Pimpernelles: The Traitor’s Smile (Book 2)

Written by Patricia Elliott
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1793. The French king has been guillotined and the Reign of Terror is just beginning. Eugénie de Boncoeur and the wounded Julien de Fontin escape Paris and reach safety with Eugénie’s English relations in the port of Deal. Eugénie is desperately concerned about her brother, Armand, left behind in an increasingly dangerous Paris. He’s in hiding, but will he be safe?

Meanwhile, her English cousin, the idealistic Hetta, is up to her ears promoting the cause of liberté, fraternité, and égalité in which she so passionately believes. She takes an instant dislike to her stuck-up cousin Eugénie, an antipathy fully returned by Eugénie, who is devastated to find that Julien seems very taken with Hetta. In her misery, Eugénie turns to an old admirer, the charismatic Guy Deschamps. But Guy is not all he seems, and soon Hetta and Eugénie find that treachery can lurk in the most unexpected places…

I enjoyed this action-packed story. It whooshes along at a cracking pace, leaving the reader desperate to know what will happen next. The danger of life on the edge in a blood-soaked Paris during the Terror is very well caught. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the straight-forward courage of the high-minded Hetta and the wilfulness of the more worldly-wise, occasionally spoilt, Eugénie. The two cousins must learn to trust each other’s strengths if they are to survive.

I have one caveat. Surgeons in the late 18th century were seen as little better than barbers. It is inconceivable that Hetta’s father, a lowly surgeon, would have come from the sort of family who did the Grand Tour and have aristocratic relations. Still, teenage girls, who enjoy a thrilling romantic adventure with an authentically terrifying Paris during the Terror, need look no further. This is the book for them.