My Lady Angel

A Poor Relation

His Cavalry Lady
by Joanna Maitland
(Harl. Hist.#936, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29536-7
Joanna Maitland has written an intriguing start to a historical trilogy about three brothers who are part of the Aikenhead Honours spy group.† There is an unusual premise, which has its good and bad points, and it flows well, making for an overall satisfying experience but nothing out of the ordinary.

Dominic Aikenhead, Duke of Calder, is the eldest of the three brothers and is known for his cunning.† He speaks many languages and his title gives him entry into circles that have been known to provide information for the Foreign office and his boss, Lord Castlereigh.† His current assignment is as a Liaison Officer for the visiting Russian Tsar and Prussian President.† His travels take him from Paris to England and finally over to Russia.

The cavalry lady of the title is Alexandra Kuralkin, who has been masquerading first as a male trooper in the Russian army and lately as a member of the Hussars Mariupol, a prestigious group that also serves as aides to the Tsar.† Using the assumed name of Alexei Ivanovich Alexandrov, Alex has received the Cross of St. George, given for saving the life of an officer.† She is being vetted by the Tsar himself, who is partly amused and partly amazed that this woman has fooled his staff and officers so completely.

Dominic first meets Alex when she is playing the role of a peasant during the night of a fire.† She helps him save the horses from the burning stable.† He remembers her voice and is haunted by her delicate hands using a knife to cut the reins of a horse that did not want to leave.† Of course, the next morning there is no sign of her.††He meets Alexandrov and they are paired together.† Alex hides the fact that she can speak English, having been born part Scottish and raised by an English-speaking nurse.††This helps her in her role as a companion to Dominic, who is forced to speak French to her, and in her efforts at spying on the unsuspecting Englishmen they encounter.

The bulk of the story occurs in their roles as men, with Alex finding herself attracted to Dominic and Dominic sensing that something is not right but never able to put his finger on the issue.† When Alex decides to appear at a masked ball as a woman with the hopes of attracting Dominic due to her feelings for him, the complications abound.†

The biggest thing a reader has to overcome is disbelief that a woman could really pull off this deception for over five years (although the author tells us in a note that she has based this character on a real person) and that the men she serves with never discover her secret.†The next thing one has to believe is that Dominic doesnít see through this even after spending a great deal of time with Alexandrov.†

If you can get past the premise, the story is pretty enjoyable.†There were times when the plotting dragged, with over 200 pages finished before Dominic actually figures out Alexís secret.†This made the discovery and the resolution occur fairly quickly, making the ending seem rushed.†The romance is primarily in their heads, as they both struggle with their feelings.† Alex, of course, can admit to her feelings and cherish little things like the brush of a hand† Dominic struggled with his, not understanding the uneasiness and definitely rejecting the fact that he thinks Alexandrov may have unnatural feelings for him.†It is not until the ball and then the end that actual scenes of shared romance are able to take place.†

Meanwhile, both brothers are introduced.† Leo is the middle child, one who likes to explore and while not completely serious, at least is looked upon as having some sense by the ton.† Jack is the rakehell everyone looks to for his exploits.† This story generated enough interest that Iíll plan on looking up their stories over the coming months.

His Cavalry Lady is a good story, with some strong points and some negative points.† Overall, the premise alone warrants some consideration and thus I suggest you take a chance on it. †

--Shirley Lyons

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