St. Martin's Paperback, June 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
Simon Rain is the owner of The Liar's Club a gaming hell which serves as a front for spies in the service of His Majesty. When Rain's operatives begin turning up dead, and one of his agents known as "The Griffin" doesn't report in, he begins to suspect one of his spies has betrayed them. Rain decides to go undercover to find his missing agent.
Miss Agatha Cunnington has come to London to find her missing brother James. The only clue she has is a letter signed by "The Griffin". Posing as a married lady so she can move about the city more freely, she sets herself up in her brother's London townhouse as Mrs. Mortimer Applequist. But when she is forced to produce her husband, she hires a common chimney-sweep to masquerade as Mortimer.
Simon couldn't ask for an easier method of investigating his subject than to pose as her husband. However he soon finds himself falling under the spell of the most cunning confidence artist and liar he's ever worked with. Caught in a comedy of errors and lies, Agatha and Simon fall hopelessly in love, but can they ever hope to untangle the mess they've made?
THE PRETENDER, a regency period comedy, is the first book in The Liar's Club series. It's a light hearted and sensual romance with appealing characters. Characterization is Bradley's strength. Simon Rain, and secondary characters James Cunnington and Dalton Montmorency, are all engaging alpha male characters. When Rain is pitted against a country bred miss who can out-lie the leader of The Liar's Club, you can't help but be caught up in the spirit of this comical tale. However, this isn't a flawless novel; there are a few implausible plot twists. The story has some great moments, and then suddenly the characters act uncharacteristically, and the dialogue doesn't fit.
Ms. Bradley follows this novel with THE IMPOSTOR featuring Dalton Montmorency, and due out in February 2004, THE SPY featuring James Cunnington. Celeste Bradley is definitely an author to watch.
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