by Kate Noble, historical (2010)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-23308-5
Revealed has one great thing going for it: a heroine who is refreshingly different from the typical selfless brown cow stereotype of the genre. However, this book is also a frustrating read because the author doesn't know what to do with the heroine or the romance.
Phillippa Benning is the darling of the Ton. She is a young, beautiful, rich, and fashionable widow. Women want to be her and they watch her for every move that they can emulate; men want her. She knows all of this, and believe me, she enjoys being the diamond of the Ton to the hilt. The only thorn on her side is her nemesis Jane Cummings, who is not only beautiful and young but also the daughter of a Duke. Both have their share of admirers and these two ladies square off every time they meet, a situation that has gone on ever since they were kids and hated each other on sight.
Phillippa has her eyes set on the Marquis of Broughton - he is charming, handsome, rich, and oh yes, Jane has her attentions set on him too. She knows that she will get him and beat Jane to the game, but as it happens, she and Broughton decide to have a tryst one fine evening during a ball in the same room that our hero Marcus Worth has chosen to meet his spy boss. The whole evening turns out to be a farcical one involving a sarcophagus and plenty of dust, but Phillippa ends the evening realizing that Marcus, some third son and therefore of nobody of consequence prior to this, could very well be the Blue Raven, the dashing and mysterious English spy whose adventures in foiling the French, chronicled in the tabloids, left everyone breathless in excitement for more. She has an amazing idea - she will reveal the identity of the Blue Raven in the upcoming ball of hers, thus ensuring that her party will be the talk of the town for a long time to come.
Marcus naturally doesn't want to play along, but he believes that his old and supposedly dead French enemy is back in London and planning mischief. Nobody in his office believes him and he eventually loses his job because they think that he's lost it and become too paranoid and even crazy. Marcus therefore realizes that he may have to play along with Phillippa in exchange for her ability to gain him entry into the best parties of the Ton. Remember, he's just a third son and therefore excluded from the inner circles of the Ton.
Phillippa reminds me of the adorable Cher Horowitz from the movie Clueless. Oh, I know, Clueless is a contemporary take on Jane Austen's Emma, but Phillippa has more in common with Alicia Silverstone's portrayal of her character than with Emma Woodhouse. She is a refreshing heroine in the sense that she not only enjoys being who she is, she also knows how to subtly manipulate the people around her into doing things her way. Phillippa is also pretty sharp - she has photographic memory and there are many moments when she makes Marcus, a professional spy, come off like an amateur.
Incidentally, this story is very focused on Phillippa's character - the story is told mostly from her point of view. Therefore, with Phillippa being a rather unorthodox example of a heroine, I suspect that your enjoyment of this book hinges greatly on how much you appreciate that character. If you cannot stand her, you may just very well have a hard time wading through this book.
I have no problems with Phillippa. The problem with this story is everything else that is not related to Phillippa. The biggest issue I have with this story is Marcus. If anything, Revealed demonstrates that an adorable heroine alone cannot salvage a romance novel, not in this case when Marcus is actively doing everything not to have a relationship with her all the way to the last few pages. Oh, he is happy to have sex with her, make no mistake, but he has this horrid tendency to vanish from her life without even a word after he's had what he wanted from her and he then decides that he needs to vanish from her life. For her own good, of course. If Phillippa is lucky, she may get a letter after a while from him explaining that he's doing what he did for her own good.
Phillippa says that she dislikes waiting for a man. And yet, in this story, all she does is to give to Marcus and he takes without giving anything back. Yes, she wants him to be the grand event for her ball, but he never intends to fulfill that promise, so in my opinion, that says more about him than it does about her. She gains him entry into parties and actually helps him in his case, but after every time she does this, he vanishes, leaving her to wait for him to come back again. At one point, the hero's brother correctly points out that Marcus has decided - for the second time in the story, mind you - that he needs to vanish from Phillippa's life without informing her first. Even after they have nabbed the villain, Marcus once again vanishes from her life, deciding that she's better off without him, and she is the one who pursue him in the last few pages for the happily ever after.
Maybe it's just me, but I think Marcus deserves to lose Phillippa. He's a pathetic, cowardly, useless wretch who isn't very smart or good at his job either. I don't know why she would want anything to do with this man who runs off on her three times in this story without a word. While I can't say she assists him without expecting anything in return, she actually helps him and gives him some TLC in the process. He just takes everything from her and proceeds to hurt her in return. Some hero, I tell you.
Because Marcus is too pathetic to man up and properly break off things with Phillippa for good, the romance is more akin to Phillippa's pursuit of Marcus than a mutual relationship. Just when the momentum gets going, he pulls a vanishing act on Phillippa, thus ruining the flow of the romance. By the middle point of this story, I am starting to wonder whether Phillippa is going to wise up and drop that useless man. By the last page of this story, I can only wonder whether Marcus is worth all that effort Phillippa has put up to get him. Not to be a snob, but he's not rich, smart, capable, or adorable, so what's the point of even bothering with this twit?
Revealed has only one saving grace - the heroine - and the heroine is fabulous enough to keep me reading. But the hero is a waste of time and he spends the whole story avoiding any opportunity to explore a romantic relationship with the heroine. The romance, therefore, is a dud. If you want to read this story, adjust your expectations and view this story more as one woman's exciting adventure rather than a romance.
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