Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Checkmate, My Lord by Tracey Devlyn (ARC)

When your whole life has been dedicated to protecting and defending England, is there room in your life for anything else?

Sebastian Danvers, Earl of Somerton heads Nexus and has been relentless in keeping England safe from foreign threat. He now finds himself at a crossroads: after a botched-up mission leaves one of his valued agents (and former ward) captured and then tortured before being rescued, he is under investigation by the new head of the Alien Office.

Only Danvers knows the names of all the agents and their locations -- now he is being compelled to provide a list to Superintendent Reeves of the Alien Office. Should he leave the list to someone? What will happen to his agents if something happens to him? Should he make the list in the first place?

Then he is confronted by the widow of one of his agents -- Catherine has lived in the country and had waited hopelessly for her husband to return to her. Now he is dead and she wants answers -- and they seem to be hidden in a stack of letters her husband sent her. Except they are nonsense written on paper.

But they are not nonsense to Sebastian. Sebastian returns to his country seat, which borders Catherine's estate -- and as he works to unlock the code hidden in the letters, he discovers that he has neglected his tenants's lives and Sebastian is ready to make amends, but he needs Catherine's help.

Sebastian discovers the happiness and peace that can be found with the right partner -- but when a threat arises and endangers Catherine and her family, personal life and public career hang in the balance as Sebastian must once again put on the mantle of master spy in order to protect them.

After the devastating loss of his mentor, and then witnessing the hardship Cora went through when she was captured, Sebastian has learned to guard his heart well. He knows that, as head of Nexus, anyone close enough to him can be used against him -- so he has lived a solitary life, standing apart from the world, with the weight of protecting England on his shoulders.

No matter what occurred between Catherine and him, he could not allow sentiment to enter the picture.

Because emotion was a weakness, and weakness killed loved ones.
- loc 1291

I felt sorry for Sebastian and the unbelievable burden he carries. Throughout the story, one can see him struggle to keep himself in check -- to make sure that he appears disinterested and unaffected -- afraid to show the world the real him because it might be used as a weapon against him and against England.

Keeping his agents alive and England free from invasion was all he could manage. Getting involved with Catherine could put them all in danger.
- loc 1663

But he does get involved with Catherine -- he needs her as liaison between him and his neglected tenants -- and he needs her to push back the loneliness and darkness in his life.

There's a lot going on in this story -- several levels of Sebastian's life at play: Sebastian as lord needs to make up for years of neglecting his country seat and the people who depend on him.

But as he works to repair houses, gates, roads and relationships, Sebastian is also working to decode the messages that his agent, Jeffrey Ashcroft left him through his letters to Catherine.

There are domestic threats and national threats -- and Sebastian handles them masterfully. He is organized, calm and determined -- and he doesn't flinch even at the most difficult challenge.

Catherine wreaks havoc upon Sebastian's fortress of solitude* -- Sebastian knows that Catherine is searching for something in his house -- does Sebastian dare trust her?

Our heroine is faced with a similar dilemma -- with very little information given about her husband's death, Catherine grasps at straws, eager to get her hands at anything -- when whispers of Sebastian's supposed treachery reach her ears, Catherine is torn: is this man responsible for Jeffrey's death? Has she given her heart and body to a man she should hate?

There are a lot of questions that the author poses in the story -- but she answers them all nicely in the end. Devlyn has given dimension to her characters -- showing us multiple aspects of their lives and how they come to play in the decisions that they make. Catherine is woman, mother, lover and friend -- and it's interesting seeing her try to make sense of the things that happen around her and which aspect of her personality comes into play.

The story is a bit long but it really picks up momentum when the true villains decide to show their hand and threaten Catherine and her family (from Chapter 15). It all gets very exciting and complicated -- how will Sebastian save them?

I have two questions, though -- how old is Sebastian? (Considering he raised Cora and her brother, he must be in his 40s?) And, why the title?

Checkmate, My Lord is the second book in the Nexus series by Tracey Devlyn and will be released this February 1 in paperback and e-book.

To find out more about Tracey Devlyn and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.


Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for accepting my request.) Yes, this is an honest review.



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