Here's a description of the book from Revell:
"Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are the cat or the mouse.
Lady Céline Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need - or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte.
When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess’s butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London’s West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham’s spell.
Will he find the proof he needs? And if she is a spy after all, what then will he do?
With sharp wit, fast-paced dialogue, and infectious intrigue, Ruth Axtell deftly creates a world where black and white burst into a confusion of colors - and no one is who they seem."
Moonlight Masquerade took me back to England and France in the early 19th century, giving me a glimpse of the the colorful costumes of spies, the intricate political dances of the time, and the beautifully decorated settings. The historical details are interesting and the writing is generally clean in style and structure. All this is to the story's credit.
Unfortunately, I felt like I was on the perimeter of the dance floor as I read, for the most part - watching events unfold and admiring certain qualities of the dancers, but not really swept up in the dance myself. The hero and heroine do have a lot going for them to endear them to the reader: they're intelligent and clever, but still emotionally "distracted" enough to add romance to their ambitions. Perhaps it was the lack of much insight into the true feelings of any of the secondary characters; perhaps it was the emphasis on the set-up and the chase vs. an emphasis on character development... But somehow I just didn't really get emotionally invested or overly interested in the story.
There are some exciting elements to the story, including an intriguing/sweet scene where the title ties into the plot, despite the sometimes plodding pace. However, the romance didn't overly thrill me, and in the end I didn't quite feel "in the know" about how the hero and heroine's actions and sacrifices made a difference in the overall historical scheme. There was just a disconnect between me and the story and its characters.
For those who enjoy books set in the Regency era - with details about the fashion, activities, and domestic issues of the upper class at that time - Moonlight Masquerade might draw you in. Perhaps it is a dance that some know the steps to, and others must only watch (which offers a slightly less pleasant experience than being involved oneself).
*With thanks to Revell for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
“Available March 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”