Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliott

The Traitor's Smile set in revolutionary France is the sequel to Elliott's Pale Assassin. We have a copy of the latter on order, but I just couldn't wait to read this book.

Eugenie De Boncoeur, a young aristocrat from France, has newly arrived in Deal, England, along with Julien de Fortin, a friend of Eugenie's brother, Armand. They are finally safe from the French Revolution which has claimed most of France's aristocrats. But Eugenie's brother, Arman De Boncoeur is languishing in La Grande Force, once a beautiful palace of the Marais, lately a prison for men.
Eugenie has escaped to Deal to stay with her English uncle, Thomas Coveney, who is a surgeon at the Naval Hospital in Deal, and his daughter Hetta. Hetta is an intelligent and spirited young woman who believes that the monarchy should be replaced. She often dresses as a boy so that she can go down to the harbour and help out the local smugglers. And she seems to have taken a romantic interest in Julien, much to Eugenie's dismay.

Unknown to all, Eugenie has been followed to Deal by Guy Deschamps, once a friend of Armand but who is now a spy who goes by the name of La Scapel and who is working for the sinister and cruel Raoul Goullet, known as La Fantome. Eugenie is unaware of Deschamps connections to Goullet and refuses to believe that Deschamps is the one who attacked Julien in France. However, she soon learns that Deschamps is quite willing to take her back to Paris, by force if necessary, to marry Goullet whom her guardian promised her to, years before. Guy Deschamps tells Eugenie that if she upholds her end of the contract, her brother will be set free by Goullet.

Eugenie and Hetta end up back in France, via a wayward balloon trip in a last minute escape from the clutches of Guy Deschamps. Once in France they are helped by those fighting the revolution. They eventually meet up with Julien who has returned to his country to continue fighting for peace. In pursuit, is Deschamps, who is determined to capture Eugenie and kill de Fortin, thus raising his profile with Goullet and ultimately Robespierre. Goullet's motives are more personal - he is out for revenge, the details of which the reader learns near the end of the book.

For the most part, The Traitor's Smile was an exceptionally exciting read, even if it was a bit predictable and even a little familiar. The Traitor's Smile is reminiscent of The Scarlet Pimpernel books written by Baroness Orczy. There are some similarities between the storyline of the two books, but the Pimpernel books are by far, better written and very very romantic. If you haven't read them, and you love historical fiction AND romance, I highly recommend the entire series by Baroness Orczy.

The characters are well developed even if our heroine, Eugenie, is at times frustratingly naive. Elliott's portrayal of the decay of France and the decline into anarchy is well done. Young readers will get a true sense of how a the French citizen's attempted to forge a new path for their country but inevitably lost the jewels of justice and liberty.

One aspect of the book I did not like was the attempt at romance. Romantic sections read like cheap paperback romances and were out of character with the quality of the writing in the rest of the book.

Book Details:
The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliott
New York: Holiday House 2010
308 pp.

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