Published by Loveswept on October 18th 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
August 1815. The war with France is officially over, Napoleon’s an exile on St Helena, but Europe is still a very dangerous place to be.
Kidnapped and held for ransom at nineteen, ducal heir William Ravenwood knows the only person he can rely on is himself. Now part of a spy ring that includes his friends Nicolas and Richard Hampden, he’s the smuggler known as The Raven, a ruthless agent who specializes in rescuing hostages and prisoners of war from captivity.
Raven longs to discover the fate of his colleague, Christopher ‘Kit’ Carlisle, who’s been missing, presumed dead, for over two years. He’s also equally determined to stay away from the one thing he knows is dangerous to his health – the bane of his life, his best friends’ infuriating and provocative little sister, Heloise.
Heloise is a brilliant code breaker, one of the English government’s most valuable assets. She’s also loved Raven for years, but considering that he rejected her at sixteen, before her face was scarred rescuing her brother from an icy river, she’s certain he doesn’t want her now, despite his outrageous flirting.
But when Heloise decodes a message that proves Kit is alive and a prisoner in Spain, Raven realizes she’s in grave danger. With French agents determined to silence her, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe – even if that means taking her to Spain with him as an unwilling hostage.
As they face French deserters and Spanish freedom fighters, Raven and Heloise try to ignore the simmering attraction that’s been building between them for eight long years. The differences between them are striking but they’ve always had a strange underlying bond. Heloise might be scarred outwardly, but Raven’s wounds are all on the inside. He knows he’s not worthy of her love—a shadowed Hades pining for sun-kissed Persephone—but he’s not above showing her passion for the short time they’re together.
A master at decoding complex messages, Heloise finds Raven frustratingly hard to read, but as their lives hang in the balance she’s determined to unravel his secrets and unlock his dark, elusive heart…
¬¬Reviewed by Monique¬¬
Another code breaker is murdered, William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood – Raven a spy for the Foreign Office – is told he is to protect Heloise Hampden, their best code breaker. Raven and Heloise are neighbours, but Raven has avoided Heloise for the past six years, even though she is the subject of his most erotic fantasies. Raven accepts his mission, he will do it, even if it kills him; he is the best at what he does. Heloise has been smitten with Raven for those six years, but she’s convinced he doesn’t want her, he told her as much, and that was even before she got that nasty scar. So both hide their feelings behind constant bickering and relentless teasing.
Raven is hosting another one of his scandalous masquerade balls, and Heloise must see him to show him a translation she just finished. She’s never been invited to the yearly ball and she drinks in the sights. She is masked, of course, and so is Raven. She spots him immediately, he pretends not to recognise her for a while, and they flirt shamelessly. When they retreat from prying eyes, and Heloise shows Raven what she has deciphered, someone shoots at her. That’s when Raven decides to whisk Heloise off to Spain on his ship.
Ms. Bateman is a wizard when it comes to descriptions, and Regency Spain came alive before my very eyes. Heloise is learned, she was always a hoyden as well, and she longs for an adventure and freedom. Raven is an intriguing character, and a dashing rogue for sure, however I could not grasp why he kept trying to antagonise Heloise so much, and at the same time behaving seductively, taunting her, while he knew he would not act upon it. It was either because he thought he was not good enough for her, he was “broken”, or because she was his best friend’s little sister. The former reason appeared to be the main one, but it was a tad hazy at times.
Even though the relentless teasing banter between Heloise and Raven is very creative, and quite amusing at the beginning, I thought it became tiresome after a while, but for some reason Heloise and Raven seemed to find it highly stimulating. Also for some reason that remains unclear to me, Raven seemed to find highly entertaining to verbally arouse Heloise. On the other hand, the segments on code breaking are riveting, as are the historical facts that pepper the narrative and the dialogues. It’s a shame that Major George Scovell was a real historical personage, because he would have been perfectly suited to Heloise.
A RAVEN’S HEART is a nice little story, beautifully written, and quite enlightening on several subjects, but in my opinion, it might have worked better as a novella. I somewhat got the impression that the author got carried away with her research, and I thought there were too many episodes that were unnecessary. I thought also a tad odd that Heloise’s scar – which didn’t seem that big a deal – was noticed by the ton, but nobody else really remarked upon it. I was also quite taken aback by Raven’s behaviour after “the deed” was done, and half a star fell here.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.