(Maybe 3.5 stars but it was such fun.) I have read every recent novel in Joanna Bourne's Spymasters Series, starting with The Spymaster's Lady in 2008 up to The Black Hawk (Berkley Sensation) from 2011. Better French Revolution/Regency England//French spies/English spies stories cannot be found in HR novels.
This particular story was Bourne's first published work and it's from 1983. It's not part of the Spymasters Series but is rather a gothic regency set in 1818. What's very cool about it is 1)even though it's from so many years ago, it's really a good read, and 2)Sir Adrian Hawkhurst is in the cast of characters. You know, Hawker from "The Black Hawk", sigh! And when you consider that a hardcopy used paperback of this would cost you anywhere from $47 to $188, how can you pass up the e-book at $3.99?
As said, it's a gothic. Heroine Melissa Rivenwood, parentless and unsatisfied with her current position as a schoolteacher of French, accepts a position as companion to Lady Dorothy, Countess of Harforth. The whole household is run by the Countess' nephew Giles Tarsin, formerly a soldier on Wellington's staff, until the day his nephew, 7-year-old Robbie, the Earl of Keptford, can take control. Many other characters are staying at the estate, among them Sir Adrian Hawkhurst, whom Giles has asked to come to help him with some mysterious doings at the estate. (Adrian is, as in the newer series, a spy involved in French Revolution intrigues, but this does not figure into the story.)
Mysterious goings on, possible murder attempts, not knowing who to trust, falling in love and not trusting your heart, etc. It's all here in this gothic treat and it's much better written than many other gothic HRs I've read.