Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: The Impostor by Celeste Bradley

Title: The Impostor
Series: Liar's Club
Author: Celeste Bradley
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: October 19, 2003
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN: 0312984863
ISBN-13: 9780312984861

It isn't easy moving about Society dressed like a dandy-especially when one is a ruthless spy. But that's precisely the latest mission for Liar's Club agent Dalton Montmorecy. Dalton is posing as Sir Thorogood, the elusive cartoonist whose scathing political caricatures have all of London abuzz. The true identity of Sir Thorogood is a mystery, and Dalton hopes that impersonating him will flush out the real menace before his cartoons do further damage to the Crown. Now, if Dalton could only find a way to get the irksome, yet oddly appealing widow, Clara Simpson, off his trail...

When Clara meets Sir Thorogood at a ball, she's certain he is an impostor-because she's the true Sir Thorogood. Secretly penning the cartoons under the frothy nom de plume, Clara hopes to save enough money so that she can leave her in-laws and find a new residence. Now she is determined to reveal an imposter's identity-and that means doing some undercover work herself. But pretending to be someone you're not has a funny way of making a woman do things she wouldn't ordinarily dream of-even if it drives her straight into the arms of her devilishly handsome adversary!

My rating:

Sir Thorogood has the London society in an uproar. With his cartoons he's apparently ruffled a feather too many. The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, entrusts the new "leader" of the Liar's Club, Dalton Montmorency, Lord Etheridge, to find the scoundrel and bring his drawing days to a halt.

Desperate to gain the respect of the Liars after Simon Raines' retirement, Dalton takes on the task by himself. Posing as Thorogood, a dandified fop, he has all intentions of exposing the real cartoonist and bring him to justice.

The problem is, Sir Thorogood is no dandy. He is in fact a she.

Widowed Clara Simpson (yes, the one from The Pretender) is justifiably outraged at the impostor pretending to be Sir Thorogood. She started drawing the cartoons in order to expose the corruption in the powerful of the ton and the impostor is stealing all the fame and glory. Now, she is determined to unmask him. So, she sheds her "widow-y disguise", acts like a ninny, shrieks and laughs at idiocies like a fishwife, and follows him everywhere, getting mightily on his nerves.

All the while, the two live another secret life, she as Rose, the neighbor's maid, he as Monty, a midnight burglar. And while Rose and Monty fall in love, Sir Thorogood and Crazy-Widow Simpson dislike each other with a passion.

But what happens when Dalton and Clara meet at last? Without pretenses, masks, and secrets?

While I quite enjoyed the prequel, The Impostor failed to rise to the occasion. While the premise was excellent and intriguing, I soon grew bored of the intricacies Ms. Bradley concocted to "heighten the suspense", and soon the appeal of the dual triple identity wore off.

The leads frankly left me cold, their characters were bland and there was no real depth to them. Why was it necessary for Sir Thorogood to be a parrot-color-wearing fop? Why was Clara acting like a loon when she was with him?

The romantic sub-plot suddenly took center stage and the mystery seemed to be forgotten. The lines between identities blurred, the two suddenly didn't know who they loved, who they despised, sometimes they loved who they despised and sometimes despised who they loved. It took forever to bring this sub-plot to its arc, then it got complicated again, and after twenty or so pages all was good and well. Instant HEA.

Also, for two such observant creatures, a spy and an artist who made a living by observing people, Dalton and Clara were incredibly dense. Their inability to see beyond their disguise was jarring.

To top this off, there are quite a few point that just didn't make sense. Clara's reasoning after she discovers who Monty is, for example. Plenty of loose ends, too, mostly revolving around Lord Reardon (I probably ruined it all by reading To Wed A Scandalous Spy first and knew the deal) and the whole spy/mystery plot.

Not a great read, but still worth a try, at least to keep up with the series. The supporting cast makes up for quite a lot.


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