A very similar book from the authors of "Lady Faulcon's Rogue" (hereafter referred to as LFR).
Those who have read most of Devlin O'Neill's other books, with the exception of LFR, or indeed read the description of this book as "heroic romance and erotica" on the back cover, may be expecting a rather different kind of novel from the one that the authors have actually written.
This book (like LFR) appears to have started out as an attempt to bridge the gap between romance and erotica, but the book as published is much more the former than the latter.
The story starts as a group of six men, the survivors of a company under the hero of the story Captain Drake, have arrived back in England from "the wars in France" and are on their way home on the road from Hull to York.
While they camp with a friendly band of gypsies, Captain Drake gets a nocturnal visit from a beautiful woman. On waking he wonders at first whether she was real, or just a lascivious dream, but he soon discovers that she is indeed real - the dignified lady of a nearby manor. Sending his men on, he remains in the area to try to discover what she is up to - and soon becomes involved in a love triangle, a legal fight over a disputed inheritance, and eventually a murder trial.
The historical romance which takes up 90% of the novel is so lacking in contemporary historical detail that it is impossible to say for certain what century the tale is meant to be set in or which set of French wars the authors were thinking of. The cover illustration shows a 17th or 18th century manor house, but the social conditions and weapons described in the book reflect a time much earlier than that. There is one reference to gunpowder, but none to muskets or rifles and some of Drake's men are archers, which suggests a setting in the hundred years war, probably the first half of the 15th century.
In one or two places words and practices from modern America have been transplanted to medieval England in a way which is unintentionally comic. For example at one point the Lady of the Manor warns her maids that if they let her down "the lot of you will find yourselves in the woodshed" (e.g. be taken there to be spanked.) The type of punishment might well have been common to both the 20th century Mid-Western USA and 15th century Yorkshire, but both the wording of the threat and the selection of the place of execution were so much more apposite to the former than the latter as to have me laughing out loud.
The lack of any real attempt to engage with any significant degree of detail either of major historical events or of social history means that this story cannot really qualify as a historical romance. However, but the quality of the writing is at least two or three rungs up the ladder from the average Mills and Boon romance. The fight scenes are exciting, the love triangle at the centre of the story works well, as does the detective story at the end of the book, and you can easily start to care about some of the characters. The plot and dramatic tension are fairly well managed.
The erotic element which makes up the remainder of the story includes three or four sex scenes, none of them particularly graphic, and there are half a dozen spanking scenes which are clearly aimed at those readers who find that sort of thing a turn-on. (Some are carried out by the hero and are fairly mild, several rather more severe beatings are inflicted by less sympathetic characters and the reader appears to be intended to empathise with the victims.)
A number of authors and publishers have been trying to build stories which bridge the gap between erotica and other genres - usually romance, but sometimes science fiction or fantasy. A few have been quite good, but most have been dire. The most common problem with the bad ones is that they fall between two stools by not having enough sex to satisfy most readers of erotica, while not being well enough written to create the reader empathy with the characters to work as a romance.
Devlin O'Neill and Georgia Lynd have avoided this problem by working hard on their characters, the plot, and the build-up of dramatic and emotional tension. What they have ended up with is two reasonably well written books which have only slightly more sex than many "mainstream" romances or thrillers published in the last few years. In consequence some readers of Mr O'Neill's other books who buy this book or LFR expecting more of the same are likely to be disappointed.
I hope the authors find enough other readers who enjoy this book to offset that problem, because both "A Fine Deceit" and "Lady Faulcon's Rogue" are a good enough effort to deserve more work in the same direction.