Cora deBeau has just lived through hell. During a covert mission in France, she was captured, interrogated and tortured by Valere, one of Napoleon's key men. She has returned to England alive, but not entirely whole.
Guy Trevelyan works as a cipher for the same spy network as Cora. When he was assigned to rescue a spy known as The Raven, Guy did not know it would be his childhood friend Cora.
Guy could not believe the atrocities done to Cora, but, unfortunately, their mission is far from over -- Valere has come to England to finish what he started with Cora. With danger following closely behind them, Guy knows he must keep Cora safe and help her heal.
I had a hard time writing down a summary for this novel because I could not really figure out what the central action is of the story. What I chose to follow in the story was Cora's journey of healing: she suffered a most horrific fate at the hands of the French and was on the brink of death when she was rescued by her brother, Ethan and their friend, Guy Trevelyan.
Cora is a woman who has used her wits and her beauty to gain secrets for England -- but she has lost her beauty and her wits were not enough to keep her from being captured.
It is interesting what happens next -- Devlyn takes us through Cora's gradual healing. Scarred and bruised, we see the physical signs of Cora's abuse fade as she gradually rebuilds her trust in herself and the people around her. It is a slow and arduous process -- and it takes Tracey Devlyn 432 pages to accomplish the healing process.
Guy Trevelyan plays a significant role in Cora's recovery. He's always felt attracted to Cora and it is his devotion to her that gives Cora confidence in herself again.
"Depending on others will not weaken you, Cora ... You'll still be the strong and courageous person you've always been." Before he thought better of it, he placed a tender kiss on her lips.
When he straightened, he was relieved to see the dazed look in her eyes. So much better than the terror he witnessed yesterday. Progress.
"Another step, Cora."
- p. 84
There is no issue here about love -- our hero and heroine are honest about the attraction and affection that they feel for one another and the author chooses not to dwell on the development of these into love. What Devlyn focuses on, instead, is how Guy and Cora work towards making Cora better.
Now here is where the story gets a bit complicated: while this is happening to Cora and Guy, we learn that Cora's brother gets kidnapped by Valere and Guy's meetings with a myserious cloaked figure called The Specter. (This was not dealt with much and is a big gap in the story BUT the second book is about Ethan so I assume his story will be told there.)
Then we learn that Valere is in England and is on Cora's trail.
We also learn about Cora and Ethan's parents and the mystery that surrounds their murder. (And questions about their loyalty to England.)
Lastly, we also find out about moles in Nexus (the spy network) and informants within Cora's own household.
There is also the side story of Dinks (Cora's lady's maid) and Bingham (another servant). And Cora's unwillingness to accept Guy's love because she knows her reputation will tarnish Guy's name and position in society.
Did I think the author accomplished her purpose in the story? Yes.
But there were too many extraneous details and events (Chapter 28 and 29, the Rothams Ball) and just so much happening in this novel -- that I felt it diminished the main point of the story.
Will I buy Devlyn's second book? Yes. I want to see if Ethan's story will fill some gaps left from this story.
This is the first book in Tracey Devlyn's Nexus series and her debut novel. The second book, Checkmate, My Lord is scheduled for release in February 2013.
To find out more about Tracey Devlyn, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Final Note #1: I felt Cora's skills as a spy were inconsistent -- there is a kick-ass scene in Chapter 19 when she instinctively reacts to Guy touching her while she is in the bath.
Without warning, her hand cut through the air and connected with his throat, a spray of soapy water following the burst of action. An explosion of pain sent him reeling to the floor, clutching his neck.
- p. 191
But, why and how does Valere manage to catch her unawares three times? (Twice, her cat, Scrapper, serves as deus ex machina and buys her time.)
Final note #2: Cora is very preoccupied with hair in the story. Her own and Guy's.
Tangled ebony waves framed his strong cheekbones, creating an untamed yet peaceful prospect.
- p. 198