The Impostor (Liar's Club Series #2)by Celeste Bradley
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
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!
Read an Excerpt
(Book Two in the Liar's Club)
By Celeste Bradley
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Celeste Bradley
All rights reserved.
Dalton Montmorency, Lord Etheridge and Crown spy, strode into the ballroom in his first appearance as the reclusive cartoonist Sir Thorogood and became instantly aware that he had somehow seriously angered his valet.
As he passed through the large arching doors of the Rochesters' ballroom and down the elegant spiraling stairs, the clamor of voices halted and a sea of faces turned upward toward him like flowers turning into the sun.
Perhaps it was due to the brilliance of his evening wear. Compared to the somber black worn by the other men in the room, Dalton was dressed with theatrical excess as a fop.
A flaming tea leaf with delusions of manhood.
"Dress me as a flamboyant artist," he'd told Button, the valet and onetime theatre costumer he'd borrowed from his good friend and ex-spymaster Simon Raines. "Make me look like one of those idiots who cares for nothing in the world but clothes."
Upon reflection, Dalton realized that those were perhaps not the wisest words to use to a valet.
Button was a costuming genius and was fast becoming the outfitter of choice of the members of the Liar's Club operating covertly. He was also a bit on the sensitive side, to understate the matter. Quite frankly, Dalton wished Button had gone for a simpler revenge.
Poison, perhaps. Hired killers, even. Dalton would much rather be facing armed thugs in an alleyway than be standing in front of this crowd, clad in all his "artistic" glory. In the abruptly silent ballroom, close to one hundred people stood with their eyes fixed on him as he paused at the top of the spiraling entry staircase.
His coat alone should have blinded them. It hadn't seemed so garish in the dimness of his rooms, or the darkness of his carriage. However, in the blazing glow of the fully lighted chandeliers that hung above the crowd, there was no denying that Dalton was wearing a particularly malevolent shade of chartreuse.
That coat, combined with his shimmering violet silk waistcoat and his peacock-blue pegged breeches, convinced Dalton that he resembled nothing so much as a nightmarishly enormous tropical parrot.
Button was a dead man.
For now that "Sir Thorogood" had made his long-awaited public appearance in this guise, there would be no choice but to continue the entire charade costumed like a pirate's pet bird.
To make matters worse, he had serious doubts about the necessity of his mission. True, for nearly a year those reformist cartoons had incited much ridicule of certain powerful men. And true, the British government did not need such a drain on its credibility during wartime. Not to mention the secrecy shrouding the man, which gave Dalton's instincts a decided twinge.
But restraining a fey artist with a penchant for exposing the underbelly of the aristocracy was not on Dalton's list of priority objectives. He felt very much as if he was being used as a villain to keep some lord's personal agenda.
But the Liars were on shaky ground these days, and the eclectic band of spies dared not upset the hierarchy if they wished to remain banded. Dalton was still new as the head of operations, and the Royal Four who ruled above him were not at all sure about his innovations.
Nor were his own men entirely sure about him.
Dalton had taken on this mission for a reason beyond the usual obedience to orders.
The spymaster of the Liar's Club normally worked his way up through the ranks, earning the admiration and loyalty of his fellow intelligencers by years of work and camaraderie.
He, on the other hand, had taken over upon the retirement of Simon Raines. Although Dalton had been a member of the Royal Four for over a year, none of the Liars were aware that he had been the Cobra — one fourth of a powerful coalition of lords that decided in what direction to aim the weapon that was the band of thieves and assassins called the Liar's Club.
When he'd stepped down from the Cobra's seat a few weeks ago, eager to get back into the game of intrigue, the men he now commanded had looked upon him with rank suspicion.
In the past weeks he'd managed to win some degree of compliance from them, but not yet the respect that would turn one commander and fifteen men into a close-knit crew.
So he'd vowed to take on the very next mission himself, to prove to his men that he not only was one of them, but that he was damn good at it.
