Monday, December 13, 2010

Nothing But Deception

Nothing But Deception by Allegra Gray 1205

The widowed Beatrice Pullington is quietly enjoying life, going to social events, spending time with close friends, and being a secret poet. She accompanies friends to the home of Lord and Lady Willoughmere to see an exhibition of Philippe Durand's work. As a famous international painter, Philippe no longer takes on commission and just paints those people and things that inspire him. Upon her deathbed her mother revealed the identity of his real father, a famous painter and English Lord, Lord Owen, so Philippe made a trip to England. When he sees Beatrice he knows that he must paint her and in front of the entire gathering he invites her to pose for him, causing quite a stir among the uptight ton members present. Beatrice is both scandalized and intrigued by the offer and agrees to pose for him. The two go to the ancestral estate of the Duke of Beaufort, her friend Elizabeth's husband, to find the perfect place for the painting and begin spending quite a bit of time together.

At a ball Beatrice discovers a coded message hidden in her pelisse and, believing it to be a love note, she decodes it and heads to the meeting arranged in the note. There she discovers that it is actually a French plot, coinciding with Napoleon's return to France, so she immediately tells the Duke of Beaufort who takes her Viscount Castlereagh. He enlists her to keep an eye out for any information she can give him about the men she saw, and meanwhile she goes about in society with Philippe on her arm. It is not long before she does indeed have more information to give to Castlereagh but unfortunately her identity has been revealed to those she is spying on and they quickly set out to silence her and anyone else who might know what she knows. Philippe is there to help her but he is upset that she was keeping her involvement in spying a secret from him and it makes him question their relationship. When he himself is accused of being a spy, Beatrice knows she must do all she can to set him free in the hopes that their relationship can survive and they can both finally give in to love.

Gray's debut novel, Nothing But Scandal, was a complete success and I absolutely loved the story of Elizabeth and the Duke of Beaufort. Many of the elements in that story that I loved were lacking in this story, specifically the emotional connection and the development of the relationship between two very well written, and likable, characters. I love the widow who finds love and passion after not experiencing that with her deceased husband and Beatrice played the part beautifully. She was friendly and personable and happy with her life, even though there was something missing. She played a dangerous game in the spy ring, and while she did make at least one careless mistake, I never felt like she was behaving in an overtly careless way. I felt like she was remarkably levelheaded throughout the book and carried herself well. Philippe was not quite as well done and I did not really feel as connected with him, partly because he was such an artistic person and really seemed to see the world as an artist would. While he also played the hero, I felt like there wasn't really much to him.

This brings me to my biggest problem with this book which is that I felt almost no connection between Beatrice and Philippe at all. He was just magically struck by her when he saw her at a party and from there everything just seemed to develop at an alarming, and un-justified, rate. They spent very little time together, they didn't really discuss anything but the painting, and I really just did not see how they were just suddenly in love at the drop of the hat. There was a decent amount of sex between these two and it was fairly hot, but because the rest of their relationship was so lacking, I would have liked for there to have been more. The spy plot was very well done, with lots of twists and turns and back stabbing, not to mention lots of opportunities to showcase Philippe's heroism and Beatrice's level headedness, courage, and intelligence. Unfortunately the plot did not exactly excite me, there was no big surprise at the end and overall, it just felt lacking. Elizabeth and Alex Bainbridge make frequent appearances throughout the book, but I felt like they added more to the story than did the main characters of the story.

Rating: I know Gray can do better than this, but this book was lacking in the relationship department and the side plot overwhelmed the story and was not even interesting.

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