Damsel in Disguise
by Susan Gee Heino
Paperback: 368 pages
Available: August 3, 2010
Genre: Historical Romance
An actress by trade, Julia St. Clement is playing her most dangerous role yet. She dresses as a man to warn Lord Anthony Rastmoor of a cruel plot against him. She still loves him, despite his betrayal years ago. Rastmoor believes that Julia is dead. But when Julia’s actress “wife” disappears, Rastmoor and Julia must form an uneasy alliance. It’s only a matter of time before he unmasks her-and there’s no telling what will happen when he does.
Have you ever wanted to be just one of the guys? Sit at the poker table and get the no-holds-barred version of the conversation? Reading the back synopsis, I thought Susan Gee Heino’s Damsel in Disguise would be an interesting twist on romance. Unfortunately, though it had a few good moments, I largely found myself wondering when I’d finally get to the end.
Julia St. Clement is an accomplished actress, whose skills are put to the test when she must play Mr. Alexander Clemmons in order to escape the clutches of Cedrick Fitzgeralder and save Lord Anthony Rastmoor. After the suspicious disappearance of Sophie, Julia’s travel companion who was masquerading as Clemmons’ wife, Rastmoor and Clemmons (aka Julia) team up to find Sophie. With cropped hair, a mustache and trousers, Julia fools everyone except Rastmoor. Rastmoor immediately suspects something is amiss and later realizes Clemmons is a woman. And not just any woman, but the woman who broke his heart three years prior by running off with his unsavory cousin, Fitzgeralder, who is now out to take Rastmoor title. As Julia and Rastmoor rediscover their love and attempt to rebuild trust, they embark on a quest to find Sophie, keep Julia safe from Fitzgeralder and keep Rastmoor’s title and family name in tact…all while Julia must maintain her male persona.
Let’s start with the things I liked. There were several mishaps and one-liners in this story that made me smile. I often re-read the lines that started with “oh bother” or “hellfire and damnation” because it was just too darn funny. Julia also finds herself in a few interesting predicaments as a “man,” including a quite awkward exchange with a creepy old pervert. Given the prim and proper Regency-period setting, I would have liked Heino to add more comical or interesting exchanges of a woman pretending to be a man in a male dominated period. While there were a few, they were less memorable. What I found most frustrating was the general pace of the story. Between Julia and Rastmoor hemming and hawing about trusting one another and the various storylines unfolding rather slowly, the middle part of the book was hard to get through. In fact, I had to put it down for a few days at a time. With several death threats, assassination attempts, impersonations and arson, I would have thought things would have been more interesting and perhaps a bit more suspenseful. The pace picked up in the latter part of the book, but the ending left me thinking “THAT was the big secret” and “did Walt Disney write this HEA?”
While I’m not jumping to pick up Temptress in Training, Heino’s next novel, I’m not completely throwing in the towel. Lord Dashford, Rastmoor’s best friend, who had a big role in this book, is the hero in Heino’s previous novel, Mistress by Mistake. I have a feeling Lord and Lady Dashford will pique my interest rather than put me to sleep.
Rastmoor: “All truly does end well”
Julia: “Indeed, but it would be even more well if you would stop making chitchat and please remove your clothes, my lord.”
Visit Susan Gee Heino at: Website