Title: The Miss Mirren Mission
Series: The Regency Reformers #1
Author: Jenny Holiday
Format: eBook, 283 pages
Published: March 24th 2015 by Entangled: Select Historical
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Loving her would be his downfall…
To society, the Earl of Blackstone cuts a mysterious figure. He is eligible, withdrawn, and endlessly fascinating. Yet as an integral part of London’s underground spy ring intent on defeating Napoleon, Blackstone has no mistress but the cause.
Miss Emily Mirren is considered “unbiddable” by the ton. She wields a fierce intellect, which she channels into her own secret cause—writing an abolitionist newspaper column under a male pseudonym.
When Emily’s aims clash with Blackstone’s, they stray into a dangerous game of attraction and subterfuge, and secrets are the going currency. And in order to complete the most important mission of his career, Blackstone must thwart Emily, even if it breaks both their hearts.
The Earl of Blackstone is finally on the mission he has been waiting for, to capture his French spy nemesis Le Cafard. This mission requires the normally broody and distant Blackstone to host a get together at his country estate. When the unexpected Miss Emily Mirren shows up, Blackstone's attention and plans start to get skewed.
The Miss Mirren Mission was a pleasant surprise, the subtle humor by and between the hero and heroine was delightful. The first half focuses on the budding and building relationship between Blackstone and Emily and it delivers. Both characters were tangible and their feelings and thoughts had such realness to them. Blackstone and Emily don't have one glance at each other and declare their ever dying love but talk, grow, and bond. There was playfulness but also challenging and testing between one another that I loved and drew me into their story. I believed in this couple and eagerly anticipated each tete a tete. There is a line in the story that states "uncomplicated but profound" which I find to describe our couple perfectly.
The second half moved away from what I thought was the strength of the story, Emily and Blackstone's relationship, to focus on Blackstone trying to capture Le Cafard and how Emily ties into the whole thing. Blackstone is trying to befriend a Mr. Manning who smuggles goods between France and England because intelligence tells him Le Cafard will be arriving to England on one of the ships. Mr. Manning happens to be Emily's former guardian and a man she is trying to reveal to be a slave trader, when it has been made illegal in England. What follows is revealing of some back-story for our characters, Emily became great friends with a slave named Sally in Manning's home whose son was like a brother to her and when she tried to help him escape they were both severely punished for it. The son was sold away and Emily has been searching for him but with her working to reveal Manning she is in the way of Blackstone trying to keep Manning running ships to finally get Le Cafard. Blackstone feels Le Carfard is a big key to ending the war and when his mentor's dying words were "end this war", he will do anything to do just that which puts him at odds with Emily. Did I mention Blackstone's mentor was Emily's father? Oh yes, in a connection that I thought could have been explored even more Blackstone served under Emily's father and saw him as the father figure he never had while Emily grew up wishing her father would give her the time of day. There is some interesting how war changes you and where your loyalties should lie, country, family, or brother at arms, that added a wonderful layer to our character's story.
Even with all this, there was still the added story-lines of Blackstone's afflicted family members and Emily's abolitionist doings; the plate was overflowing. For the most part things held together but there were a couple times in the second half where the bindings started to fray. We lost a bit of the charm our leads were delivering and got a little portion of stilted and contrived wrapping up of the spy arc. This started off as a strong character driven story and ended as a middling suspense spy plot.
However, because of the realness the author infused into her characters and how Blackstone and Emily interacted so appealingly, I still liked this book. The writing style was fresh and felt like more of a modern take on the regency sub-genre, meaning previous decades have a distinct feel to them (bodice rippers of 80's) and this felt like a progressive 2015. It was a tad drawn out how much Emily refused marriage but she was an active and secure character in her own right and with her abolitionist cause, she faintly reminded me of some Courtney Milan heroines. There was also more cursing in this than typically found in regency but it never felt overblown, just fit in the modern feel I discussed. The actual sex scenes ended up being tamer than I anticipated, (there was a hand-job scene that I think was suppose to be innocently arousing with a touch of humor but I felt it came off mostly awkward) more big talking and foreplay focus.
This is the author's first regency book and while I think there is room to grow with tightening up her story-lines, I think she also has the most important part of the dialogue, romance, and interaction between her leads down pretty pat. I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for future books from her and I hope one stars a certain friend of Blackstone named Mr. Bailey.