The Charmer


The Imposter

The Pretender

The Spy

To Wed a Scandalous Spy

Surrender to a Wicked Spy
by Celeste Bradley
(St. Martinís, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-312-93127-1
Romances with spy subplots set in the Regency era are a staple in romance. While these stories are common, a good author can still create a captivating story. Celeste Bradley is clearly a good author. However, Surrender to a Wicked Spy stops short of captivating.

Olivia Cheltenham meets Dane Calwell when her mother pushes her into the Thames. Dane jumps in to save her but finds that he requires help instead when his boots become stuck in the mud. This inauspicious meeting is enough for Dane to decide he wants to marry her.

For her part, Olivia is highly attracted to her new husband and puzzled that he doesnít consummate their marriage. In addition, Olivia soon realizes that Dane is keeping secrets from her, secrets that are obviously very important.

What Olivia doesnít know is that Dane is one of The Royal Four, a group whose goal is ďto act as the shield of deceit and the sword of truth in the name of the King.Ē Dane chose to marry Olivia for unromantic reasons. He never wants to fall in love; Daneís father fell in love with a mistress and brought about his own downfall and death. Dane is determined to avoid repeating history.

The writing in Surrender to a Wicked Spy is quite good; Bradley creates vivid scenes and memorable characters. However, the characters are somewhat problematic. Dane is large in every way, and he worries constantly that he is too large to have sex with Olivia. Never mind the fact that she is a tall woman and that they havenít tried. Olivia obviously wants him. He wants her. Why not give sex a try and see how it goes instead of lamenting about how much he wants her but cannot have her?

Men with large penises are no rare thing in romance, but Dane is extreme. In this case, his size isnít the problem, but the amount of time he spends worrying about it. In fact, some of the foreplay consists of Dane preparing Olivia for actual intercourse. This is how she loses her virginity. So much for romance.

Itís also frustrating how rarely Olivia and Dane talk about important matters. Most of the time, they make assumptions about the other person. Dane is especially guilty of this.

With these problems, you might wonder why Surrender to a Wicked Spy isnít receiving a lower rating. Bradleyís writing style is one reason. The emotion toward the end of the book is another. Readers canít help but be affected when they read the results of Daneís lack of trust in his wife. This part of the book is quite good; unfortunately, itís impossible to forget that the hero is largely responsible for his own problems.

Surrender to a Wicked Spy is the second book in Celeste Bradleyís The Royal Four series, and it stands well on its own. But a frustrating hero keeps it from being a great romance.

--Alyssa Hurzeler

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