Distracting The Duchess by Emily Bryan
"A nude model has nothing to hide, except the fact that he's a spy."
Reviewed by Lynne DillonPosted February 13, 2008
Artemesia, the Duchess of Southwicke, is an artist. Young and beautiful, but shunning society and all it represents, she's become the infamous target of the "Tattler," the gossip sheet of the day. Artemesia wants only to retain her freedom, run her own affairs and paint. Freed by the death of the elderly duke, Artemesia searches out her dreams and creates a man of business, Mr. Bedington, to handle her estate and expand her large fortune.
Trevelyn Deveridge is an undercover agent for Queen Victoria whose goal is to contact the said Mr. Bedington and retrieve a certain key that carries the names of other agents in India. He calls on Artemesia in the hope she can put him in touch with her man of affairs. Instead, he's mistaken for a model and asked to pose in the nude for the duchess' new painting. Trevelyn agrees and the duchess is awed by his powerful body.
Thus begins a dance of swords with both determined to call the shots. Then a third party begins to threaten and complicate their dance. Can Artemesia release control and remarry? Will Trevelyn admit defeat and sail off to India without her? Or will the enigmatic third party destroy them both?
I was a little put off by the idea of a hero being a nude model, but Emily Bryan pulls it off. The characters are strong enough to appeal to the most ruthless romantic, and the story is edgy enough to hold your interest. There's humor, but it doesn't control the story, for which I'm glad. I enjoyed reading it because it has just enough pathos. After all, an agent leads a dangerous life and can't afford to be distracted by a beautiful love interest. Would a man actually give it all up for love, or would a woman? The power is there, the hero is all-knowing and all- powerful to the dismay and distraction of the heroine, which is just what the title promises. This was a very good read.