Wealthy 18th century landowner Mary Finch has a dark secret that she shares with just one man.
Those who know her might be forgiven for thinking it must be Captain Robert Holland, the young Royal Artillery officer with whom she enjoys a private and special ‘understanding.’
But the shadowy figure privy to Mary’s ‘other life’ is spymaster Cuthbert Shy, currently waging a clandestine war against Britain’s enemies in the dark and dangerous world of post-revolutionary France.
Yes, she’s back ... the feisty, forthright and fearsome secret agent Mary has set sail on another mission into enemy territory.
Melikan’s witty, courageous and quirky heroine has already battled murder, mutiny and treachery in her previous outings in The Blackstone Key and The Counterfeit Guest, but now she is entering new and murky waters across the Channel.
The Mistaken Wife is another entertaining mix of real and imaginary characters, fact-based history and a thrilling adventure story.
A woman of considerable fortune, Mary has become indispensable to Mr Shy ... with just ten ladies like Miss Finch, he is wont to say, ‘the war would soon be won.’
But is her latest assignment – to foil an alliance between America and France and perhaps even foment a war between the two countries – a step too far?
In the autumn of 1797, Napoleon’s forces are sweeping through Europe and, even though the darkest days of the Terror are over, Paris is still a volatile and paranoid city.
The worst excesses of revolutionaries have subsided but fear and suspicion still stalk the streets and hungry, workless citizens are starting to long for the old days, however bad they might have been.
Under strict instructions not to reveal anything of her mission to anyone, including Captain Holland, Mary will be sailing to France with the American artist, Samuel Vangenzen, and posing as his wife.
Vangenzen is part of a coterie of painters who live and work in the French capital and he will allow Mary unprecedented access to influential American envoys and officials.
But why is he so untroubled by the prospect of a British agent spying on his countrymen and how will his secret but real wife in Paris react to Mary’s arrival?
And back in England, Captain Holland has received new orders ... Army intelligence want him to head for France and try to discover more about French tests on an ‘underwater mine’ that could potentially change the course of the war.
As a brutal French agent tracks the Vangenzens’ every move and Captain Holland grabs a slice of the action, Mary is in danger of losing everything she holds dear...
Melikan always steeps her excellent mystery stories in authentic period detail and fascinating facts, evoking time and place with precision and panache.
With a rich cast of characters and an all-action plot, The Mistaken Wife proves to be a happy marriage of romance and adventure.
(Sphere, paperback, £11.99)