One of the frequent problems with many romances that I've read is that the author has devotes a great deal of her creative energy in devising magnificent and fantastically complex heroes. In comparison, the young woman to be paired with this perfect specimen of tormented masculinity is usually bland and uninteresting. The author has already spent her creative juices. The interesting thing about Jane Feather's LOVE'S CHARADE is that we have the opposite problem.
Danielle is a stunning creation. At 17, she's beautiful, educated, strong-willed, and a witness to horrors that have brought her maturity beyond her years. The traumas of her past leave her driven to provide succor to the gentry dispossessed by the French Revolution, efforts that she pursues with ingenuity and charisma. And on top of that, she is witty, and oh yes, as we mentioned before, stunningly beautiful. Given such a glowing heroine, the 34-year-old hero, despite being twice her age, and allegedly clever and well-connected, is bland in comparison. He is your basic British Earl/Duke/Whatever of near total economic success, with a secret passion for aiding the Crown and no real interest in marriage until he's found the perfect post-adolescent. Their age difference is more than countered by their comparative weight in personality.
Balance! That's all I want! Just a little balance
The plot is fairly pleasant, offering a slight twist on the usual Pimpernalia. It is a bit drawn out, with a couple of clearly unnecessary episodes, including the usual Jealous Misunderstanding, Resigned to Lonely Marriage, and Kidnapped By An Evil French Rapist bits. These only serve to pad the book. Maybe target audience readers feel like they need these steps and I am simply out of synch, but I'm sure that at least two of these three could have been eliminated.
The basic problem with this book is that most of the suspense in a romance is in trying to figure out how the disparate hero and heroine will ultimately be bound together. Since that is resolved fairly early on, the rest of the novel is devoted to whether Danielle will get herself killed in her recklessness.
Polished prose keeps things moving along, and Feather introduces a couple of interesting bits by tying the plot so closely to the French Revolution. The aristocracy that stayed in France was not all wiped out overnight, and those that escaped often found themselves in more dire circumstances than the urban impoverished that they fled. Feather offers another view of the Revolution, one that fills in some of the gaps left by Les Miserables and The Scarlet Pimpernel. For that, there is no reason to regret reading this book.