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Gray Masterson is a soldier and a spy, who has returned home to England, weary and wary. His best friend, Rafe Drummond, has turned recluse after sustaining injuries during the war, and his mentor is missing. This book made me realize that I have a soft spot for heroes who wear glasses -- not much is mentioned of Gray's physical appearance, other than that:
1. He has green eyes.
2. He is a large man.
3. He has scars.
4. He wears glasses.
It's when the author drops that final detail that made me sit up and pay attention to our hero. Aside from his spy work, Gray has also been tasked by Rafe to look after his sister, Lily, who is making her first appearance in society. Gray hasn't seen Lily in years, but he still believes he can anticipate what will happen to her: he thinks she'll cause a scandal, or that she'll get into trouble. Imagine his surprise when Lily turns out to be nothing that he'd expected, but everything that he'd dreamed of in a woman.
"Rafe wouldn't allow it. He'd lock you away." He couldn't hide his desperation.
"I'd pick the lock."
- loc 1330
This novel plays on mistaken impressions -- a lot of it from Gray's side. He initially comes across as very arrogant and presumptuous with all of his preconceived ideas about how Lily would behave, so it is quite gratifying when Lily proves him wrong. Lily proves to be a brave and capable lady, who knows what she wants. (My one very, very small reservation about her is how she continues to refer to a man's penis as his "dangly bits.")
An Indecent Invitation focuses on two stories: the disappearance of Lily's father, the Earl of Windor, who happens to be Gray's mentor, and the love story between Lily and Gray. There's are a lot of implications regarding the Earl of Windor's mysterious disappearance, because:
1. He happens to be a top spy, so his absence could just be a small piece of a bigger problem (maybe a threat to the spy network? a threat to the crown?)
2. It is suggested in the story that Lily and her father had an unpleasant confrontation before he disappeared, and Lily feels responsible.
I'm glad the investigation/spy work wasn't overly complicated, and gave the author a lot of wiggle room to explore the relationship between her hero and heroine. There's a bit of Pride and Prejudice in how Gray initially disapproved of Lily, and how they couldn't seem to interact on the same plane of thought -- there were always misunderstandings, but I thought it highlighted how differently men and women communicate.
"But where on earth did you learn that song?" His tone had turned from complimentary to faintly admonishing. The pulse of resentment settled her nerves to manageable levels.
"One of the gypsy women at the harvest fair last fall. And before you ask, in London I played a dreadfully dull hymn to satisfy even the most conservative matron. No one suspects my improper bent for scandal. I'm not sure where you and Rafe got the idea I don't know how to act with discretion."
- loc 898
Then the author flips the Pride and Prejudice plot by revealing that Gray is actually the son of the Earl of Windor's estate manager, and is, in fact, not of equal rank to Lily. It didn't seem to be an impediment at the start of the story. I had the impression that Gray was well-received in London society, but it's his father who reminds him of his place, and it's a revelation that comes a bit too late in the story (around the middle part when the two have gotten over their initial prejudices and are already slowly falling in love), but it adds a very interesting twist to it. It's difficult enough that Lily is the little sister of his best friend, it becomes an almost insurmountable challenge to find out that Lily is also out of reach, socially.
"...The earl and your brother will want you to marry a peer. My job is dangerous and has me leaving at a moment's notice for months on end. I can't be worried about anyone but me. I can't afford to care, to have a burden waiting. I don't have room in my life for entanglements."
- loc 1316
The supporting characters, Rafe Drummond, and Lily's friend, Lady Minerva Bellingham, are fleshed out well, and I'm curious whether they would become a couple in the next instalments of this series. (There is no indication of it in this novel, but I think the two would be an interesting match. ^_^)
An Indecent Invitation is Book 1 in Laura Trentham's Spies and Lovers series, and releases today, August 25, 2015. This is also Laura Trentham's first historical romance novel! (She previously published a contemporary romance series.) To find out more about Laura Trentham and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received this ARC through Netgalley. Thank you to Samhain Publishing and Laura Trentham for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.