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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Desperate to use her privilege as a white noblewoman to contribute to the fight for racial justice, Lady Bronwyn Chase accepted the clandestine identity as “the Kestrel,” a spy not exactly in the employment of the Crown. Unfortunately, she has caught the Crown’s notice, and on her first transatlantic mission to help turn the tide of the American Civil War, the Kestrel is pursued by one of their most stoic former agents, Lord Valentine Medford, the Duke of Thornbury and best friend to Bronwyn’s half brother, the mixed-race Duke of Ashvale.
Bronwyn has long been attracted to Lord Valentine. Valentine on the other hand can’t imagine being romantically interested in the superficial personality Bronwyn projects–and he would never guess that she was the elusive Kestrel. Yet, Valentine finds himself drawn inexplicably and inexorably to Bronwyn, and when her assignment goes wrong, he is there to save her life–and arrest her. Bound together by conflicting duties, Bronwyn can no longer escape their smoldering attraction to one another. But will they be able to let one another go to save their reputations–and Bronwyn’s neck?–or will an unavoidable, passionate affair ruin them both?
Immediately following RULES FOR HEIRESSES, this sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance continues Howard’s nuanced exploration of gender, class, and race in the Victorian Era with the same perfect execution of historical romance tropes that will thrill fans of the genre, plus a dash of romantic suspense a la Sherry Thomas’s HIS AT NIGHT and MY BEAUTIFUL ENEMY. Wrestling with their privilege and desire to be allies, the white hero and heroine consistently run up against barriers of systemic racism, while injustice constrains characters of color–even those advantaged by wealth and title. Yet like all satisfying romances, the plot ends with hope and love–plus a thick cloud of steam. Highly recommend to readers of the genre and fans of the Netflix adaptation of BRIDGERTON.