Lady Arianna Hadley and her husband Alessandro, the Earl of Saybrook, have been pressured into traveling to Scotland to uncover a traitor. Lord Grentham, England's Minister of State Security, has forced them into undertaking the dangerous trip to find a spy known as Renard, The Fox. Lady Arianna and Saybrook are accompanied by Saybrook's long-time friend Basil Henning, whose loyalty to his homeland of Scotland appears to be getting in the way of the mission to project England. As part of the mission, a meeting is arranged with a Scottish chemistry professor, but things don't go as expected. Some good comes of the meeting when Arianna is able to discover a few clues that could lead to Renard if "The Fox" doesn't eliminate the three friends first.
"Recipe for Treason" is an interesting combination of historical novel, cozy mystery, romance, and thriller. The historical background is interesting and obviously well-researched by the author. Lady Arianna and Lord Saybrook are both experts in using chocolate for exotic desserts, so it's fitting that each chapter begins with a different recipe using chocolate. Some, such as the Chocolate Nut Chews, even seem easy enough to make even if you are not a gourmet cook. There is a short author's note at the end to give perspective to some of the historical elements of the story. The search for a spy to prevent dangerous secrets from being leaked to France is interesting and for the most part, seemed realistic.
Lady Arianna and Lord Saybrook are a great match and wonderful lead characters. Both are unconventional, but have personalities that complement each other. Lord Grentham makes the perfect foil for them. He is sometimes cruel and manipulative, but this book shows another side to him, which makes his dealings with Arianna and Saybrook even more intriguing. Sophia Kirtland is a new character that plays a large role in this book. I really disliked her in the beginning of the book, but grew to care more about her by the end. I liked her bravery and willingness to put herself in danger to assist her country, but there isn't enough contrast between Sophia and Arianna to be really interesting. The two women have differences, mainly because Sophia is a well-educated scholar and Arianna had to learn everything she knows on her own or from her father. However, I think Sophia's outspoken and unconventional personality is too much like Arianna's to be a good partner for her in future adventures.
I usually prefer a book with an emphasis on the mystery, but with a little romance mixed in. However, in this series, more romance would greatly improve the books. Although this book and the prior book in the series are solid, well-written novels, neither have been able to recreate the magic and promise of the series debut, Sweet Revenge. Part of the reason is a shortage of romance. The relationship between Lady Arianna and Lord Saybrook is so crucial to the story, it needs to be turned up a notch. At one point in this book, Lady Arianna says, "And while the relationship had grown from regard and respect to something far deeper, there was much left unsaid between them." After three books and a year of marriage, it's well past time for the two to be honest and declare their love to one another. Then, near the end of the book, Lord Saybrook comments, "Love. That is a word which is rarely uttered aloud between us. Perhaps it should be said more often." I couldn't agree more!
This review was originally written for The Season EZine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.