The Traitor’s Daughter
by Elizabeth Powell
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20349-6
The Traitor’s Daughter is a story about just that: a young woman whose father was hanged for treason and who is now trying to clear his name. Amanda Tremayne is about to cross paths with Captain Sir Jack Everly, a decorated naval hero now spying for the Crown. This promising setup soon disappears under the weight of a predictable plot and a heroine who crosses the line from spunky to headstrong stupidity.

Amanda coerces her oldest friend, Harry Morgan, to escort her to Admiral Locke’s huge ball. Harry is a naval lieutenant who indulges Amanda’s wish to meet Locke, for reasons she won’t disclose. What Amanda really wants is to sneak into Locke’s study while he’s occupied throwing his party, and search for incriminating papers that will prove he framed her father for treason. Why Regency heroines always assume villains will keep detailed records of their misdeeds locked in their studies is beyond me, but there you have it.

Amanda succeeds in entering the study, but she is surprised by the arrival of Jack Everly. Amanda is horrified to learn Jack’s identity. He’s one of the men who condemned her father to death in a navy tribunal. Jack is investigating Admiral Locke for other reasons. All signs point to Locke being a traitor, but there is no proof. When Jack and Amanda cross paths again, she tells him about the letters her father wrote to her before he was arrested and hanged. These letters point to Locke’s misdeeds. Upon examining the letters, Jack decides there’s something to this story - but not yet enough to arrest Locke.

Amanda insists on “helping” with the investigation. This is where the plot takes on the flavor of week-old bread. She demands to be taken along to a high-stakes card party at Locke’s home, posing as Jack’s mistress. Then she’s shocked when she is accosted, of course. Jack takes her to task for her idiotic notion of passing herself off as a courtesan. Amanda dissolves into a fit of weeping. But Jack’s kisses make her tingle. The climax is only brought about because Amanda rushes headlong into danger without thinking twice about who she should trust. Jack is little better. Once he decides she must be innocent, he proceeds to tell her everything about the investigation. For once, could we please have a Regency heroine and a spy who are a bit circumspect?

The romance between the two felt tepid at best, probably because it’s hard to imagine a hard-bitten naval hero falling for someone as vapid and annoying as Amanda. But she’s so brave, she works as a seamstress, she supports her elderly grandmother… oh, and she has a nice bosom and “sweet curves”. These two were so busy rushing hither and yon trying to get the goods on Locke that they never held a decent conversation. At the end of the book, I didn’t get the feeling they knew each other on anything but the most superficial level. He’s handsome and gallant. She has sweet curves and is brave. Not enough to convince this reader, I’m afraid.

The Traitor’s Daughter showed some initial promise, but when all’s said and done it was mostly annoying. Predictable plotting, a lackluster romance and an inconsistent heroine squashed this one flat.

--Cathy Sova

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