Carolyn Jewel's Indiscreet follows Edward Marrack, the Marquess of Foye, and Sabine Goddard through the sands of Turkey and Syria during the early Regency. Foye became aware of Sabine a year prior to the start of the story, via a boast by his friend, the Earl of Crosshaven, that he had seduced Miss Goddard. As the novel opens, Foye meets Sabine and her uncle on their travels in Turkey.
Foye is surprised upon meeting Sabine. Instead of a shattered girl mourning her lost reputation, he finds a strikingly intelligent woman fiercely loyal to the uncle who raised her. Sabine also finds Foye contrary to expectation. Where she supposed him to be arrogant and waits for him to proposition her on account of her low status and reputation, she instead discovers he knows Crosshaven lied and that he is drawn, rather than repelled, by her intelligence.
Despite a fifteen year age difference and a large height discrepancy, Jewel created a romance between two equals. Their banter is smart and mature, and neither ever seems to have the upper hand on the other. Even when Foye must rescue Sabine from a deceptive pasha, the rescue depends on her competence at behaving as a boy. Yes, Foye is the rescuer, but he trusts her with so much responsibility that still they remain equals. Sabine is neither too feisty, nor is she meek. She is simply capable.
Jewel also breathed fresh air into the cross-dressing mechanic. Rather than treat it as farce, she spent some time exploring Sabine's thoughts on gender and privilege. We get to see her worry about all the tiny things that could give her away, from not knowing how to mount astride a horse to realizing she had to schlep her own belongings.
As much as I enjoyed the intense rescue, I did feel that the romance was a bit short. The hero and heroine admitted their love and agreed to marry in the first third of the novel. All that separated them from their HEA was the resolution of the rescue plot. A bit more holdout, with more character and emotional development taking place during the journey, would have added a fifth star in my mind.