Karen Robards' second installment in her Banning Sisters trilogy starts out with an irritating plot devise. The last half of the book held a surprise that cleared up part of my irritation and moved the book along to a satisfying end.
Lady Claire Banning Lynes is abducted from her coach as she is returning to her husband's home after spending the holidays with her sisters. She overhears her abductors discussing how they are going to kill her. She manages to escape and runs from them toward the beach where she knows that she can hide. After a perilous climb, she gets to the beach and is knocked out by two men she does not know.
Colonel Hugh Battancourt has worked as a spy for the crown for several years. His latest assignment is to capture Sophy Towbridge, a light skirt who took a list of British agents from her last lover. She has plans to meet French agents and sell the list to them. Hugh is supposed to apprehend her on the beach before she can turn the list over to the agents. He mistakes Claire for Sophy. He does not believe Claire's story. He is uncomfortable with the idea of torturing and killing a woman, but knows that he will do what is necessary for his country.
Claire is quite lovely and Hugh is sure that she will try to use her feminine wiles to get out of trouble. His long-time aide, James, trusts her even less than Hugh does. When she consistently does not act as Hugh expects, he finally believes her, especially when she helps the three of them escape from a French trap.
Claire is in an unhappy marriage. Although she knows it is wrong since she is married, she is quite attracted to Hugh, despite his insistence that she is someone else and his rough treatment of her. After she helps him, they spend a long night of lovemaking before he sends her back home to her family.
The pacing of the story picks up in the second half and several mysteries from the first half are explained. From the very beginning, I guessed who was trying to kill Claire, but the motivation for the attempt on her life comes clear in the last half.
The irritating plot devise is the way Hugh takes what seems like forever to believe Claire and how she does not always help herself. Several times, she gives him very flip responses that seem to implicate her in the crime. I know that these responses are meant to show her irritation with the situation, but when someone is threatening your life, flip can get you killed.
It is also a bit unbelievable that after being abducted, knocked out, bound, and nearly drowned, Claire would so quickly become attracted to Hugh. Wet and shivering cold does not seem conducive to feelings of attraction. Robards does write steamy love scenes. The night that Claire and Hugh spend together covers parts of three chapters and the scene sizzles the pages.
Overall, Irresistible is a mixed bag. If you get through the first half without getting too exasperated with Claire and Hugh, you will probably enjoy the quick-paced and informative last half.
--B. Kathy Leitle