Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Pretending to Be a Fool, But Really an American Spy?

Help a bitch outJessie Edwards from Avon, who gets to be a professional romance fan (WORD), is looking for a book. Can you help her? 

So I started writing you a HaBO that wasn’t actually a HaBO and then it turned into one. I’m looking for this American romance I read…maybe it was Zebra? Think it was set during/right before the Revolution and was about this guy who was a spy but everyone thought he was a traitor…or something. It was based off the Scarlet Pimpernel and I think was part of a series celebrating legendary heroes.

Anyway, all I remember is that he acts like an idiot at parties, but he’s really a spy, and he marries this girl but then thinks she had a hand in implicating an innocent person in a traitorous act and he starts acting terrible to her.  And at some point she paints a mural on their wall in their new home. And the rest of her family may be Tories. Maybe. And I think the cover was all different colors, but there might have been some neon pink on it…I could be making that up.

The original question was me wondering if your readers could suggest any really good Scarlet Pimpernel romances in the vein of the above HaBO, which I then realized I didn’t really remember. Elizabeth Boyle’s If Wishes Were Earls had a little bit of that element in it and while I was reading it I remembered it’s one of my FAVORITE tropes—you know, where the hero or heroine appears bumbling/stupid/ditzy but really is only appearing that way to society to cover up some deeper mission (escaping marriage, being a spy, etc.). Seriously, I LOVE when people think a character is one way and then are completely proven wrong (but I don’t mean times when the hero thinks the heroine is a slut but then she’s really a virgin).

 

My favorite of the “He's pretending to be dumb” is Sherry Thomas' His at Night, but that's not this book. Do you recognize this description? 

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  1. 1
    Dibs says:

    Georgette Heyer’s The Black Moth is an excellent Scarlette P. book.

  2. 2
    ms8196 says:

    That sounds kind-of like The Forbidden Lady: (Originally published under the title For Love or Country) by Kerrelyn Sparks. Here’s the description from B&N:
    “The Scarlet Pimpernel meets The Patriot in For Love or Country. With an army of wigs and a wardrobe that favors lavender, Quincy Stanton poses as a Loyalist fop by day. By night, he wages a secret war against the British with an impressive array of 18th-century spy gadgets. Only another spy as clever as he could uncover his secret. And she does… When spy falls for spy, the results can be dangerous and hilarious. Is Boston big enough for the two of them? Only if they get closer…”

  3. 3

    I don’t know this book, but it totally is something I would read, so if anyone knows what it is, I would really appreciate it.

    I love “surprise-I’m-a-spy” books (and t.v. shows, which is why Chuck will forever be one of my favorite shows).  Many of the Pink Carnation novels have that type of theme going for them, although some of them feature heros and heroines in the know. 

    Candace Camp’s Secrets of the Heart is also that type of book, but full of crazy wtf moments.  (The heroine is married to a British spy, but thinks he is just some boring academic and has never really been attracted to him.  He’s out working on a case and she sees him, so he convinces her that he’s actually his illegitimate brother, which leads to her having an affair with him.)

  4. 4
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    @scifigirl1986

    He’s out working on a case and she sees him, so he convinces her that he’s actually his illegitimate brother, which leads to her having an affair with him.

    Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I’m simultaneously fascinated and repelled.

    it’s one of my FAVORITE tropes—you know, where the hero or heroine appears bumbling/stupid/ditzy but really is only appearing that way to society

    I really love that trope, too. But probably my favorite version of it is when the character appears to be bumbling/stupid, and SURPRISE TWIST! They really are that way, and it doesn’t matter, because they’re kind and caring and loving and generally unshitty human beings. Examples that spring to mind include Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion and, to a lesser degree, Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible. I love clever characters and sparkling wordplay, but sometimes it’s reassuring to read about characters who maybe aren’t so clever, but they’re still worthy of respect and happiness.

  5. 5
    Vasha says:

    Not really a favorite trope of mine, but I certainly did adore Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect, which I’ll bet jumped to everyone else’s mind at the mention of the for-the-purpose-of-avoiding-marriage variant. There’s a chapter where the heiress in question puts on an absolutely virtuoso performance of social horrendousness that practically made me say “Bravo!” out loud.

  6. 6
    Lisa says:

    I think Sherry Thomas’s His at Night had this, but I am bad with titles. He was a spy pretending to be dumb. It was great.

  7. 7
    kkw says:

    I don’t know this book, but love the trope. Love His at Night, love Cotillion (why,why*why* has no one done a miniseries?!) and Black Moth is good, not as awesome but definitely a better fit. Also, there are like a dozen Scarlet Pimpernel books. The first is the best, but still, there are oodles of them free on Project Gutenberg, so if you want more, go to the source. Although brace yourself for casual, and absolutely brutal anti-semetism. And obvs the social values in general are sketchy and the classism is appalling and yadda yadda.

  8. 8
    kkw says:

    Also, wait, can we hear more about how one gets to be a professional romance fan?

  9. 9
    Emily says:

    I love, love Sherry Thomas’ His at Night!  That’s the first one that came to mind, even though it’s probably not the one.

  10. 10

    @Dread Pirate Rachel, it is hilarious. The husband dresses like a schlub, speaks with a lower-class accent, and doesn’t shave, all of which really attracts his wife—maybe she liked the idea of slumming it?  It isn’t until she almost sleeps with him that she realizes that he is her husband and that it is okay to be attracted to him.  Candace Camp’s books are very campy, so they’re always fun in a crazy, never in real life kind of way.

