A Heartless Design, by Elizabeth Cole, is an absolute delight. It contains a Regency style James Bond and an unconventional lady of independent means in a raunchy and rambunctious read. It absolutely sizzles with passion and desire and houses secrets that threaten the very security of the country, peppered with danger and deceit. It is guaranteed to entertain and get your heart beating ever faster as the tale develops and reaches its conclusion.
In A Heartless Design Cordelia Bering, a singular young woman who does not always abide by society’s norms, lives in London with her widowed aunt Leona, her parents having died. Cordelia uses practical scientific knowledge, gained from working with her late father, to secure a lucracive income to support her household. To continue her work in this field, Cordelia has many secrets, including one that could endanger her life. Secrets that she is compelled to hide from all, including any prospective suitor, let alone a husband. Cordelia is dubbed ‘heartless’ as she shuns the many marriage offers she continues to have on account of her engaging character and beauty.
Whilst attending a ball with her aunt, Cordelia encounters a mystery man to whom she has not been introduced. Sebastien Thorne, now the Duke of Thornewell, is one of the Crown’s elite secret agents belonging to a group known as the Zodiac. He has been summoned to the ball by his handler to retrieve instructions as to his next mission -preventing a certain piece of technical information leaving Britain and falling into enemy hands, which could give them a significant advantage. Sebastien can afford for nothing to get in his way, not even a woman as beguiling and challenging as Cordelia. However, as Sebastien pursues his leads, it becomes evident that Cordelia is involved and hiding something and he is compelled to employ whatever means necessary to persuade her to reveal her secrets to fulfil his mission and secure the safety of the nation. However, he did not gamble on his growing feelings for the lady……
Cordelia is a woman in a man’s world, who has to rely on subterfuge and her intelligence to pursue her dream of pursuing the scientific inquiries she loves and I was quickly drawn to her as a heroine. She is unaware of Sebastien’s work for the Crown and is therefore suspicious of him, although grateful when he proves himself useful to her safety on a number of occasions. Sebastien, for his part, does not conform to society and battles with the conflicting priorities of his title and work as a secret agent. He immediately senses Cordelia’s vulnerability, at the same time being drawn to her unconventional demeanour and kindred spirit. It is clear that they are attracted to each other and have a lot in common – but can a relationship succeed when Cordelia has vowed never to marry and there is so much deceit between them, not to mention those who are out to prise Cordelia’s secrets from her by fair means or foul? The couple must learn to trust one another and reveal all to one another before it is too late. There is plenty of sexual tension between the main couple and a number of sensual lovemaking scenes which I enjoyed. Both the plot and dialogue were well crafted, believable and full of suspense.
The secondary characters were also a delight to get to know, those making up Cordelia’s household and other members of the Zodiac in particular. I hope to find out more about them in future novels in the series by the author, which I sincerely hope that she plans to write. The bad guys in the story were menacing without being over the top and added sufficient suspense and tension to the plot without detracting from the romance.
I recommend this novel to readers of historical romance, particularly Regency romance, who like suspense with their read and who enjoy unconventional heroines. All in all a rollicking Regency read, which I heartily recommend!
Reviewed by Tina Williams
I received this book for free from Story Cartel in exchange for my unbiased review.