First comment about this book - the cover art seemed a bit odd. We have a man with a very modern haircut peeping through some bed hangings; he's got a definite five o'clock shadow but completely hairless arms and he looks like one of my friends who's a vicar in Swindon. He certainly doesn't look like an Albanian man masquerading as a French Count in 1829 - who is described as having blonde hair which is slightly overlong and amazingly blue eyes. Once again, the cover art of a Regency Mass-market Paperback lets us down - badly.
But on to the book, if you've managed to get past the awkward cover and actually purchased the thing. It's the story of the Comte D'Esmond, French nobleman, who appears to be trying to seduce Mrs Leila Beaumont, wife of Francis Beaumont. All of these characters appeared briefly in "Lord of Scoundrels" - Francis Beaumont being a very unpleasant man who spends his time in dissolute living; his wife, on the other hand, is an amazing artist and the sole of fidelity.
Until Francis is murdered and she is the chief suspect. Fortunately she is acquitted of the murder, with the help of the Comte D'Esmond, but then it becomes clear to her that she must try to find out who actually did kill her husband, in case that person tries to murder someone else. So she goes to a figure in authority - who puts the Comte D'Esmond on the case. But is he quite who he seems?
The characters in this book are many layered. The Comte is decidedly not as he appears on the surface but he guards his secrets incredibly well. Leila Beaumont has been emotionally damaged by her husband and can't trust men at all - when she realises how many secrets the Comte is keeping she knows she can't trust him either. And yet they have to work together and she slowly begins to unpick his story and find out more about him, much against his will.
There's not a great deal of action in this book apart from small movements as the Comte and Leila move around her artists studio, picking up paintbrushes, sitting down on a chair, that kind of thing. No long carriage journeys or gunfights, it's like a still-life painting where the subjects provide all the visual interest by just being themselves. It's well written, particularly in the Comte's way of speaking English with a foreign flavour, but I did find my attention straying sometimes because of the lack of action and because there was always something more being unveiled - what you thought was true seemed to change on a very regular basis as Leila finds out more. The book definitely picked up in interest towards the end although I was very fearful about the Big Misunderstanding that was trailed from about a third of the way through - fortunately the author did something rather better with this than you would usually expect in this kind of novel. Overall her characters were different and interesting and I did enjoy the book, if sometimes getting a little confused by all the different characters and finding their focus on the murder plot a little irritating.