Brazen Angel, by Elizabeth Boyle

>> Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Brazen Angel (excerpt) is my first book by Elizabeth Boyle, and one that has been in my TBR for years and years.

A DOUBLE LIFE...

She was every man's fantasy–and most dangerous desire. One bewitching look, the whispered promise of unspeakable ecstasy, and London's richest and most notorious rakes followed the Brazen Angel like sheep–ready to be fleeced. All London was in her thrall as she waltzed from masquerade to masquerade, seducing and stealing with impunity–until she met her match in the dark and dangerous lord who vowed to unmask her.

A SINGLE PASSION...

He raced through the streets after the sapphire-eyed beauty, determined to catch London's most audacious thief. Giles Corliss, Marquess of Trahern, had come home to honor his father's last request and marry a woman he'd never met, Lady Sophia D'Artiers. It was to be a marriage of convenience to beget an heir. But Giles had yet to discover that behind the fragile, ailing facade of his intended, Lady Sophia, lay the mistress of disguise–an irresistible brazen angel who was about to lure him into a reckless passion that threatened to destroy them both...
Brazen Angel is a book I should have liked more than I did, and if I'd read it back in 1997, when it was published, I probably would have. It's just that what would have made it original and revolutionary back then just wasn't so much so 10 years later. Plus, for some reason, I just didn't click with the story. A C+.

It's 1793 and Giles Corliss, the Marquess of Trahern is a spy (hey! I heard those groans! See what I mean about some things not being as original now as they might have been back then?). His work is of utmost importance to him, a fact his father has used in order to pressure him to marry. Not only did he make Giles make a deathbed promise to marry Lady Sophia D'Artiers, he also got his crony, Giles' boss at the Foreign Office to pile on the pressure. If he doesn't marry this woman his father chose for him, he's off his missions. Because a real spymaster is more concerned with his operatives' sentimental lives than with his top secret missions, apparently. Right.

But Lady Sophia isn't the sickly, delicate young woman she pretends to be. She's playing some very dangerous games. In London, she's the Brazen Angel, playing the temptress in order to steal from particularly debauched men. She's doing that to raise money to rescue her aristocratic family, who are imprisoned in France, waiting to be guillotined. To do this, she's got yet another secret identity. In Paris, she's La Devinette, revolutionary heroine and friend of the very people who will give the orders to execute her family.

It's in both these roles that Sophia draws Giles' attention, when it becomes suspected that La Devinette is a double agent who's betrayed and killed one of Giles' best friends and colleague. With Giles in pursuit of both La Devinette and the Brazen Angel, and quickly becoming obsessed with the woman he soon discovers is playing both roles, he's going to have to make a decision soon about what to do with his unwanted fiancée. Will he give in to what he wants and betray his vow to his father? (Well, what do you think?)

On the surface, I should have loved this book. The setting is rich and interesting, with most of the book taking place in France just after the Revolution. We've also got two characters working together as a team, with the heroine being just as competent as the hero, sometimes even more.

And yet... the setting was good, but for some reason, I couldn't really connect with the characters. I had no idea who they were; the author told me, but I didn't feel them. It was the kind of book where the heroine thought "oh, I love him" and I went "huh? why? what do you know that I don't?". So uninterested in them was I, that I ended up having to force myself to slog through pages and pages, just to get to the end (and why do I keep doing that?).

10 years ago, I probably would have liked it more, giving it props just for having a strong(ish) heroine. But see, I'm not starved for strong heroines even more. I'm finding plenty of them these days. Plus, the spy thing probably wouldn't have bored me as much.

Eh, well, this is probably an "it's not you, it's me" C+. If anyone has tried or will try the book, please tell me what you thought. I wouldn't be surprised if many people liked it much, much better than I did.

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