Jan 19 2015 3:00pm

Plans Go Awry in Vanessa Kelly’s How to Plan A Wedding for a Royal Spy

The consummate spy understands the life they’ve chosen will undoubtedly be a lonely one. The secrets, constant travelling, and undercover work leaves no room for companionship beyond the brothels available in 1815 London. And love? That’s definitely out of the question.

William Endicott, the hero of Vanessa Kelly’s third Renegade Royals book How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy, finds himself resigned to this idea as he looks to his future. He’s recently returned from the battlefield at Waterloo and was part of the successful effort in defeating Napoleon with his exceptional skills as an intelligence agent. Now, he’s hoping to find a way to put the spying game behind him, setting his sights on “a respectable life and career.” The biggest wrinkle in his plan stems from his status as the illegitimate son of the Duke of York, a position in society that doesn’t necessarily equal wealth or decent prospects in marriage when not publicly acknowledged by his father.

Back home in London, he isn’t given a whole lot of time to dwell on this though. His superior, Sir Dominic Hunter, already has another assignment for Will and his partner/cousin, Alec Gilbride. Information has been gathered that points to an attempted assassination of a figure high in the government or royal rankings. A group of extremists, originating in Ireland, are unhappy with the situation involving delicate religious matters of the time. It seems like a fairly simple thing for Will and Alec, considering their high success rate as a team, to look into until they learn of the real reason they’ve been chosen for this particular job: Will’s history with one of the potential suspects, Evelyn Whitney.

Dominic let out a small sigh and leaned back in his chair. “I understand that this mission is...unpleasant on a personal level. You have feelings of loyalty toward Miss Whitney, which is commendable.”

Not quite. What Will really suffered were feelings of remorse for abandoning her, as Evie had put it. Will had walked away from her, although he still thought it had been too much to ask a callow youth to pledge his devotion to a naïve young girl two years his junior. But in joining the army and making it his calling, he’d hurt Evie. To force his way back into her life - to spy on her, no less - would be yet another betrayal of the girl he’d once cared for deeply.

The reinsertion back into Evie’s life is an order, from the Duke himself no less, that can’t be refused, and their work is set in motion, testing Will’s professional abilities from the get-go.

In the briefing, he learns that Evie has a suitor from a wealthy family and it looks like an engagement announcement won’t be far off. Michael Beaumont is, on the surface, a charitable man, having done great things for the Irish that have come to live in England to escape the poor conditions in their own country. He also shares faith with the displaced Irish, which, because of the divide between Catholics and Protestants, makes him a person of interest in the eyes of the people in English power. The question is whether he’s leading Evie astray with fake philanthropic work or if he is, in fact, innocent.

For Will, the matter of Beaumont’s guilt or innocence wars with his feelings for Evie and her potential nuptials. When the heart’s involved, even the most professional of spies can lose their way. He finds himself falling back into comfortable patterns with the woman who was once his closest friend in the world. But they’ve both grown up considerably in the four years they’ve been apart and old habits seem to be increasing the attraction they have for each other.

Will rose off the desk and took a long stride in her direction. His hands twitched with the need to pull her into his arms, but he resisted, even though every impulse in his body urged him to do so.

The investigation plods along in the background with Alec doing his best to glean information from Beaumont on the pretense of wanting to contribute his own financial aid. Will, when not going gooey with Evie’s presence, visits the church where Evie and Beaumont work to help the struggling immigrants. Neither Alec nor Will seem able to find anything damning with respect to Beaumont’s involvement and time is pressing. Urgency, passed down from the Duke to find the assassins before it’s too late, is intensified for Will knowing that his father could be one of the intended targets.

The tables turn rather dramatically for Will when he’s caught in a scorching embrace with a less-than-fully clothed Evie. Suddenly, he finds he’s the suitor in the equation and doesn’t mind as much as he’d thought he would, social status and finances being damned as an afterthought.

Evie, on the other hand, has a difference of opinion. She was the one scathed by his rebuff when he’d left years earlier and she’s still not sure she can trust him now, especially with her heart. It’s a valid point, as the reader understands Will has secrets big enough to threaten what they’ve managed to rebuild to this point.

As certain truths come to light, Will’s hopes for happiness with Evie seem lost before they’d had a chance to really begin. She finds Will rifling through Beaumont’s desk and he’s forced to reveal the potential depths of Beaumont’s role in the conspiracy, as well as his own part in the investigation. Evie’s faith in Beaumont remains unwavering and she inserts herself into Will’s interrogation of the man. Beaumont is understandably resentful of the backhanded way Will and Alec have gone about things and provides no helpful answers, forcing Will to arrest him.

All the color had leached from Evie’s face, and Will thought she might actually faint. “Please don’t do this,” she whispered. “If you feel anything for me, don’t do this.”

Will had already steeled himself to resist her pleadings. To resist her. But he heard Alec curse under his breath.

“It’s not about you, Evie,” Will replied in a gentle voice. “I wish you could understand that.”

But from the look of pain and betrayal in her eyes, it was clear she didn’t. He had no choice but to turn on his heel, and leav[e] her standing there, forlorn and alone.

Despite the mess he’s created, again, with Evie’s heart, the bad guys need to be tracked down. The team of spies must chase suspect after suspect to uncover the details, as well as the leader, of the entire plot. Will’s focus turns to this full force, hoping he can repair the damage with Evie when all is safe in England again. But Evie is still up to her neck in trouble and the two worlds collide with brutal force, proving once and for all to Will that Evie is truly his match in every way.

With this knowledge, Will has to decide what his new vision of the future will be. Will he find happiness in retirement, like Dominic Hunter intends to do? Or can he keep spying while having a life with Evie, as his new boss Aden St. George does with his own wife? Either way, providing he can convince Evie he’s a changed man, it doesn’t look like it’ll be that single, lonely life he’d been expecting after all.


Learn more about or order a copy of How to Plan a Wedding to a Royal Spy by Vanessa Kelly, available now:

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Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.

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