Once again, I bought a book based on the title. Now usually this gets me into trouble, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve a thing for spies- whether they be male or female! This work is the beginning of a series of spy novels by Andrea Pickens, and I will say she does write a good mystery. Don’t let that sentence fool you, it’s a romance too.

Our heroine, Siena, is one of “Merlin’s Maidens” a highly trained all female force that fights with Britain against their most dangerous enemies. These women are taken in from the streets and educated as a well-bred lady would be, with the addition of learning how to defend themselves; receiving the same training as most soldiers. However, theirs is different in that they are taught to kill with finesse. A true spy. Siena is the top student at the academy and is the perfect choice to flush out a traitor.

One of the suspects is the Earl of Kirtland; a former army officer that has been disgraced because of his wish to spare is men certain death; going against the orders of ones superior is unheard of in the British cavalry. An academic with no taste for the life of the ton, or the marriage market, Kirtland is more interested in rare books than appearing at balls and soirees, where his reputation is bandied about like a compromised debutante. He and the members of the Gilded Page club- a society of gentlemen thirsting for rare works of art and books- become Siena’s target in her search for the traitor. Her startling appearance at their meeting wearing nothing more than a fig leaf and an offer of her charms to the winner of her challenge gets the novel rolling quite nicely. The entire group, in pursuit of a rare collection of books by an eccentric Duke, settle in at the ducal estate for a fortnight of intellectual bartering with the reward being the rare works. Siena must eliminate the members of the Gilded Page Club in order to find her traitor, and in the process falls under the spell of the Earl, who is the most likely suspect. In Siena’s quest, she must decide if her heart or her head is leading her investigation, as well as figuring out who she can trust. It’s a dangerous game that gets out of hand before all is said and done.

The entire work is filled with intrigue, sexual tension and a light humor that brings the story together in a neat package. Siena’s character is wonderfully written as one who goes from the horrors of life on the streets to parading around as a widow under the guise “The Black Dove”. Pickens’ writes so many interesting facets of her character that I immediately was cheering for her as she went about her dangerous tasks. The Earl of Kirtland is as sexy as he is dangerous, with a mysterious air about him that makes you want to learn more just for the thrill.

All in all, the book was fun to read. The next in the series “Seduced by a Spy” is already out and I think I might have to pick that one up as well, especially for the name!

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