by Kate Noble
(Berkley Sensation, $14, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-425-22174-7
I haven’t read Kate Noble’s first release (yet), but if Revealed is any indication of her talent, I’ve got a new author on my auto-buy list.  Mrs. Phillippa Benning, a young widow, is the toast of London in this Regency-set story.  Her husband’s death has left her independently wealthy; her beauty has made her sought after by every hostess and eligible (and some not-so-eligible) man.  Mrs. Benning’s stamp of approval can  make or break a hostess, and every lady wishes to emulate her. Self-absorbed, aware of her looks and societal power and unafraid to use either of them, Phillippa has the world at her feet.  Then she spies the deliciously handsome Marquis of Broughton.  He will do very well as her next conquest, she decides.  Perhaps she’ll even marry him.

Phillippa’s smug world is rattled when Lady Jane Cummings, a former childhood friend and current society rival, declares her intent to have the Marquis for herself.  Phillippa entices the Marquis into a secret rendezvous at a party, sure she can capture his attention and have his slavering at her feet.  Things go seriously awry when their meeting in a deserted library is interrupted, and Broughton shoves her into an empty sarcophagus – where she lands on top of Marcus Worth.

Marcus is the third son of a minor nobleman and now works for the War Office.  Phillippa is soon convinced he is the famous Blue Raven, a former English spy.  Marcus has more on his mind than a silly socialite like Phillippa Benning.  A former French enemy, whom Marcus was sure was dead, has resurfaced and is plotting something deadly, apparently at a series of upcoming social events.  But Marcus can’t get anyone at the War Office to take him seriously, and he lacks the social standing to infiltrate these events.  Then Phillippa offers him a bargain: she’ll help him gain entry to any events he wishes, if she can reveal him as the Blue Raven at her Benning Ball at the end of the Season.  What better way to showcase her social prowess?

As Phillippa pursues the Marquis, she finds herself more and more drawn to the plainspoken Marcus, though he makes it clear he has little use for her.  As for Marcus, his initial impression of Phillippa as a useless piece of frippery begins to change as she proves herself to be intelligent, quick-witted, and brave under trying conditions, though she makes the usual silly-heroine mistake of putting herself in danger without thinking.  And the author throws in a great plot twist about halfway through the book that casts everything in a new light.

Revealed sets itself on a difficult path from the outset.  Phillippa is not a likable heroine, and I wondered how the author was ever going to make her someone I’d root for.  And it happens, though slowly.  As Phillippa’s superficial layers are stripped away and her core character is revealed, she finds herself questioning the kind of person she wants to be, versus the person she was raised to be.  In the end, Phillippa finds she can’t reconcile her old life with the person she is when she’s with Marcus, and this growth really makes the book stand out.  It takes a strong talent to turn around a heroine who starts out as a self-important snob, and Kate Noble succeeds magnificently.

As for Marcus, he’s the kind of intelligent, good-humored hero that readers like myself adore.  Funny, sincere, and totally uninterested in useless society conventions (unless they help his mission), he’s a perfect foil for Phillippa.  Some of their adventures take on madcap comedic overtones without straying into silliness.  And their burgeoning romance is charming and quite hot when it gets going.

The author is releasing a sequel to this book, featuring the interesting Lady Jane, and I’ll be in line to buy it.  In fact, there are several intriguing side characters who might deserve their own story, including the Marquis, who isn’t a bad guy – he’s just aware of his own looks.  There seems to be some depth there.

Revealed was a fun surprise and a great introduction to an author I hadn’t tried before.  Kate Noble has a bright future in historical romance! 

--Cathy Sova

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