I really wanted to like this book, which I hoped was a worthy successor to Greyle's last two books, which were truly outstanding. In spite of a rather doubtful plot description, I decided to risk it because of my confidence that if anyone could could write a great book with this setting, Greyle was the one.
Well, she didn't quite manage it.
It's not just Fanny's background as the illegitimite daughter of a politician and an actress that makes her an unlikely match for an aristocratic lord. She changes personae at the drop of a hat, from a bawdy tavern wench to a street-wise underworld character playing a dangerous game with two rival mob bosses to a spy trying to prevent an assassination.
The basic idea of elevating someone from the lower classes is not new. It has been done quite successfully by many authors. But Fanny just seems too far down. It's no wonder Lord Chadwick persists in seeing her as a whore throughout most of the book. Not only was she raised around a promiscuous mother who died of the pox (!!!), but after her mother's death, she lived among thieves and prostitutes and learned from them how to survive in a cruel world. (It is truly unbelievable that she could still have her virginity after living this type of life.)
Throughout the book, Fanny insists that she is more comfortable in the streets than in the drawing rooms of the ton. However, both of the crime bosses have seen through her disguises and intend to kill her. There is no place to hide. She has no money. It is all very admirable that she wants to help the children, but it makes no sense to keep going back there when her life is in danger.
Marcus, Lord Chadwick, persists in trying to get Fanny to be his mistress. He doesn't even think twice about marrying her. . . what would his mother think if he brought home a ... as a bride? He persuades his sister to launch her in society, inventing a respectable background for her, but he can't stand seeing her with any other man. Even after a very honorable man courts her with a view to marriage, Marcus can't see her as anything but his mistress. As a hero, Marcus doesn't measure up.
I appreciate Greyle's attempt to promote social activism and equality through the character of Fanny Delarive, but it just seems too contrived to ring true. But by far the worst flaw is the lack of romance. I mean, let's face it, how romantic is it when the hero keeps thinking of the heroine as a ... and how he can't marry her because of his family obligations? In the end, I am not convinced that he knows the difference between love and lust. Nor am I convinced that a marriage between two such unequal partners would be accepted by the rigidly intolerant ton, even if the mother-in-law problem could be resolved.