Author: Kate Noble
Genre: Historical Romance
Publishing Date: March 3, 2009
Paperback: 400 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone (but there is a sequel in the works with one of the secondary characters.
Why did I read the book: I received a review copy from Berkley. I had not heard from this author before and I had no idea what to expect. I decided to read it because I liked the cover – simple as that.
Summary: Phillippa Benning is the unrivaled beauty of the Season. But when another lady challenges her for a marquis’s attentions, Phillippa entices him to a secret rendezvous—only to stumble upon The Blue Raven, England’s most famous spy, lurking at the site of her planned tryst.
The Blue Raven has uncovered an enemy plot directed at upcoming society functions, but he’s unable to infiltrate London society. Phillippa makes an offer: in exchange for entrée among the ton, he agrees to have his true identity revealed at the Benning Ball—guaranteeing her unrivaled notoriety. As the danger draws closer, the mysterious spy and Phillippa give in to mutual desire. But when the game turns deadly, betrayal waits around the corner, and Phillippa must decide once and for all—is it the myth that captured her heart, or the man?
I decided to read Revealed on a whim –I had never heard of the author before nor did I read any reviews of the book online: I simply liked the cover and the title. As it turns out, and you will have to excuse me for the pun (I can never seem to avoid them), the book was a Revelation and I am completely head over heels in love with it. I am a reader who is in the constant lookout for that precious combination of characterisation, plot and writing that will speak to me both emotionally and intellectually and I thought Revealed was one of those hidden treasures.
Starting with the characters.
But, first an aside. I am a fan of the romance genre and I pride myself in championing the genre as much as I can. But sometimes I do get tired – I get tired of what seems to me, the same rehashed characters, plots, conventions, formulas and I am forever looking for something that is different. (I find the same is true for Fantasy though – I guess the same can be said about any genre fiction).
The characters in Revealed are different from what I am used to reading in Romance; Phillippa Benning is not your run-of-the- mill heroine. In fact, she is the direct opposite of most historical romance heroines. Simply put, Phillippa is like the rival or the villain that gives the usual heroine from any other romance novel, hell. The one we all love to hate: the most beautiful woman of the ton, the one that everyone follows, that sets the rules. The one that is fashionable, ruthless, rich, egoist, hedonist, whose life is to parade her new dresses to the mindless sheep of the Haute Ton from Ball to Ball, turning faces and having fun. A widow who is on the look-out for a new husband amongst the best of the best and in direct competition with a childhood rival. At first it seems, that there is nothing to commend Phillippa to the reader – except for the subtle aspects of her personality that are revealed to the reader, little by little, one sentence here, another there; generally inserted in the middle of the flow of her thoughts to point out that she is much more clever than she lets out and that she is fully aware that her life is nothing but appearances and there is more substance to be uncovered.
The person to do it, the other protagonist, is Mr Marcus Worth. Someone who, in the eyes of Phillippa, at least to start with, is not worthy of too much attention. A not too specially handsome 3rd son, who works for the government and who does not stand out in the crowd. They don’t pay much attention to each other until they have one of their interactions and Phillippa tries to play one of her games with him:
Phillippa laid a small, gloved hand on his shirt and brought her eyes up, shyly, to meet his, which were a dullish brown, with perhaps some hazel in them. His hair was a similar shade of dullish brown, uninspiring, not worthy of a single swoon. Indeed, aside from his height, Mr Worth fell into the category of most men: pleasingly formed, handsome enough in an unobjectionable and totally uninteresting way.
Now, most men would have fallen into blushes and stutters, entranced at the notion of having her undivided attention, not to mention the intimacy of her hand placed lightly on their shirtfront. Unfortunately, Mr Worth chose this particular moment, for likely the first time in his life, to distinguish himself from the category of Most Men
Later that same evening is when the tables are turned for good and we are introduced to the plot of the book: Phillippa overhears a desperate Marcus and another member of the Ministry of War talking about a plan to hit the Ton’s upcoming Balls with a mysterious purpose. No one will believe Marcus – who believes a French spy who is supposed to be dead is back to life and will strike again. All he has is a list of all the events that will happen in the season and his instincts to guide him. He needs help infiltrating the parties but being Bad Ton he can’t. Phillippa, who believes Marcus to be the famous spy Blue Raven who fought the French offers a bargain: she will get him free access to the events if he will allow her to reveal his identity in the last event of the season: her own Benning Ball. This will surely grant her immortality, success , fame!
Marcus, at first obviously says no to such absurd offer but as time passes and he can’t get an invitation to the first event he sees no other alternative than to agree to it. And this is when they realise there is more to it than they wanted: Phillippa comes to grasp the significance of what she got herself into and feels fear but also the urge to help solving the mystery, whereas Marcus finds out that there is a true brain behind the mask of civility that she wears in society.
They work together and they become friends, soon enough, he is the first person she looks for once she arrives at the parties because she can talk to him and he comes to truly respect her.
And the investigation carries on, the twists come from left and right – this is a spy story that is full of tension and I was extremely (and pleasantly) surprised at how things played out in the end.
The point is: the plot works. It is a good mystery with some unresolved issues –which I am eager to learn more about in future novels. The characterisation works: both characters are revealed to the reader and to each other gradually and there is nothing EXTREME about either of them – and this is what is so refreshing about Revealed and sets it apart in the romance world. Phillippa does not turn out to be repentant and become a do-gooder heroine nor does the unassuming hero proves to be greatest Spy of all history , or the best lover of the Ton, nor does he has a Title hidden somewhere: he is a beta character who he is so good natured and with such a nice sense of humour. It is really a simple, organic, believable, natural love story between two people.
Which brings me to the writing. I am forever looking for good, different prose – and I found Kate Noble’ s to be both beautiful and clever as evidenced by the use of a simple sentence in this book:
“It’s just me” .
Both Phillippa and Marcus use that throughout the book. To begin with, it is a means of introduction, of saying hello. Then it becomes their signature greeting. Then, it becomes full of meaning and towards the ending it made me melt faster than a block of ice in the Brazilian Summer whenever they used it specially during their sex scene. But the sentence is also about identity, which is after all, the theme of the novel and the point of conflict between them: would they love each for who they really were: Marcus being just Marcus and Phillippa being just Phillippa?
One thing is certain: Revealed is not just a simple romance novel, it is a damn good one.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
It was the oddest thing, but Philippa was beginning to think there was something wrong with her hands. Whenever Marcus took her hand in his as they stepped through the turns, she felt it.
Which is ridiculous, because of course she felt it, she did have a sense of touch that would tell her whether or not someone had taken her hand. But it was stronger that that. It was as if her hand, without consulting her own thoughts, was especially attuned to being held in the hand of Mr Marcus Worth. And as such, whenever he released her hand, it felt the lack of his.
Additional Thoughts: This was quite of a warm novel. There is nothing extreme about the sex– so habitually these days, I see sex in romance novels being over used, often in a drearily commonplace manner to the point that makes it either laughable (like having the hero walking around in a constant state of excitement like a human tripod) or tiresome with endless pages of sex scenes at an odd moment of the novel (not so long ago, I read one where the hero and heroine were crossing Hell – HELL- fighting grave peril and mortal danger and decide to engage in hot sex while at it) . The sex in Revealed is very warm with one sex scene and two kisses before that – and it’s all the better for that. It feels all very organic (I used that word before, but it is so fitting) and simple and it is beautiful when it finally happens. Not trite at all.
Does anybody else feel like that? Have you reached a point where you skim sex scenes in your romance novels?
Verdict: Good writing, engaging spy story, different characters; sweet and funny – what’s not to like?
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection
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