No Ordinary Groom is the start of a “Spies and Lovers” trilogy. Set in the 1840’s, the three spies we will meet have actually completed their service in India and Afghanistan and are now back in England.
Retired and newly designated “Lord”, Will was in the service for thirteen years. He was a master of disguises and really doesn’t know who he is anymore. He thinks he wants to settle down on his own land with a proper English bride and enjoy boredom. His spymaster, General Whittington, has offered his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage and he is ready to meet her and marry her.
However, the lady in question, Jane, doesn’t think she wants to get married. She is an educated female and generally bores her suitors with her talk of mathematics, history, languages and other subjects considered unusual for a well-bred lady. Jane wants to travel and enjoy adventure. She is bored with most things that ladies do, and marriage seems no better.
Jane’s father has been away for two years and she is to go visit him with her new fiancé. When she meets Will she thinks him a fop. Yet there is something about him that intrigues her. She catches glimpses of a stronger man; a man who can look like a stumbling idiot, yet knock out another man intent on injuring him. She sees glimpses of passion in his eyes. And she starts to feel that passion for him.
On the way to her father’s estate, unforeseen circumstances leave Jane without her sister or her maid for a chaperone. Then Will decides to visit estates to see if he wants to buy them. One estate is the home of the Duke of Kelthorpe, where he and Jane stumble upon two of his previous partners embroiled in finding a traitor. They, of course, get embroiled too, although really as sidekicks not the main pursuers.
The primary story takes us along in this quest while Jane and Will get to know each other and fall in love. Their love story is generally engaging, and the sexual heat is high. Jane is a strong heroine and yet comes off just a tad whiny by the end. Will is predictable and nothing new, as far as tortured heroes go. But his reason for feeling tortured is not well developed, it is almost just assumed because of the way he acts. The main conflict between them is their own internal plights. Will, you see, has been lying to Jane and now doesn’t know how much to tell her. Jane, on the other hand, suspects Will is lying and doesn’t know how much to trust him. This goes on a little too long for me and the ending seems rushed.
Nick and Sam, the other spies, are introduced and seem like the traditional spies one meets in other tales. Sam is a master of disguises like Will and we never meet him in the same outfit. He is only sparsely introduced, just enough to know he will have a story of his own.
We meet Nick and get to see more of him, as he has inadvertently gotten involved with Jane’s widowed sister, Charlotte. The real plot of the traitor seems to be more their story, as they are the ones doing the chasing. What we see of their relationship whets the reader’s appetite for the next book in the series.
No Ordinary Groom is a well-written and generally enjoyable tale. It is, however, nothing out of the ordinary itself, and therefore is just acceptable.