Of course, when he'd made that vow, he'd had no idea how excruciating a mission it would be.
I am the weapon of the Crown, he told himself as he stood dreading the next few hours. A terribly colorful weapon wearing high heels.
Everyone was waiting, staring at him in anticipation. He could almost hear their thoughts: What would someone so outrageous do first? Would they all decide to slavishly adore him, or just as capriciously declare him an undiluted fool and cut him dead?
Since the success of Dalton's mission depended on the first option, he knew he'd better make an impression. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Pasting a superior leer onto his face, he flipped back the lace cuffs cascading from his sleeves, and made a theatrical bow to his hostess, managing not to totter in his high-heeled shoes. Then he stood and flung his arms wide to the crowd on the floor below.
"I ... have arrived," he intoned haughtily.
The men present merely raised brows and cast one another amused glances, but the ladies sighed in unison and immediately began to pester their escorts for an introduction. Excellent.
Let the game begin.
Clara Simpson sat between two rather overblown ladies and practiced her invisibility. It certainly seemed to be working on her seatmates, who talked over her head with enthusiasm.
Pity the skill no longer worked on Beatrice, her sister-in-law, or she might not have been subjected to this evening's entertainment at all. To think she could have been free for hours on end this evening, secure in the knowledge that there would be no interruptions while the family attended the ball.
Bea had burst into her room this afternoon, bent on prying Clara away from her pen and paper. Her sister-in-law's broad face had already been arranged in an implacable expression and Clara had known there would be no getting out of whatever Beatrice had in mind for her.
"Bitty and Kitty will be accompanying me to the Rochesters' ball tonight, Clara. I'll need you to come along as chaperone."
Clara had given refusal a try, even knowing it would do little good. "I don't wish to go to the Rochesters' ball. I'm still in mourning."
"Must you continue this, Clara? My brother has been gone for well over a year. One would think you were still pining for my poor Bentley."
"Perhaps I am." Or perhaps she had no desire to purchase a new wardrobe, as she was hoarding every penny for the day she moved out of this house.
Beatrice had sniffed. "Well, it doesn't show much consideration for my sensibilities, now does it? Reminding me of his loss every day? And what do you think people say when they see that I'm already out of mourning?"
Ah, therein lay the truth. "Perhaps if you wore —"
"Oh, pish. I look horrid in anything near black and you know it. Bentley would never have expected me to wear something so unbecoming for long."
"I'll consider it, Beatrice," Clara had said, as she always did when this topic came up.
Personally, she didn't much care what she wore. It asn't as though she was interested in attracting a man. Clara barely repressed a shudder at the thought.
No, all she wanted was the freedom of being self-supporting and perhaps, just perhaps, to make some small bit of difference.
But Beatrice was a force to be reckoned with, rather like a hurricane wind. Clara simply wearied of resisting sometimes. Furthermore, tonight was an opportunity to observe and that was not to be wasted.
So here she sat with the spinster aunties, keeping her eye on two girls who were hardly going to drive young men to take liberties, despite their sweet, uncomplicated natures.
She was quite accustomed to the wall, in fact she preferred it. There was always something interesting to see from here.
All around the room there was a flow of people, moving in clumps for a time, only to break apart and join other groups. Clara watched the dance of pretty gowns and dashing frock coats, secure in the complete lack of anyone's attention. As she'd planned, her own rather dull half-mourning gown blended nicely with the upholstery, her hair was tucked neatly away beneath her cap, and her face was as bare as a chambermaid's.
There was no telling what interesting bit of information might be dropped in her presence. Now you see me — now you don't.
When an odd hush becalmed one portion of the room, she noticed long before her companions. Yet even they broke off their chatter when the wave of silence swamped the room and made their own voices suddenly loud.
On the heels of the silence, the whispers began. Like the child's game of Tattle, where what is told in the beginning means something entirely other by the end. Clara smiled at the irreverent thought, but to be truthful she was as curious about the cause of the disturbance as the others.
