By Andre Norton and Rosemary Edghill
When I first read this book, I recommended it to Kinsey as “the best time-traveling, regency romance, espionage fantasy book you’ll ever read” and I stand by that, even if it isn’t time-traveling so much as alternative realities, but that’s splitting hairs a bit, I think.
The only drawback is that the authors pack the plot so full of intrigue and plot threads that they weren’t able to tie them all up in this book, or even the sequel, and then most unfortunately, Andre Norton passed away in 2005, and I’m just a little resentful that Rosemary Edghill didn’t finish off the third one on her own. (The second one has a blurb at the end saying that they are working on the third! Also, the sequel was published in 2002, and Norton didn’t die until 2005, so what were they doing those three years?!)
Anyway, the premise is a little difficult to explain, especially with my very murky knowledge of history. The year is 1805, and our heroine, Sarah Cunningham, is introduced both dying in her ancestral mansion in England and orphaned in colonial Maryland. In order to fulfill mystical oaths to the land, the living Sarah is brought from her world (our world) to take the place of her dying double in a world in which magic exists. Magic!
So, in this other world, each artistocratic land owner is magically tied to their land, and each king is tied to his country through even greater magic, which means two things: one, overthrowing kings is much trickier to do, so the Stuart family still rules England; and two, Napoleon is playing even more havoc with Europe than he did in the mundane world. Politics!
Also, in this other world, Sarah turns out to be betrothed to the dashing and dangerous Duke of Wessex, who of course she has never met. Wessex is also an undercover agent for not one, but two government agencies, where he foils assassinations and facilitates treaties. Espionage!
Honestly, I don’t know why I’m trying to summarize the plot for you – dukes and duchesses, kings and queens, spies, assassins, fairies – honestly, that should be good enough, just read it!
I’m not even going tell you anything about the sequel, except that it has all of the above, but shifts the setting to the new world, where there are pirates, native mysticism, and the Marquis de Sade, communing with very real demons. Read it!