Checkmate, My Lord by Tracey Devlyn introduces us to newly widowed Catherine Ashcroft, whose husband was keeping a lot of secrets. His frequent absences and lack of communication alienated him from his wife and seven year old daughter. All that remains of the once happy marriage are infrequent letters that frustrate Catherine with their impersonal greetings and vague information. When her husband is found murdered, it is suspected that he has been attacked and left to die by thuggish footpads. Catherine, however, is not convinced of the randomness of the attack against her husband. Filled with desperation, Catherine visits her husband’s friend and boss, Sebastian Danvers, for answers. What she does not know is that Sebastian, the Earl of Somerton, is not only her husband’s boss, but also the leader of group of spies called Nexus.
Besides the Widow Ashcroft, Sebastian has other issues. He has been sent to rest in the country on the charge from his superior that he is to give up a list of his agents. While on his estate, he discovers that his steward has dreadfully mismanaged the affairs with the local tenants. Who is the biggest nag about the tenant’s and their issues? None other than his neighbor, Catherine Ashcroft. Unable to deny his feelings of attraction for her, he proposes a relationship. Not for a love match so much as an affair. While Sebastian just desires a companionable relationship, circumstances, including the murder of a local girl, intimidating smarmy men, and Catherine’s adorable daughter conspire to keep throwing the widow and the earl closer and closer together.
Some part of Checkmate, My Lord really worked for me. While initially perturbed to discover that this was the second book in the series, I had no trouble catching up with the characters and story arcs. I enjoyed the supporting characters, including Sebastian’s fellow spies (and former wards). By far, the best-written character was Catherine’s daughter, Sophie. She hit just the right notes for a child—precocious, willful, and sweet. I also think that Devlyn did a great job with explaining the faded relationship with Catherine and her husband. It made me want her to have a happy ending. I also enjoyed both Catherine and her fierce protectiveness of her daughter, as well as her desire to see things in her village turn out well.
Unfortunately, what did not work for me was the romance. I am not opposed to reading about a romantic relationship as a structured affair. But the romantic scenes seemed to be over before they even started. Not enough talking, build-up, or passion for my tastes. I am not complaining that the book was not more erotic. It was not that kind of book. I just needed the romantic scenes to convince me that these two characters were falling in love with each other, that there was some passion there. More than once, I thought, “Umm, wait. Is that it? Sheesh—that was fast!” More pages devoted to the building of their relationship would have made a world of difference.Checkmate, My Lord was a fun spy story that kept me entertained. I just wish, however, that I believed the romance that developed in its pages.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina