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The Pretender    by Celeste Bradley order for
by Celeste Bradley
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Agatha Cunningham and Simon Rain are both searching for the same man. Agatha, desperate to find her missing brother, invents a fictional husband to allow her to travel unescorted. Passing herself off as Mrs. Agatha Applequist, she rushes to London to begin her search for James. Rain meanwhile believes the elusive James Cunningham is really Griffin, the man responsible for murdering members of the secretive Liar's Club, all agents working for the crown. A master operative himself, Simon has been assigned to put a stop to the Griffin's murderous spree. Once he learns of Mrs. Applequist's arrival, he disguises himself as a chimney sweep and infiltrates her London residence under the impression that the fresh young beauty is actually the Griffin's mistress.

Agatha soon discovers that making constant excuses for her errant husband is beginning to raise eyebrows and decides it's time to find a real one. The moment she sets eyes on the darkly handsome chimney sweep, Agatha knows she's found her man. And Rain decides it's the perfect ploy to learn more about the whereabouts of his prey. So their dance begins with Agatha and James playing the role of husband and wife, she gamely teaching the chimney sweep how to act like a gentleman and he playing right along. Naturally it doesn't take long for each to discover the other's ruse, but by then their attraction cannot be denied. Agatha would like nothing more than to make their partnership legal and binding and Rain discovers that the longer he's around Agatha the harder it becomes to maintain The Liar's Club credo to 'Never Fall in Love'.

Up and coming historical author Celeste Bradley scores high points with The Pretender, first in The Liar's Club series and a story with a little bit of everything. The independent and forthright Agatha and the rakish and handsome James are a perfect match from the moment they meet. A wonderful cast of secondary characters only adds to the charm of this rich, humorous and well told story. You won't be disappointed and will want to hastily snatch up The Impostor, book two of this fine new series.

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