Mary Jo Putney
No Longer a Gentleman
Zebra, April 24, 2012, $7.99
Grey Sommers, Lord Wyndham, never met a predicament he couldn’t charm his way out of. Then a tryst with a government official’s wife during a bit of casual espionage in France condemns him to a decade in a dungeon, leaving him a shadow of his former self. Yet his greatest challenge may be the enigmatic spy sent to free his body—the only woman who might heal his soul.
Cassie Fox lost everything in the chaos of revolution, leaving only a determination to help destroy Napoleon’s empire through her perilous calling. Rescuing Grey is merely one more mission. She hadn’t counted on a man with the stark beauty of a ravaged angel, whose desperate courage and vulnerability thaw her frozen heart. But a spy and a lord are divided by an impassable gulf even if they manage to survive one last, terrifying mission….
When Grey was imprisoned in a French dungeon, he was a carefree, golden boy of 20. Ten years in solitary confinement has, of course, changed him, and No Longer a Gentleman chronicles his return and adjustment to being in the world again. It is a thrilling and harrowing journey and Mary Jo Putney shows us that journey in vivid and empathetic detail.
Our story begins with Cassie Fox, English spy in disguise as an old woman, freeing Grey from his prison.
He scrambled to his feet, feasting his eyes on the sight of another human being. Better yet, a clean, normal woman. He impulsively wrapped his arms around her and crushed her warm body into an embrace, his heart pounding.
She swore and shoved at him.
“Please,” he said, his voice shaking. “I’ve been so…so hungry for touch. Only a moment. Please!”
She relaxed and let him hold her. Dear God, she felt good! A warm, breathing woman with a sweet old-lady scent of lavender that made him think of his grandmother. He never wanted to let her go.
His first view of the world, other than through the narrow window of his dungeon, is and epiphany, and after the immediate danger has passed, he is able to reflect on the sensory overload.
He didn’t think he’d ever seen a sky more intensely blue. A grove of dark, graceful evergreens rose up the hillside left of the barn, the needles rustling in the wind. Flurries of snow danced silently over the smooth whiteness that covered the land.
And the tastes! The hot milky coffee warmed him, and the delicious tang of the raspberry preserves reminded him of how very good food could be. He would never take the pleasures of food and drink for granted again.
The world was a feast, a dizzying tumult of colors, sounds, movements, and scents, and he was a beggar who didn’t know what to do with such riches.
Cassie is in a unique position to understand what Grey is experiencing, having been a prisoner herself for two years when a teenager. She understands his wonder at the world.
“…at least there are some compensations for what you endured…they help balance the anger.”
Grey felt as if she’d struck him a physical blow. He’d been so euphoric at regaining his freedom that he hadn’t really recognized the anger that seethed just below the surface of his new happiness. Now that Cassie had named it, he realized that deep, fierce anger burned inside him. Anger that was so volatile that he might do…anything if it was released.
Rage had consumed him when he snapped Gaspard’s neck. He barely remembered doing it, apart from the vicious pleasure he’d felt in killing the bastard. He would have killed the guard if Cassie hadn’t asked him to restrain himself.
Grey’s is a slow journey back to normalcy—if normalcy is even possible—and through it all, Cassie becomes his anchor, the only person with whom he feels safe.
Grey and Cassie had agreed that afternoon that for discretion’s sake, they should sleep in their separate rooms. But in the dark hours after midnight, Grey’s resolve snapped when a nightmare of darkness and desolation yanked him awake.
Shaking, he crossed the corridor to Cassie’s room. She woke instantly, as a good spy needed to do, and equally swiftly recognized her visitor. Silently she extended a hand. He took it gratefully and slid into the bed next to her.
In her arms, he slept.
Grey’s journey from dependence to independence, from darkness to light, from fear to optimism, from anger to acceptance is riveting. This is the Mary Jo Putney of the “Fallen Angels” series. This is romance writing at its best.
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.