I really am at a loss. I do not know exactly how to describe the emotions this novel evoked. And emotions is the correct word because that is what this novel is, an emotional ride. My heart hurt, my eyes cried, and my mind raged.
Four stars because the novel is well written, well developed, and mostly well researched. The settings are very well described (so well that at the end it got a bit tiresome). The emotions of guilt, on Diccan's side, and betrayal, abandonment, helplessness, and everything else in between, on Grace's side, are so well drawn out that the reader actually suffers them. But the author's horrible treatment of the female protagonist, Grace, and Grace's passivity bring the 3 stars into play.
After being set up and found together in a compromising situation, Grace and Diccan have to wed, to save his reputation and credibility more than hers. He is a diplomat, uncovering a plot to remove England's mad king, replacing him with Charlotte who would be putty in the hands of those behind the scheme (the Lions). So, in the name of England, shortly after his marriage, Diccan is screwing his long time mistress, who has followed him to England, so he can get information from her. Grace only knows that he is sleeping with his mistress, does not know the reasons behind it. But is made to watch her husband screw the brains out of his lover by the Lions (unaware that they are the Lions) so that she could be convinced he is being investigated for treason and help them (the Lions) bring him down. ANYWAY ...
I did not really like this part. I did not like the fact that Grace did nothing, nothing! She was nicknamed the little Colonel, well that is as inept a comparison as can be made. A Colonel should LEAD not FOLLOW, bark orders not be subservient. And that is what Grace is - subservient. It is this that makes the 3 stars stand out even more in my mind. Grow some backbone woman.
I do not know if in 1813, right after the turn of the century, women were exposed to such horrible treatment, horrible emotional neglect, horrible outright discard; I do not know if it was acceptable; I do not know if women thought it their due; I do know that if all that is true, I am glad I live in 2011.