Moving effortlessly from a merchant ship on the high seas to the glittering ballrooms of London, this exhilarating 19th-century romance is full of swashbuckling suspense and sexual sparks. Hugh Battancourt has all the makings of a true romantic hero he's chivalrous, strong, daring, mysterious and even considerate. He's also just made the biggest blunder of his espionage career: he has abducted 21-year-old Claire Banning Lynes, an unhappily married beauty, and accused her of spying for the French. Although his senses tell him he's got the wrong woman, it takes a lot of convincing and a little seduction on Claire's part to assure him of that truth. In the midst of sorting out Claire's identity and warding off a band of French merchants and soldiers, Hugh and Claire fall in love, but can a married lady and a world-weary spy find happiness together? Adultery is often frowned upon in romances, but Robards (To Trust a Stranger; Scandalous) addresses the topic without making either of her protagonists appear underhanded or unsympathetic. While the sexual chemistry between Hugh and Claire crackles and a handful of secondary characters including Hugh's crusty but caring henchman and Claire's bold little sister charm their way into readers' hearts, the plot winds a predictable path to a satisfying yet saccharine denouement. (One-day laydown Aug. 27) Forecast: Robards should receive frequent flyer miles for all the times her books have traveled up the bestseller lists. This book, the second in her Banning sisters trilogy, will undoubtedly journey to the top of the charts as well. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.