Then the wave of whispered information reached the rear of the room. Ladies bent heads and tittered appreciatively all around her, while gentlemen huffed and pretended not to be craning their necks at the newest arrival.
"Who is it? Who has come in?" bellowed the lady on Clara's left. Clara winced, but listened for an answer as intently as did her seatmate.
"It's him!" gushed a woman from the edge of the crowd. "He's actually here! Sir Thorogood!"
It can't be.
Outrage swept Clara in a heated rush. Her invisibility evaporated. When several of those nearby turned questioning gazes to her, she realized that she was standing and that the protest had come aloud from her lips.
Flustered, she stammered something to remove the gaze of all those curious eyes. "I mean to say, how — how unusual! I've never heard of ... Sir Thorogood attending social events before."
"Well, I think it's marvelous," prattled one of Clara's seatmates. "We haven't had a new face around here for simply ages! And with so clever a man as he, I daresay we'll be mightily entertained now. Why, I have collected all of his cartoons! Original clippings, mind you, with not a tracing among them."
Clara wasn't listening. She was already deep into the crowd, slipping in and around until she stood on the foremost fringe, not ten feet from "Sir Thorogood" himself.
He was very tall. How loathsome. Clara despised men who loomed over her and treated her as though she were both twelve years old and not very bright.
Not to mention the fact that he was very handsome, in an overdone, foppish way. Despicable. Thick dark hair — it was much too long. And those eyes — unnatural, to have eyes so silvery. Eyes like that would go a long way toward convincing others of his depth and sincerity.
What a peacock! The fact that he didn't look nearly as ridiculous as he should have only frustrated her more. There was no hiding those shoulders, or that flat stomach, or the intriguing cut of his silly pantaloons....
But of course, he was a scoundrel. The only thing worse than a tall, handsome man was a tall, handsome man who was not telling the truth. And he was most certainly not.
Liar, thought Clara wildly, though she was careful to keep her face expressionless.
Liar and thief and —
She caught herself just before striding forward to denounce the rogue. Why was he here, using that name? What could possibly be his purpose?
He must have desired to bask in the attention of novelty-starved society — to manipulate the mystery that had long shrouded Sir Thorogood, the source of the scathing cartoons that society loved so well.
She must think. She could not publicly denounce him or she would lose her own anonymity. She would lose the work that had come to mean so much to her. She must expose him in another way. She needed to get closer to this stranger, close enough to trick him into revealing his lies.
She edged up to the fringe of the crowd of women now surrounding him like pigeons to a handful of seed.
A few escorts were being pressed into service to make any number of introductions.
In a moment Clara was lost in the rustle of fabrics and the miasma of mingled perfumes. To either side of her, ladies pressed ardently forward, dying to get the attention of the tall stranger. When one of the ladies looked Clara's way, there was a moment of surprise, followed by a feline assessment and subsequent dismissal of her charms.
A silken elbow caught Clara in the ribs. She edged away, only to have her toe stomped by a high-heeled shoe. She could get no farther in the swarm of women. Her practiced unobtrusiveness worked against her now.
She went unnoticed among ladies in costly gowns and elaborate hairstyles, all calculated to minimize brains and maximize bosoms. Clara stepped back, and the space she left was immediately filled by another spectacular lady. Over the plumed heads that surrounded the stranger, Clara could see the cunning knave smile winningly at the brightest plumage and the finest bosoms, while the rest hung desperately on the outer fringe.
How could she get closer? She had reason enough to seek some answers, for this man could ruin everything she had accomplished so far. How could she wrest his attention from the cream of London's beauties?
How, unless she was one of them —
Well, if that was what caught his eye, then that's precisely what she would use. She had a bosom and a pair of lashes after all. What she needed was some help in using them well.
Abruptly, Clara felt better. It was truly quite ingenious of her. If they were dazzling, she would be more so. If they were silly, she would be the silliest of them all.
