His Forbidden Liaison
by Joanna Maitland
Joanna Maitland's third Regency published in as many months tells the story of the youngest Aikenhead brother, Jack. If you've read either of the two preceding novels in the series, His Cavalry Lady and His Reluctant Mistress, you already know that the three dashing Aikenhead men aren't satisfied with merely being handsome, rich aristocrats. No, they've also banded together, along with Jack's friend Ben, to form a spying ring known as the "Aikenhead Honours." But this group of hardened bachelor spies have been succumbing to the joys of marriage, and now it's Jack's turn to fall in love.
At the beginning of His Reluctant Mistress, Jack had to rely on his older brothers to pay off some obscenely large gambling debts, and he's rather ashamed of his behaviour. So when he gets a chance to prove his worth by taking on a mission in France, he's thrilled. His flawless French accent makes him the perfect spy for the mission, and he poses as "Louis Jacques." His friend and fellow spy Ben comes along disguised as "Herr Benn," a German, to explain the flaws in his accent.
Their spying plans go awry when Jack saves Marguerite, a fellow guest at the inn where he's spending the night, from a would-be attacker. She gets the opportunity to thank him the next day when said attacker decides to get his revenge on Jack, with the help of some friends. As he and Ben try to escape from the ruffians, Ben is shot, and Marguerite hides the two men in her carriage. She helps them to escape the city and tends to Ben's wound. But in the process, she learns that the man she knows as "Herr Benn" is actually an English spy!
Marguerite is a royalist at a time when France is in political strife. Bonaparte's been exiled, but many of her countrymen still want his return. When Marguerite stumbles into a conversation which leads her to believe Jack is a Bonapartist, she knows that she can't allow an English spy ("Herr Benn") to fall into his clutches. And when Jack comes to the same wrong conclusion about Marguerite, he knows that he needs to get away from her. But she refuses to let “Herr Benn” out of her sight before he's healed, and the growing attraction between the two of them just complicates things further.
The resulting comedy is what makes His Forbidden Liaison the best book in Maitland's miniseries. Both characters want the same thing, but each thinks the other favours the enemy. And since it's not until the second half of the book that they realise their mistake, the resulting sexual tension is thoroughly enjoyable. Once they get over their wrong assumptions and begin working together, instead of against each other, Marguerite shows herself to be intelligent, determined, and willing to fight for what she wants: Jack's heart.
While His Forbidden Liaison is an excellent end to the "Aikenhead Honours" series, it's also a great story on its own. The book is as rich in historical details as it is in romance, and France's politics are explained wonderfully. The two characters are smart, resourceful, and perfect for each other. After reading this, I can't wait to see what Joanna Maitland will write next!
“The youngest Aikenhead brother finally meets his match.”
May 2009, 288 pages
Lord Jack Aikenhead's notorious exploits have finally caught up with him, and now he must restore his reputation - by undertaking a covert intelligence operation in war-torn France…
Stepping in to protect silk weaver Marguerite Grolier against an attacker, however, throws his plans into disarray! Jack now needs the spirited French beauty's help on his mission and they must travel together - though she will be hopelessly compromised. But as she weaves her own alluring spell around him, marriage becomes an increasingly pleasurable prospect for this once-incorrigible rake!