The Education of Mrs. Brimley

The Trouble With Moonlight
by Donna MacMeans
(Berkley Sensation, $6.99, PG-13)  ISBN  978-0425-22198-3
There is something to be said when an author tries to use a plot line that has not been used.  The Trouble With Moonlight takes the idea of the superhero and puts in it Victorian times, then throws in some “historical” information to make it seem like something that has always been there.  We have all heard of the Headless Horseman…he just happens to be related to our heroine.

Lusinda Havershaw is a member of a little known phenomenon called the nevidimi, who have a variety of odd powers.  Lusinda’s is rather bothersome, even though she inherited it from her mother.  Lusinda becomes invisible when exposed to moonlight.  She can “phase” into invisibility just by soaking up the moon’s rays going from full visibility to a ghostlike glow to nothing.  Because this just causes some people to react rather irrationally, she and her family have had to move around a lot.  Even in London in 1877, the people are not very accepting of this type of uniqueness.

To help the family, which consists of her aunt Eugenia and her younger sisters Portia and Rhea, Lusinda offers her services to people who have lost items through no fault of their own.  For instance, Mrs. Farthington lost her necklace when her husband bet it on a game of cards.  She hired Lusinda to “recover it” for her.  Thus, Lusinda was seen (no pun intended) by a master safecracker in the home of the Pembertons. 

James Locke, master spy for England, was in the Pembertons’ study trying to find a list of agents that Pemberton was said to have.  This list would, if given to the Russians, put a whole lot of British agents in danger, and the man at the top of the list would be Locke.  He is amazed when he hears the door and sees nothing.  Nothing until the safe opens and the necklace seemingly floats in the air.  After his initial shock, he is intrigued and he investigates.  He tricks Lusinda into “a recovery mission” at his home and traps her.  It is then he discovers that it is she who is invisible.  He decides to blackmail her into helping him find the list.

Locke is not just a spy.  He is an injured spy, trying to hide from the world that he is in trouble.  Locke suffered injuries while in a Russian prison and he only escaped with the help of his friend Marcus Ramsden.  One of the injuries affected his nervous system and his hands tremble, making it hard to crack the tumblers on a safe.  He sees his chance to finish the missing list using Lusinda’s invisible hands.  However, he is surprised at his reaction to her beauty and the knowledge that when she is on a mission, she is completely naked.  Her clothes, you see, don’t disappear in the moonlight.

Lusinda, on the other hand, is resentful that Locke sees her as a thief, when she has rationalized her ability as recovering goods that others have lost.  She never keeps them, always returning them to their rightful owner.  Unfortunately, she also realizes the law would not see things the same way and they would not be tolerant of her powers.  Her safety and her reputation are always on her mind, because she knows her sisters cannot have a happy life if it is discovered that she is part of the Nevidimi, a Russian sect that has these powers.

There is a great deal of humor and tongue-in-cheek repartee between Locke and Lusinda that make this a fun novel to read.  The sexual tension is strong.  This is a fantasy romance and it never takes itself too seriously.  Yet the tension is high when they are in the middle of their mission and they realize that one of the spies may be a counteragent.

I truly enjoyed this story, despite some flaws.  There were times when the pacing was slow, and occasionally it seemed as though the two characters had covered the same ground already.  But ultimately, this is a satisfying romance with some innovative ideas and some fun.  I mean, how much more daring can a heroine get than to romp around a ballroom naked in danger of phasing back into being visible at any moment?

MacMeans has also sent up the possibility for the tales of Portia, the next oldest sister, who may have powers of her own.  The Trouble With Moonlight is an enjoyable and creative story. 

--Shirley Lyons

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