The Moon Lord

Storm Prince

Deception by Terri Lynn Wilhelm
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, G) ISBN 0451-21362-9
Deception is full of intrigue and mystery. All of the characters have secrets that affect the others. All are not quite what they seem. The setting is primarily a mist-shrouded estate in an area that is similar to the Louisiana bayous, but is in England. I was pulled in by the setting, the characters and the intrigue, but the tale drags just a tad too much to receive full recommended status.

Foxton Tremayne is a disgraced former officer of the British army, having been accused and found guilty of treason while serving in India. In actuality, he saved many men from their deaths due to the incompetence of a duke’s son who just happened to be a Major. Fox was made the scapegoat due to the duke’s influence. Humiliated by the shunning of his peers upon his return, he has been forced to find alternate ways of making his living. He is a master of disguise and with the help of ex-army men who know what really happened and several friends from his Oxford days, he has taken to swindling the rich and powerful to benefit the widows and orphans of that fateful battle.

One swindle involved Gilbert Millington. Gilbert invested his funds and made a little profit, but not enough. He used funds he had stolen from his niece and nephew’s estate. The nephew, Rob Millington, is in the army and has been captured for ransom by some Spanish riffraff. Gilbert assures his niece, 20-year-old Isabel, that he does not have the money to pay it. Isabel soon discovers that Uncle Gilbert has been fleecing the family coffers. Certain he will abuse her more once he finds out that she plans to appeal to a maternal uncle in Sweden, she leaves the estate to find her way across the Channel. She goes first to the residence of Mr. Syer, the investment man Gilbert has been sending money to. Isabel hopes to get the last of the money from Mr. Syer and use it to help Rob.

Mr. Syer is none other than Fox. He sends Isabel away, and then has her followed because he is suspicious of her. One thing leads to another and soon Isabel has been hired by Fox to be a companion and Swedish tutor to his sister, Catherine. Catherine is 17 and due for her season soon. However with the Tremayne reputation, they are putting out the story that she is betrothed to a man in the Swedish embassy. Really, Fox just wants Isabel under his watchful eye until he can determine if she is a threat to his operations.

The isolation and close proximity while at the Willow Hall estate leads to romance. But there are many deceptions that must be resolved first.

Isabel and Fox are meant to be together, both recognizing that destiny seems to have played a part in their connection. Yet neither is sure of the other. Much of the book has them dancing around each other. While I was engaged by their story, there is not much heat in their romance. They are well suited with both being strong characters who think things through before acting and who ask questions and evaluate situations. It is this rational viewpoint that keeps them from being more passionate about life and leaves the reader missing some of the vitality one should expect in a romance.

The story of the deceptions slows at times because there is much explanation that is required. The characters are often used to explain things that could have been picked up by detailing the sting rather than talking about it after or before the fact. This passive voice slows down the sense of urgency. This tendency towards calm even extends into the climatic scenes, leaving me feeling like I heard about a play rather than viewed it first hand.

Deception is a good book. It could have been so much more.

--Shirley Lyons

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