From London With Love
by Jenna Petersen
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 006-079861-0
Jenna Petersen hit a triple with her first novel. Her sophomore effort is definitely a home run that a reader will want to enjoy over and over. From London With Love is a spy novel with a female spy and begins a series about a trio of ladies in the same vein as a Charlieís Angels, but is set in Regency England. There is humor, camaraderie and of course, danger.

Meredith Sinclair, Anastasia Whittig and Emily Redgrave are all widows who are well known in society. What is not known is that they were recruited by a mysterious Lady M to spy for the Crown. They get their assignments and reports from a portly gentleman named Charlie Isley. (Isnít that an interesting coincidence?!) This story revolves around Lady Sinclair and her investigation of possible treason by a man she knew in her past.

Tristan Archer, Lord Carmichael, grew up near the aunt and uncle who raised Meredith after the death of her parents. They were friends. Tristan even saved Meredith from a possible rape one night when she tried to run away. During her Season, she accepted a proposal from a fine gentleman who was older than she but one whom she could respect. He died a few years ago and while she misses his companionship, she did not love him, nor he her.

Tristan has gone on to inherit his title and build his fortune. He has not married, apparently still grieving the loss of his younger brother in the war in France. His brother was killed in an ambush, the result of stolen intelligence. Now there is evidence showing that Tristan was involved in the theft of a piece of art that is believed to have been tampered with to contain military information that could be detrimental to the English. Tristan has been in contact with a known blackguard named Augustine Devlin, another piece of evidence pointing to his guilt. Meredith gets herself invited to a house party at Tristanís estate in order to verify evidence they have and try to find more evidence.

Tristan is actually trying to find the man behind the plots so he can avenge his brotherís death. He realizes the danger to him and his family and grapples with the knowledge that if his plan fails, his family will be forever tainted. He has infiltrated Devlinís network and is very close to finally meeting the mastermind behind the treasonous plots. He is determined to protect Meredith from the danger he envisions might be presented if Devlin realizes his attraction, so he continually steers her clear. This adds to Meredithís suspicions of him. He also fights his desire for her. Meredith has been trained in the art of spying. Her instincts tell her there is something she is missing while her mind tells her to look at the evidence. When her heart starts getting involved, she struggles with duty versus her emotions.

This tale moves quickly and is often a tug of war between Meredith and Tristan fighting their attraction, then moving to a piece of intrigue that starts the inner tug of wars each of them is battling. Meredith fights her love with the knowledge that she is committed to England and the evidence seems to point to Tristan being a traitor. Even when at its most romantic, there is a bittersweet essence because of the plots in which they are both embroiled. This sense of regret lends itself to the irony of finally finding love when things appear at the most hopeless. Petersenís skill at writing these conflicting emotions lends depth to a story that could easily have been run of the mill and ineffective. Rather, it is full of understandable angst and yet, there is a ray of hope because as the reader, we know that Tristan is the man Meredith deeply wishes him to be. Thus the story is upbeat and fun to read rather than being depressing.

Ana and Emily play enough of a role in this story to give readers a sense of how much fun their stories may be and have me looking forward to their releases. Petersen, with just two novels under her belt, has made my list of not to be missed authors. I highly suggest you donít miss From London With Love.

-- Shirley Lyons

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