After all, who could possibly suspect a dazzling, silly woman of being anything but useless and ornamental? Truly, it was a much superior disguise than that of invisible bluestocking. Why had she never thought of this before? She mustn't let the world think her at all serious-minded. Indeed, she must seem the very opposite.
With determined strides, Clara set off to find Beatrice. She had an impostor to unveil.
Dalton moved through the sea of ladies who crowded about him, his eyes on the gentlemen. Somewhere, in some drawing room or ballroom this night, there stood the man who was Sir Thorogood. Dalton was determined to rub his own obnoxious presence into the faces of every man in Society until he found the fellow.
He approached a knot of gentlemen who parted for him with curiosity. Well, most of them anyway. One of them sent him a venomous look and stormed away without a word.
"I say, I hope that fellow isn't ill," Dalton said smoothly in Thorogood's fruity tones. "One does so dislike catching something from attending a simple ball."
The men looked at each other. The youngest, a tall bloke barely out of school, cleared his throat. "I should think you would recognize Lord Mosely, Sir Thorogood. It was your drawing that cost him his position on the board of the orphanage."
Bloody hell. Dalton had looked over the drawings but not well enough, apparently. He covered his slip with a lofty wave of his hand. "I portray my cartoons as the muse directs me. I can scarcely remember every blackguard my art uncovers."
One of the others nodded. "You've done the lot, that's true. From Mosely to Wadsworth, and everyone in between."
The youngest man was obviously burning with curiosity. "Wadsworth?"
The others looked at him. "Wife left him over the cartoon," one of them explained.
The young man only seemed more interested. He looked at his companions, who were decidedly more restrained, then back to Dalton. "Can you tell me how ... I mean to say, where ... where do you get your information? It must be rather difficult to learn everyone's secrets. After all, they are secrets."
Dalton allowed a slow, slightly evil smile to cross his face. He leaned forward, and despite their aloofness, the others leaned toward him. "Nothing," he said with dark intention. "Nothing is secret from Sir Thorogood."
A number of the group swallowed in unison. Dalton only smiled and took note of their faces in order to check them out at his leisure. He had no interest in their whoring and gaming, but one never knew where one would uncover treason.
Excerpted from The Impostor by Celeste Bradley. Copyright © 2003 Celeste Bradley. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Celeste Bradley is the New York Times bestselling author of Scoundrel in My Dreams, Desperately Seeking a Duke, and the Royal Four and Liars Club series, among many others. Prior to giving writing a try, Celeste was a professional artist. Believing that storytelling is as much of an art form, she applies those skills to writing. She is a two-time RITA Nominee and winner of the prestigious Historical Storyteller of the Year from Romantic Times Book Reviews. Mother of two teen divas, Southern-born Celeste lives in the Southwest. Her hobbies include gardening, jewelry making and collage. She feels very strongly that literacy can change lives.
