is not one to stick to formulas. What Quigley brings us is a man who knows his way around a woman but is more wanted than had. Valerie is a woman who married for love to her own disadvantage and whose husband is kind and a man for whom she feels genuine affection. Both characters are sweet and endearing and people readers will truly want the main characters to find happiness whether with each other or in other pursuits.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some familiar tropes in Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy. The players have an instant connection. Both characters are impossibly good looking and the set of circumstances that bring them to their moment is improbable. Quigley’s writing redeems those expectations of the genre by bringing them plausibility. Tarquin is of marriageable age in a time when ladies look mostly the same. Women are young and giddy and looking to make the most attractive match possible. Marriage isn’t about love but about alliances and if they like each other enough to produce an heir, their duty is done and the fun time begins. Valerie has only the expectation that when their brief encounter is over, she’ll go on to her next position as a maid. There’s no desperation or need to connect. The characters are permitted to just enjoy the time they have.
If there’s a baddie in the novel it has to be Tarquin’s mother. She is a woman well acquainted with the guilt card and she works her children. Tarquin is fully aware of his mother’s games but also, in a very realistic way, realizes there’s little he can do except apologize so that she becomes a non-issue very quickly. She has a roadblock and a sharp tongue but her influence is negligible, so works in the way of a red herring.
There is a subplot involving spying in France that is little more than a cloudburst in the story but an interesting one. I wish that the author had expanded the role of the subplot in the story as the intricate set up left readers with the promise of an event more detailed than what was delivered.
Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy is a wholly stand-alone novel that allows readers a brief visit with characters from other novels in the series. The focus isn’t diverted, but we are given that fan-girl satisfaction of knowing that the characters are thriving and loving whatever lives they’ve chosen.
While it’s not my job as a reviewer to comment on the title, I believe the title of Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy lets the book down as it’s a misrepresentation of its content. The title is inelegant and belies the creativity inside.
I really enjoyed Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy. I read the novel during an 11-hour drive to Tennessee. Tarquin and Valerie were lovely companions for a long drive on a warm day through mountains lit with dappled sunshine.
You can read an excerpt and buy Lady, Lover, Smuggler, Spy (The Arlingbys Book 3) by Alicia Quigley on: