Set in London and Russia in 1812, this is the story of a British commoner and a Russian prince. Carolyn Browne’s father is just a common bookseller but her mother left a noble heritage for love. Years later, her mother dead, Carolyn lives above the bookshop with her father. To make money and have her laughs on London society, she writes a gossip column under a man’s pen name, exposing the hypocrisy of the upper crust. But then she meets Prince Nicholas Sverayov, a colonel in the Russian army and friend of the tsar. He has come to London forge an alliance between his country and England. He is married to a beautiful princess he has never loved and who he has not slept with for 5 years because she cheated on him. Each has gone their separate ways in the bedroom. They have a young 7-year-old daughter, who Nickolas is not sure is even his.
The hero started to look rather unheroic when, as an older, experienced married man, he seduces the 18 year old virgin—(our heroine)—a woman he has no intention of marrying (not that he could). The heroine came across as a bit naïve, though she is an intellectual. Disguised as a young man (to sneak into society’s galas and gather her gossip, she fails to wonder why a much older, worldly Russian prince, known for his conquests with women, would spend an evening with someone who appears to be an 18 year old boy. Then, when as a female, that same Russian prince turns his attention on her, she thinks she can outsmart the rake. She desires true love but has no desire for passion (at least initially), and has no clue as to what attracts men and women. Then, despite her talk of morality, she sleeps with the married man. Adultery, she acknowledges, is wrong, but she still does it.
Several things were unrealistic. First, a young maiden of 18 would not be allowed to go alone anywhere with a man not a relative, not in 1812. Second, to take a ride in the park with a known, married rake would have condemned her in society’s eyes. (Unless he wanted to ruin her (which he eventually did anyway), he would have met her more discreetly. So there were some unbelievable parts.
However, having said all that, this is an exciting story, especially as the action moves from London to Russia. And the heroine seemed to grow a bit more realistic. She really gets lucky in the end. If you can handle that, this is a worthy read and you won’t want to put it down, I promise.