  11. 11
    Michelle C. says:

    It sort of sounds like Jude Deveraux’s ‘The Raider’, at least the Revolution bit.

  12. 12
    Michelle C. says:

    It sort of sounds like Jude Deveraux’s ‘The Raider’, at least the Revolution bit.

  13. 13
    Michelle C. says:

    Sorry about the double post, my tablet seems to be having a freak out.

  14. 14
    A. says:

    @ Dread Pirate Rachel

    I really love that trope, too. But probably my favorite version of it is when the character appears to be bumbling/stupid, and SURPRISE TWIST! They really are that way, and it doesn’t matter, because they’re kind and caring and loving and generally unshitty human beings.

    I so agree with this!

    Cotillion is my absolute favorite Heyer Book, and I would totally love more recommendations in the same vein if anyone has any.

  15. 15
    Emily E says:

    Okay, this is not your HaBO.  But the plot?  With a gender switch.  The Scroundrel by Elizabeth Elliott.  (Two Ts, not the other one.)

  16. 16
    Susan says:

    @ScifiGirl:  The description of the Camp book reminds me of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s A Rose in Winter where the heroine has an affair with her husband while he’s pretending to be his own cousin (or something like that).  There’s a mystery and some spying, but not of the Scarlet Pimpernel variety.

  17. 17
    Tin says:

    +1 for Michelle C.‘s guess—

    When I read the HABO, Jude Deveraux’s The Raider also came to mind.

  18. 18
    Kavya says:

    When i saw this HaBo i was like ‘ooh ooh, i know this one’, but unfortunately i don’t actually have a name. I read a Scarlet Pimpernel type romance years ago and I remember nothing of the story line, but I do remember the wife having an affair with the guy’s alter-ego. I also seem to remember the guy had a tattoo of a dagger and eventually the wife realises his identify when she sees it. I think the name of the book was also to do with the dagger. I did a quick amazon search, but can’t find anything.

  19. 19
    KarenH says:

    Just in case any one is wondering, For Love or Country is available as an ebook for $1.99.  I just bought a copy—well, or whatever the cyber version of a copy of a book is :)

  20. 20
    Tam B. says:

    No spying (that I remember), but Georgette Heyer’s False Colours has a twin pretending to be his brother (who is missing) in order to secure a marriage (for missing brother) so his mother’s gaming debts will not sink her. 

    And that’s just the start of the drama.

  21. 21
    Jessie says:

    Hi all! Professional romance fan (also known as book publicist) Jessie here—thanks so much for your suggestions and guesses at the book. It’s not Kerrelyn Sparks (That’s an Avon book—it’s good, you should read it!), and it’s not Jude Deveraux, I’m 96% positive. The dagger suggestion from @Kavya sounds like it might be right, but I’ve done all manner of Google searches and can’t come up with a name.

    @Dread Pirate Rachel—I love it too when the person turns out to be just as you thought, but is still awesome anyway :). That happens in SORT OF SPOILER ALERT One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean as a secondary romance

  22. 22
    Jeannie S. says:

    My first thought was The Raider by Jude Deveraux.

  23. 23

    I have to agree with the others who said The Raider by Jude Deveraux.

  24. 24
    Algae says:

    Another Heyer with people pretending to be what they aren’t is The Masqueraders.  A brother and sister gender swap to avoid their Jacobite past.

  25. 25
    Lindlee says:

    @Scifigirl Sorry but you’re remembering Secrets of the Heart wrong. The heroine is attracted to her husband but doesn’t feel like she can act on it b/c she tried to get out of their arranged marriage by eloping with another man (her dad caught her so she ends up married to the hero after all). The hero thinks she doesn’t want him b/c she ran off so they don’t have sex FOR 10 YEARS!! (That’s wtf!)

    Anyway, she finds the “brother” easier to talk to b/c there’s none of that history b/w them and the two finally get to know each other. SPOILER The wife figures out the truth when she sees an injury on her husband that he got while with her as the “brother.” She’s really hurt by his fooling her so she pretends to want to have an affair with the “brother” and lures her husband to an inn. Once he’s naked, she pushes him into the hall and runs off. It’s really awesome! SPOILER

    Anyway, I really like the book but it’s not the best. Mostly b/c there’s too much time setting up their backstory and it really doesn’t start to pick up until the middle. But it’s worth reading for the spoiler scene I mention above.

  26. 26
    Kavya says:

    I’VE GOT IT! I’VE GOT IT! HALLELUJAH!
    Well, I found the one I was talking anyway, but not sure if it’s the one Jessie is looking for.  It’s The Indigo Blade (not dagger) by Linda Winstead Jones.
    It’s been driving me nuts all day, not being able to remember the title, so Yaay!! :)

  27. 27
    Brianne says:

    The book you’re looking for is definitely The Indigo Blade. It’s one of my all time favorites.

  28. 28
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    This discussion makes me want to reread Cotillion. I guess I’m going to have to abandon Among the Janeites for now. :-)

  29. 29
    mshamburge says:

    Another suggestion for you is Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series: Napoleonic spies! Romance! Action! Modern historians!

    The first plot point you mentioned in this HaBO is very similar to The Garden Intrigue in that series.

  30. 30
    Jessie says:

    @kavya THAT’S IT! YOU’RE A GENIUS!! THANK YOU!!

    And you too, @Brianne! Thank you!

    Haha, I’m so glad I remembered the hot pink right. Check out this awesome cover:

    Book De Salvo with an eye mask that does not look real at ALL

    http://amzn.to/1ckTGLQ

    (SB Sarah: edited to shrink link and embed image because DUDE.)

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