How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy
By Vanessa Kelly
With Waterloo and a dark history as a member of Wellington’s intelligence-gathering staff behind him, Captain William Endicott is ready for a less dangerous life in England, one that will provide a modest living and garner him enough respectability for people to overlook his status as a royal bastard. To Will’s dismay, he returns to England to find a summons from spymaster Dominic Hunter waiting for him. He soon discovers that his cousin and best friend, former partner in intelligence activities, and fellow Waterloo survivor, Captain Alasdair Gilbride, has received a similar summons. Will has every intention of turning down Dominic’s assignment and tendering his resignation from the spying game, but when Dominic charges Will and Alec with preventing an assassination of a high-level official, perhaps even a member of the royal family, Will can’t refuse, particularly when Dominic’s orders are supported by a direct command from the Duke of York and Albany, the commander of the king’s army—and Will’s father.
The plot Will and Alec are expected to uncover involves a group of Irish radicals who may be using the Hiberian Benevolent Association sponsored by St. Margaret’s, a small church in St. Giles, as a front for their activities. The association’s ostensible purpose is to help Irish immigrants, and its patron is Michael Beaumont, youngest son of the Earl of Leger, a Catholic and a vocal advocate of Catholic emancipation. Beaumont, who is suspected of being involved in the assassination plot, is expected to announce his engagement to Evelyn Whitney, the love of Will’s youth. Will can’t believe that sweet, shy Evie is involved in a treasonous plot.
Evelyn Whitney can’t believe her eyes when Will Endicott joins a house party her parents are hosting at their Hampshire estate. At sixteen, Evie was fathoms deep in love with Will and certain that they would be married and live happily ever after. Although she would have been happy to marry Will even over her mother’s objections because of his scandalous birth and poor prospects, Will left her. Evie wants a different kind of life now, one without the passion or the risks she knew with Will. She is looking forward to a life of quiet contentment with Michael, a life based on their mutual interests and charity work. She knows she should keep her distance from Will, but that’s difficult when she suspects there is more to his appearance than he is revealing—and when her mother, impressed that Will has the favor of his royal father and the promise of a successful military or diplomatic career, insists on seeing Will as a potential husband for Evie.
As Evie and Will are forced into one another’s company, the feelings they have repressed awaken, gaining in strength as they discover each other anew as the adults they have become. But neither fully trusts the other, and danger from an unexpected source poses a bigger threat than either one of them imagines.
From my first reading of Lost in a Royal Kiss, the wonderful Georgian novella that introduced Vanessa Kelly’s Renegade Royals, I have been hooked on this series. I find fascinating the idea of a group of royal bastards struggling to forge an identity and make a place for themselves in the world that disdains them. I have eagerly awaited each new story, and each one has rewarded my anticipation. How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy is no exception. Will is brave and loyal, stubborn and vulnerable—just the kind of hero to win a reader’s heart, and socially awkward, be-spectacled wallflower Evie with her exceptional capacity for courage and love is totally endearing.
I also enjoy the way Kelly weaves history into her plots. From the prologue where Will confronts the brutality and layered losses of war to the Irish problem and the Catholic oppression that are at the heart of the book’s action, Kelly gives the reader enough historical detail to make the story real without overpowering her with information. Kelly’s balanced presentation makes the reader aware of the different perspectives, each one “right” from the view of the person who holds it. In this respect, I was reminded of another Kelly (Carla) who has given me some of my most cherished historical romances.
This book can be read as a standalone, but to read it alone is to cheat yourself out of the rich reading experience of experiencing the full world of the series and appreciating all the ways the stories are intertwined. Only someone who has read the other books could understand why one of my favorite moments in this one occurs when Will thinks that it is “hard to imagine how someone like Dominic could exchange his place at the center of power for a life of quiet domesticity.” (I’m smiling even as I type these words.) So, I enthusiastically recommend How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy, but I recommend even more highly the full Renegade Royals series. (The two novellas are particular favorites of mine.) And I’m already impatient to read How to Marry a Royal Highlander (June 30, 2015), the story of Will’s friend Alec, a high-spirited, deceptively complicated man, and the delightful Eden, Evie’s twin sister.