A Wicked Lord at the Wedding by Jillian Hunter
Six years before our story officially begins Eleanor Prescott was accompanying her father as he doctored to the wounded British soldiers in Spain. While in Spain she attracted the attention of the very handsome and impulse Baron, Sebastian Boscastle. The two briefly courted and fell madly in love with each other and he asked her to marry him. Unfortunately before the wedding he was gravely wounded in a battle and he never completely recovered. His mental instability lead to a disastrous wedding and he abandoned her on her wedding night to go off back to war. The next three years were followed by infrequent and short visits while the following three years were filled with complete estrangement. Sebastian returns to his wife after learning that she is the Mayfair Masquer, a masked man who has been sneaking into women's bedchambers and, depending on who you ask, doing quite inappropriate things with them. He is determined to win back his wife and bring her back in line. The two enter into an agreement that he will aid her in her quest, but Eleanor is not competely trusting of her estranged husband.
In an attempt to gain a sense of adventure in her life, since her husband is off doing exciting war detail assignments, Eleanor is recruited by the Duchess of Wellington to become an operative in her little spyring. Eleanor's mission is to capture a series of letters that have been written to various women in England. These letters are supposedly written by a woman claiming to be the Duke's mistress and the Duchess fears what would happen if the contents were released to the public. The capture of these letters becomes a contest between Eleanor and Sebastian as they struggle to best each other while at the same time quickly falling back into their roles as husband and wife. Sebastian becomes increasingly concerned for Eleanor's safety after she is caught trying to steal letters by an infamous courtesan and evidence soon comes out that the plot against Wellington may in fact endanger his son. Sebastian is determined to do his duty to England and to keep his wife safe, and in the process he manages to stop the entire plot and win his wife's love- for good.
If my summary seems oddly detached it is merely a byproduct of the writing in the novel itself. Something about this book completely prevented me from feeling the story from either Sebastian or Eleanor's perspective. It seemed more like typing than writing to me and seemed, for lack of a better phrase, rather emotionless. A generous amount of time is given to Sebastian's point of view, which I appreciated as many novels don't give adequate space to the hero's POV, I feel that this might have contributed to the problem. I will admit there were nice bits where Eleanor reflected on how she would ever get back to trusting Sebastian again, or Sebastian wondering how he could manage to repair his broken marriage, but the incredibly odd spy/ masquer plot utterly overwhelmed any semblance of the romance this book (supposedly) contained. Another contributing factor may have been the fact that most of their actual "falling in love" occured before the meet of the story and the story was really about them reconnecting- as they worked to find those letters.
The side plot was a whole 'nother problem. I found it completely ridiculous. I was supposed to be excited about some stupid letters a mad woman had supposedly written to a bunch of other women about a supposed affair with the Duke of Wellington. Even though these letters were false I was supposed to be completely involved in a plot to discreetly get rid of these letters to ensure that the contents of the letters didn't become public knowledge. Even after the horrible plot against the two young boys was unconvered (90% through the book making it even more ridiculous) I could not for the life of me bring myself to care on whit about these letters. This was unfortunate as these letters, the capture of these letters, and talking about these letters consumed the vast majority of this book and the vast majority of the time Sebastian and Eleanor spent together. And I could not understand the drama surrounding this plot- literally five trustworthy people knew Eleanor was the masquer so I couldn't figure out why everyone feared the mob would come to her house to arrest her. And despite some mighty sexy banter there was very little follow through and what little there was, wasn't very good.
Rating: A far from satisfying read with a terrible sight plot, undeveloped characters I couldn't care about, and next to no steam. However, it was fast and, at very rare times, a little interesting. And of course it was still better than "The Perfect Wife."