Celeste Bradley is The New York Times bestselling author of Scoundrel in My Dreams, Desperately Seeking a Duke, and the Royal Four and Liars Club series, among many others. Prior to giving writing a try, Celeste was a professional artist. Believing that storytelling is as much of an art form, she applies those skills to writing. She is a two-time RITA Nominee and winner of the prestigious Historical Storyteller of the Year from Romantic Times Book Reviews. Mother of two teen divas, Southern-born Celeste lives in the Southwest. Her hobbies include gardening, jewelry making and collage. She feels very strongly that literacy can change lives.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Truth is, this is more of a three and a half star book but I liked it enough to round up to four stars, rather than down. Anyway, the story starts out a bit slow but the plot is rather unique so I was not bored. Clara Simpson, a seemingly plain and thoroughly unexceptional widow, is completely outraged when the controversial cartoonist, Sir Thorogood, attends a party thus garnering the praise and adoration of everyone. She is certain the ridiculously flamboyant dandy is nothing more than a fame-seeking poseur. She knows this because SHE is in fact the real Sir Thorogood. Clara is determined to reveal to the public that this 'Sir Thoro-fake' is not the real genius behind the outrageous caricatures that have humiliated dozens of high society gentlemen for their dishonest and philandering ways. -----Dalton Montmorency is a leading member of the Liar's Club posing as Sir Thorogood in order to flush out a treasonous plot against the crown. He would be successful if it weren't for the annoying Mrs. Clara Simpson matching him at every turn and eventually falling smack into the middle of his investigation. --------Initially Clara and Dalton despise each other but Bradley gives her characters an alternative avenue to explore their attraction to each other. Clara has a secret identity as a housemaid for a local gentleman suspected of treason. Dalton also sneaks into the man's house disguised as a thief in an attempt to steal vital papers. It is here that he meets 'Rose', who is really Clara, and he is fascinated by her. He and Clara begin to fall in love within the safety of their alter egos. This would have worked fine if I believed for a second that Dalton would not have recognized Clara. I understand that Clara did not discover Dalton's identity because he was wearing a mask. Clara, however, was not wearing a mask and so I just did not see how he would not recognize her. But it is just a silly annoyance and didn't hurt the story all that much. -------Plot aside I had to say that I was not completely crazy about Bradley's writing style. She really lacks a lot of visual description of her characters as well as basic information on their personalities. For instance, how old are both characters? We never find out. What is Dalton's rank as a peer of the realm? Once again, Bradley never tells us. I know this does not sound like a legitimate claim and before reading this book I would have written off such a complaint as dumb nit-picky whining. But in this case it really worked against the story because I did not feel as if I knew the characters at all well.--------Overall I liked this book despite my complaints. The story was entertaining and love scenes were thoroughly hot and elegantly written. I wish I had read the first book in the Liar's Club, The Pretender, prior to reading this book. I Now have the entire series on my 'To Read' list.
Dalton and Clara were great together and the plot was interesting to the last page. Dalton was so in love with Clara, which is also apparent in Marcus's story when Julia pays Clara a visit. Although Clara was a wonderful, intelligent heroine, I don't think she shines as well in the other novels in which she appears. She comes across as rather meek, in my opinion, when she is really the opposite. Also, the addition of James Cunnington here is a great treat. He's such a wonderful hero in his own right (his book is awesome)and I'm glad he was incorporated into this book as a major player.
In 1813 Liar¿s Club agent Dalton Montgomery pretends to be a dandy as he poses as popular satirical cartoonist Sir Thorogood. Dalton wants to expose the real artist whose works scorn the country¿s aristocracy especially the leaders, drawing caricatures that make them look inane. Clara Simpson takes exception with Dalton masquerading as the popular Sir Thorogood since she knows that she is the genuine article. Clara decides to ¿expose¿ the impostor by trapping him into displaying his talent. She follows him everywhere and he believes she¿s a lovesick fruitcake. As Dalton doubts the assignment as being overkill, he begins to fall in love with his shadow. However, he remains unaware that if he unmasks Sir Thorogood he will jeopardize his talented beloved. THE IMPOSTOR is a fun action packed romantic suspense with agent vs. amateur counter agent as the prime plot. The battle to expose one another takes the audience on a wild ride as each one trumps the other though Dalton is ignorant that it is Clara he is chasing (in love too). Celeste Bradley pens a charming Regency tale that will prove to fans that this author is the real thing. Harriet Klausner
Although this was still an entertaining read, it was not nearly as well written as The Spy (book 1). I might have given it four stars if there hadn't been so very many errors that should have been corrected in the editing process. Would I recommend it? Just maybe yes.
Liked the story but someone should proof read!
At the beginning of the book when Clara and Dalton meet I was a little annoyed by them. But as the book goes on and you get to know them better I started to like them more. Dalton was a minor character in another book and I liked him so it was nice to see him get his own book. I really started to get interested in the book once you find out that there has been a kill order put out for Clara. A good book overall and worth reading more than once.
Fast moving action great romance angle.
Another in the Liar's Club series. Loved it and the others.