I have really liked the character of Guy Devoran in Ross's two previous books, Night of Sin and Games of Pleasure where he was the always jovial and helpful partner in crime to his two cousins' love stories. I was very much looking forward to reading Clandestine where Guy would finally find the love he so longs for, but am sorry to report that the story was a disappointment to me.
The widowed Sarah Callaway, a teacher at a girls' school in Bath, receives increasingly desperate letters from her cousin Rachel, a governess, describing how she is being stalked by a man. Rachel begs Sarah to come to London, but when she arrives, Sarah finds that her cousin has disappeared from her rooms without a trace. Sarah approaches Guy Devoran, whom Rachel has told Sarah was once very kind to her, to ask for his help in locating the missing Rachel. He agrees and so Sarah and Guy begin their search for Rachel during which they discover the secret life she has been leading.
Guy was more than simply kind to Rachel – he was her protector for several months the previous year, unbeknownst to Sarah, and Guy is very careful not to enlighten her. This is the Big Secret, and his failure to fully disclose all he knows about Rachel's doings in the past two years since Sarah has seen her, will prove to be his undoing – and a frustration to the reader. As it is, Sarah learns of Rachel's secrets in drips and drabs, and each bit of knowledge is a blow to her. But Rachel has plenty of secrets that are news to Guy as well, which shake him profoundly.
Guy is a knight-errant type, a deeply honorable man, and while everything he tells Sarah about Rachel is strictly true, he conceals much. This concealment torments him. He feels guilt and sorrow at his role in Rachel's life and what that knowledge will do to Sarah, whom he is beginning to love.
Sarah, for her part, is almost a martyr to her cousin. You know the type – always making excuses for bad behavior, sure she is always being told the truth, placating the other when upset, and sacrificing her own meager means and happiness for the loved one. In modern parlance, it is a very co-dependent relationship and a bit wearing.
It took me a long time to buy into the fact Guy was in love with Sarah – it happened very quickly and I saw no basis for the attraction other than his frequent musings on Sarah's red hair and freckles. Much of the investigation into Rachel's story and whereabouts is done by other people – Guy's cousins – and done off scene. Results are simply reported to Sarah through Guy, so this wasn't even a good quest storyline.
Once Sarah and Guy acknowledged their love, the story took off some; the love scenes were nice and well done, and the seeming hopelessness of their HEA provided lots of angst and delicious longing. Ross's prose is always a joy to read, she has a way with literary allusions that few have, but in the end, there were more things in Clandestine that didn't work for me, than did.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, November 23, 2006