The Charmer


The Impostor

The Pretender

The Spy

To Wed a Scandalous Spy

The Rogue by Celeste Bradley
(St. Martin’s, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-93115-8
I started reading this book the week before my vacation, but it couldn’t hold my attention. Thinking I’d just been distracted, I took it on vacation with me, but simply could not get interested in it. A trend was developing…

Lady Jane Pennington is not enjoying her Season. Recently come into an inheritance, she’s being pursued by fortune hunters. In addition, she’s looking out for her five cousins who, with only their harried aunt to chaperon them, have a propensity to get themselves into “some very silly situations.”

Six pages later, Jane is hanging upside down in a tree with her skirts over her head. Well, if you were at your aunt’s ball, and just stepped outside for a breath of air, and saw a candle moving in the upstairs window of a room that was supposed to be locked, and you were the sensible one in the family, wouldn’t you climb a tree in your ballgown to find out what was going on?

Jane is trying to figure out how to extricate herself, when along comes Ethan Damont. The “gambler, rampant bachelor and gainfully employed counterfeit gentleman” is quietly departing the ball before someone wonders if the reason he has so much of the other gentlemen’s money (particularly that of Lord Maywell, Jane’s uncle) is because his play is not strictly honest.

Ethan is rather disenchanted with his own life. His merchant father had Ethan raised and educated like a gentleman, in the hope that he would pave the way for a higher social position for the family. Unfortunately, like so many gentlemen of the time, that education made Ethan into something of a fribble and he split with his family. He takes advantage of what social activities are open to him in order to part the gentlemen of the ton from their money and the ladies (only the experienced ones, of course) from their virtue.

Even though he spends quite a lot of time admiring the figure he cuts and contemplating his female conquests with satisfaction, lately loose women have been losing their charm and hedonism is losing its appeal. Settling down is out of the question, though, as even if he were the marrying kind (which he is not), none of the belles of society would settle for a penniless cit.

This book is the newest installment in the author’s Liar’s Club series, so, in spite of the fact that the story takes a very, very, very long time to get rolling, readers may be confident that Ethan will eventually become part of this spy network. I haven’t read the previous books (which was a disadvantage to understanding what was going on), but there seem to be a lot of members of the Liar’s Club, and the organization seems to be a very badly kept secret.

Be that as it may, this book might have been more interesting if Ethan had bowed to the inevitable a little sooner instead of spending endless pages dithering and resisting, for no reason other than it seemed like too much responsibility.

Ethan and Jane squabble like petulant nine-year-olds, apparently in order to attract the attention of the other, but of course neither will ever fall in love, no, no. And Ms. Bradley has both of them act like complete dolts, apparently in the name of humor. When Ethan tells Jane that it “isn’t advisable” for a young lady to be skulking around the house in the dead of night dressed in her wrapper, “She blinked and drew her brows together. ‘Whyever not?’” Ethan, of course, finds this idiot adorable.

At another point, the two are hiding from the villain under a table, Jane assures Ethan that she knows her virtue is perfectly safe with him. “It is not!” he burst out in a loud whisper. “Take that back!” These two are going to have really, really stupid children.

There’s a flurry of action in the final pages, if you can persist that long. Then, after 325 of the longest pages I’ve ever read, this book finally creaks to an end. Lets hope Ms. Bradley has finally run out of Liars.

-- Judi McKee

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