4.0 out of 5 starsWhat fun! This begins where Marianne and The Masked Prince left off with Marianne returning from her mysterious wedding to the Prince Sant’Anna of Tuscany and she’s now the toast of Paris society. Whilst attending a grand ball given by the Austrian ambassador, Marianne meets old friend Jason Beaufort and this time the light bulbs go off (finally) and she realizes he is the one man for her until death do they part – but you know there’s going to be complication or two, don’t you?  The ball quickly turns to disaster from a poorly placed candle and Marianne, along with the rest of Parisian high society, are scrambling for their lives and she’s definitely in need of rescuing. Will it be Jason or Napoleon? Or perhaps the handsome Russian?

With Jason currently unavailable (can’t tell you why) Marianne moves on with her life and accepts the attention of Russian Count Chernychev – although she may have bit off more than she can chew with this flirtation. After quite a busy night with comings and goings in and out of her bedroom window (another return from the past, an assault and a duel!), Marianne is tricked into believing Jason is in dire danger and only she can save him, but is it all just a trick? Are there greater forces at work than merely the need for revenge against Marianne?

No, I’m not giving it all away, all of the above takes place in the very beginning. Marianne might be a bit too headstrong and stubborn for some reader’s tastes (I’m guessing she’s eighteen by now), and I have to admit wanting to slap her on occasion, but her scrapes and pitfalls are so much fun I don’t care. My favorite scene and picture a very stern, much annoyed Napoleon giving Marianne a dressing down for her latest escapade,

“You are a perfect menace Madame, and if I did not take good care you would disrupt the whole of my Grand Army altogether. If they’re not fighting duels over you, they’re killing people for you.”

Hehe. Benzoni does a great job setting her scenes and details, as well as placing her fictional characters in with real historical characters. A deadly fire, a kidnapping, wrongful imprisonment, rape, duels, a nail-biting escape from an impenetrable prison, you name it the book has it – and she still has to deal with that mysterious husband in Tuscany, as well as the ticked-off Emperor himself. The action starts from the get-go and never stops and frankly I wish I had the next one (Marianne and the Rebels) sitting on the pile waiting for me. Don’t let those racy covers fool you (I just love them), any sex you’ll find in this one is very very tame by today’s standards. The series order of those I have read so far,

  1. Marianne (and may also have been published in two volumes as The Bride of Selton Hall and The Eagle and the Nightingale).
  2. Marianne and the Masked Prince
  3. Marianne and the Privateer.