Title: The Houseparty
Author: Anne Stuart
Format: Paperback & eBook, 165 pages
Published: September 28, 2015 by Bell Bridge Books
Links: Goodreads |Amazon | B&N
Rating: 3 out of 5 Wine Glasses
He was so coldly handsome, it was positively criminal. Why, his icy blue eyes made Elizabeth's heart flutter at their very first meeting. No doubt about it, the rumors were right: this stony-faced soldier, Michael Fraser, was a traitor, a spy, a scurrilous French agent. Yet her hapless cousin had invited him for the weekend! What mad mischief might this cur cook up in the course of a three-day houseparty full of distinguished guests? Now ELizabeth is surely scandalized, for she hears that this stealthy spy has been querying the servants about her. Her own brother is off on a secret mission against Bonaparte--that must be the reason for Michael's monstrous attentions. If only his gaze weren't so penetrating, his voice so hypnotic, his kiss so treasonously sweet. She never imagined a French agent could be this dangerous!
Elizabeth has been convinced to attend a houseparty with her vicar brother but they are unaware that it will be a hotbed of spy activity. A list identifying the names of English spies in France is on the loose in the house and everyone is suspect, especially the dark and handsome Captain Michael Fraser. There are rumors that he is a traitor but nothing has been proven so far. Elizabeth has an instant dislike for the infuriating captain but also finds herself inexplicably drawn to him. It will be a weekend of intrigue and insights and Elizabeth must decide whom to trust before it is too late.
A quick read of mystery and machinations, The Houseparty was a fun ensemble read. Originally published in 1985, it is a great book to reissue as the story manages to avoid any dated feelings. There was an abundance of characters that occasionally veered into too much of a handful but ultimately end up being the strong point of the story. From the too good-looking for his own good brother, slightly evil mother, her sinisterly flamboyant son, the overly sexual woman of the world widow, gruff military men, and a sprinkling of red-herrings, the characters sweep you along on who’s the real baddie ride. The actual story thread of spy stratagem was a bit confusing and wasn't quite fleshed out but the characters' personalities filled in the cracks.
Elizabeth was our leader through the story and while she could be called precocious and full of gumption, she also could be called bratty and TSTL. There was many times where Elizabeth blindly and bull headedly charged into situations that made her annoying to follow along with. She was smart in figuring things out and knowing the score but not so great in butting out of situations she had no business in. Michael was a little more lighthearted than your average brooding hero and even though I didn't get to see him as much as I would have preferred, I liked him. Most of what we see of Michael is him trying to keep Elizabeth from possibly dangerous situations and ruining his mission; he had somewhat of a limited role. Together they have tit for tat conversations that were entertaining but their interactions were limited. I wanted to see them together so much more, I'm not sure their relationship felt completely solid to me.
If you're looking for a cleaner, quicker read with many and varied characters and willing to accept a wobbly spy plot, and a scant romance, Anne Stuart is a quality writer to whittle away a few hours to.