The Countess Althea Markham is giving a ball. Of course, it is a crush and a great success. Althea has never really been popular. Her mother, on the other hand, is on the dance floor with her latest ďfriendĒ, the Viscount Marcus Ridley, who is also heir to the Earldom. Marcus whispers in her motherís ear, and they go off into the garden. Althea canít believe her motherís outrageous behavior. She escapes the ballroom and goes into the library.
While there, one of her friends, George Delville enters with a friend of his, Francis Lampton. They donít notice Althea and Althea doesnít call attention to herself. The subject of their conversation is none other than Althea herself. They say that she does nothing to make herself look attractive and she dresses like a governess in dull unattractive gowns. Althea canít believe that George is talking about her like this. They have been friends since they were both in leading strings.
The next morning, Altheaís uncle, the Marquis de Maligny, brings her attention to her motherís behavior of the previous evening. As head of the family, it is Altheaís duty to do something about it. Althea seeks out her mother in the garden, where she is politely told to mind her own business. Altheaís mother, Celeste, is a beautiful redhead. She can sense that something is wrong with Althea. Althea decides to go back to the country and take her mother with her. Her mother agrees without any problems, which is quite unusual.
Back in the country, Althea and Celeste decide to go to Hansenís for some new ribbons and material for new gowns. Celeste tells Althea that it takes courage to be beautiful. Althea has her mother stop at the pier. She wants to walk. She tells Celeste to pick out some things for her and pick her up on her way back home. As Althea walks down the pier, she notices a boat at the dock with a man getting off. The wind is picking up. She begins to walk back, and trips. The man is instantly there and introduces himself as John Soames. He helps Althea up and leads her to a bench. He assumes that Althea is a governess. John tells Althea that she is very good at covering her beauty. Althea is very upset about his forward behavior and goes across the street to the house there. She has decided to pay a call on the people that live there. She looks down at her coat and decides that Mr. Soames was right; the coat would belong on a governess and not a Countess.
Althea gets home and admires the beautiful fabrics that her mother has picked out. She decides to get a make over and have some beautiful clothes made out of the new fabric. She also decides to stop wearing her hair in a bun and begins to wear it in a more becoming fashion.
When John Ridley returned to England from overseeing his fatherís plantation in Jamaica, his older brother talked him into becoming a spy for his government. Marcus Ridley is also a spy. Of course, Marcus doesnít have to change his lifestyle. John, on the other hand, does. Since he has been gone from England for so long, he can move around without people recognizing him as easily as they would Marcus. He also canít seem to get Althea out of his thoughts. John remembers his trip to France with Celeste Markham and how much he admires her.
Althea is actually very beautiful when they go Prinnyís intimate little dinner in Brighton. Everyone remarks on it. All that Althea can think of is John and how he saw her beauty before she changed her style. Althea is also trying to get to the bottom of her motherís strange behavior.
This is a very entertaining read. It is exactly what one would expect when they pick up a Regency. There is a misunderstood heroine, a spy, a rogue, a beautiful woman, and a French assassin all involved in mysterious happenings. My attention was captured from the first page through the end of the book. This is a wonderful, entertaining book that I definitely recommend to all lovers of Regency romance.
Chere Gruver, May 2003