I don't know if this is Kristi Ann Hunter's first book, but it's the first one of hers I've read and it was delightful.
Lady Miranda Hawthorne is almost an on the shelf spinster, and her younger sister, Georgina, is coming out this season. There are no interesting prospects for Lady Miranda and she is trying to decide to be content with her situation. Her mother has not given up hope yet and keeps drilling Miranda on what a true lady is. When Miranda has a particularly trying day, she writes a letter to Lord Marshington, pouring out her soul to him and then putting the letters in her trunk, never mailing them, until her brother's valet accidentally mails one of them. She is mortified and mystified as to how and why the letter got mixed up with the rest of her correspondence. The real mortification comes with Marshington answers her letter.
Ryland Marshington is an under cover spy for the British Crown and his persona at the time is as a valet to Miranda's brother, Griffith. He's trying to find out the identity of the traitor who is supplying information to Napoleon and the French. All of his evidence leads to someone in Griffith's employ. One of the perks of being Griffith's valet is the proximity to Miranda that Ryland finds himself.
Kristi Ann Hunter does follow the romantic formula but she does so with smoothness and logic that aid in telling the story she is trying to portray. I found quite a few things to love about this book. Miranda has a prayer life that suggests her spiritual life is not an afterthought, but an integral part of her whole life. Ryland is the kind of man who puts loyalty on a high priority and he protects those he loves with all he has. The other characters play their assigned parts quite well--Georgina as a flibberti-gibbet; Griffith as the head of the family; Lady Blackstone, their mother, as an overbearing meddler; and Amelia as the stalwart friend. Kristi Ann has wrapped her story with humor, suspense, and some derring-do.
A Noble Masquerade garners five stars, two thumbs up, and a valet who doubles as a spy.