The fine tradition of falconing has been an essential part of the Canby duchy for years, and caring for those falcons is the family tradition of the Downings. Selena Downing Hewitt, current Falconer for Lockwell Hall, has a passion for her falcons and an all-consuming love for the seventeenth Duke of Canby, John Markley. Though three years separate their ages, they've been best friends for most of their lives. On Canby's twentieth birthday he asked Selena to be his mistress, but she refused, knowing she would love him forever, yet wanting more out of life than to be a kept woman.
Not long after her refusal, Canby disappeared and all those who loved him assumed him dead. Selena stayed on as Falconer for Lockwell Hall, caring for the birds they both adored and missing Canby every day of her life. Now, evidence has surfaced that suggests Canby's disappearance was the result of murder and the Dowager Duchess, Canby's mother, is pointing the finger at Selena. The sooner Selena is convicted of Canby's murder, the sooner the crown will strip Canby of his title and turn it over to the Duchess's second son, Randolph.
John Markley, the seventeenth Duke of Canby, has loved Selena Hewitt for as long as he can remember. They grew up together, becoming fast friends while sharing a passion for his estate's falcons. On his twentieth birthday he finally worked up the nerve to ask the woman of his dreams to be his for all eternity. He was shocked and destroyed when she not only refused him, but also informed him that she was to marry another man. Unable to face a world in which Selena would always be within reach, but would belong to someone else, Canby shirked his responsibilities and joined an underground spy network bent on acquiring information for the Crown and foiling the plans of their enemies. In the guise of Jack Pearce, aka The Falcon, Canby now spies on the French nobility. In the midst of his latest assignment, Canby hears news that Selena is on trial for his supposed murder. Even after six years apart, his feelings for her are still strong, so he returns to England, hoping to save her life.
When Selena and Canby are thrown together once again, their feelings for each other are even stronger than they were before, but society's rules have changed little. Society will never accept a Falconer's daughter as the next Duchess of Canby. Will Selena and Canby finally find a way to be together that they both can live with, or will Canby leave again, to return to the life of a spy for the Crown?
Falcon's Mistress is one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've ever had. Ms. Birdsell's voice is so suited to historical romance that I felt transferred into the distant past. She brought her world to life for me in bright, vivid detail and each page I turned, I enjoyed more than the last.
Selena is a proud woman, more than worthy of the title that marriage to Canby would afford her. Ms. Birdsell expertly conveys Selena's emotions, making her real to me in her love for Canby, her frustration at the societal rules that keep them apart, and her fear at spending the rest of her life in jail for a crime she didn't commit. Selena is one of those heroines I won't soon forget, and one of the biggest reasons this book belongs on my keeper shelf to be read and re-read through the years.
Canby is a bit of an enigma. One minute he's the boy-next-door Beta hero of my girlhood dreams, and the next he morphs into the mystifying Alpha spy of my grown-up fantasies. The combination is heady and exhilarating, even at those times I'd like to bash him over the head for his behavior.
I've read very few Georgian-set romances, so I have little to compare Falcon's Mistress to in that regard. I can, however, compare it to other historical suspense romances and say, unequivocally, that this is one of the finest. From the first page, to the last word, Falcon's Mistress had me riveted. This story has something for everyone: a tender love story, a conniving family, intrigues around every corner. It's a fast-paced, page-turner that kept me up all night.
I am beyond thrilled to learn that Ms. Birdsell is in the process of writing the second book in the Georgian Spies Series, which will finally give us the story of Canby's cousin, Ethan Gray. This book, due in October of 2006, is right at the top of my Must Buy list for the New Year. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Birdsell has in store for Ethan, and fervently hope we get at least a small glimpse of what Selena and Canby are up to in the future.
Reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed