A Heartless Design (Secrets of the Zodiac #1) By Elizabeth Cole

    Elizabeth Cole ð 4 Free read

    An enigmatic woman, a determined spy, and a love that could shake the foundations of Europe...

    Heartless Cordelia Bering refuses every marriage offer she receives. Yet men still try to win her, drawn by her sharp wit and intoxicating green eyes. But Cordelia knows a marriage could reveal her deepest secret and truly endanger her life. Besides, she hasn't met a man worth considering, until...

    Sebastien Thorne, a spy in the service of Crown. One of the elite agents in the group known as the Zodiac, he comes to London determined to solve a mystery with roots on the Continent. He won't let anything distract him. But is Cordelia a distraction, or the key to the mystery? As he learns more about the heartless woman, he becomes embroiled in secrets, plots, and a design that could change the future...and Cordelia is at the center of it all. A Heartless Design (Secrets of the Zodiac #1)

    There are two extremes of historical romance writers: the ones that sound so historically accurate that you feel like you’re in the time period (no that sounds like a good thing but what I’m talking is about is a story that it sounds and reads so historically it puts you to sleep and takes you forever to finish reading the book if you even ever end up finishing the book ) and the ones that sound like some obtuse person from the present (who has never went to a history class, of any kind) fell into the past and started narrating the story you are reading. Elizabeth Cole unfortunately falls towards the latter extreme although her writing isn’t as severely horrendous. Cole’s writing sounds like some from the present who knows a lot about London society and culture fell into the past and started narrating the story to someone (also from the present) who didn’t have any idea what on earth the person was talking about and needed explanations and definitions for every historical thing in the story. Now this isn’t typically a bad thing for first time historical readers (it’s actually very useful) but is very annoying to the readers who’ve already gotten an idea of what the time period the book was set in was like.

    Another thing, Cole did that a lot of writers do (especially in romance novels) is to do the first chapter in the guy or girl’s point of view and then do the second chapter in the other one’s. This is okay but what I didn’t like it was that by chapter three there was already too many different plots going on (Cordelia’s servants’ secret pasts, Cordelia’s passion for making ships, Sebastian’s mission as a spy, Sebastian’s need to tell everyone he’s poor so he doesn’t get pinned to a gel, a young genteel girl , if you didn’t already know (by the way this is what I’m talking about but Cole does it much better and subtly than me).

    I don’t know I didn’t like this story as much as I thought I would. This isn’t the best spy novel I’ve ever read that honor goes to another. I give Heartless a solid three stars.
    Paperback Review written June 4, 2016

    3 Stars - A sweet suspense HR

    A Heartless Design was a freebie kindle in January and I added the 10 hours WSfV audiobook (narrated by Marian Hussey) for just $2. Some promising reviews and I went for it.

    James Bond meets Jane Austen!

    « An enigmatic woman (Cordelia Bering), a determined spy (Sebastien Thorne), and a love that could shake the foundations of Europe... »

    London 1806..

    What was really good here is that Cordelia isn't just a beautiful young women she is also a talanted, very clever and inventive engineer. In all secrecy of course. Ladies or any women weren't supposed to know manly things back then. Our hero Sebastien on the other side, is a very pleasurable rake like noble man, and (I soon guessed) a spy (of good old family with a nice lord title), living a much more important and dangerous life than anyone could guess.

    I liked these two main characters, I liked the overall plot / storyline and much stuff in this mystery romance. But —yes there is a very big BUT— I'm sorry to say, I lost some of my interest after a few hours. Then I had to struggle to feel the sincere want to pick it up again (when there are so many other books waiting and calling for my attention). It took me more than two months to finish.

    ...Maybe was it this narrators way to sound whining girly when doing the heroine's talking-voice too often. That nagged at me. So did the simplistic idea of ​​a person, all alone after a little help and training in secret by his/her father, able to design quite complicated engineering tasks (). I'm no engineer (but has several close in my life) and don't know much about the subject, but really as simple as for our heroine Cordelia is it probably not after all. Or? I know, fictional novels most often add fairytales or simplified realities, truths and abilities, but at some believability do I limit what keeps and fits.

    The romance part was sweet and fun though.
    “I do not kiss,” she said primly. Or she tried to be prim about it.
    She leaned away from him, preparing to return to the party. “By your own admission, you are not familiar with London society, sir, so let me tell you what they call me. Heartless. It’s a true description. And you’ll forgive me if I leave you now.”

    In total: Sweet, a bit thrilling and steamy romantic. Good enough (barely) but probably soon forgotten.

    I LIKE - strong and clever female MC's Paperback Sebastien Thorne, Earl of Thornebury (spelling), is a newly inherited Earl and a spy. Cordelia Bering is a secret engineer known as Mr. Lear. She has designed special ship plans wanted by unscrupulous men. It is Sebastien's task to locate the plans and the engineer. Can Cordelia keep the ship plans out of the wrong hands? Will Sebastien discover who Mr. Lear is and get the plans for the crown?

    This is a promising story. The main characters are delightful, including the secondary characters. The plot is simple but the subplots keep the reader asking, What happens next? I debated between three or four stars. In the end, I took a star off because I didn't like how the plot was resolved. I feel it weakened the heroine's position in the story. Overall, this is a light, easy read with delightful characters. Paperback I really enjoyed this book. Great hero and heroine, story line and plot. Great chemistry and some good sex scenes. The story line itself was a bit different in a very good way!. There was plenty of dialogue too.

    I listened to this book as I read along via audible and the narrator did a really good job as well. Paperback I have fallen in love with this series and this author, Elizabeth Cole. This is an outstanding spy series that is so well written with characters that are deeply explored. I recently read book number 3 in the series as an ARC from Netgalley and LOVED it, so of course I researched the author to read more in the series. If you can believe it –this book is FREE right now on Amazon.com. Hurry and get it and add it to your to-be-read list. But don’t wait that long as you will kick yourself once you realize how great this book is!
    I adore when a book has characters that you get emotionally involved with. I cared about Cordelia and Sebastien. I was desperate to find out what happens to them – I read so fast because I couldn’t wait to find out how the story unfolds.
    Cordelia is an engineer as well as a woman of the ton. She has the reputation of being ‘heartless’ because she has turned down so many marriage proposals. She lives on Quince Street (I love this name) with her Aunt Leona and has a household full of criminals turned servants. After her beloved father’s death, she realizes that she isn’t ready to give up the world and work of engineering, as well as the income. She creates a false character Lear to continue on her work. She never thinks that the world of engineering could endanger her life.
    For years Cordelia worked on a special ship called the Andraste. The ship is a virtual fortress, clad with iron and impregnable from cannon fodder. Her father worried that people would use this for nefarious deeds and implored Cordelia to keep the plans hidden and safe. Cordelia continued to work on the plans after her father mysteriously died. This dream ship has caught the attention of the white and black hats. Both want the plans and therefore both want Cordelia.
    Enter Sebastien. He is a member of the Zodiac, a spy organization for the Crown. He has been charged with finding the plans for the Andraste and securing them for England. Sebastien receives his orders while attending a London ball, where he spots the most luscious woman walking by. He finds her hiding in the gardens, very close to where his dossier of details is waiting for him. He finds that suspicious, but can’t let the opportunity to kiss her pass. They share an intimate moment and she is gone.
    It was hilarious when Sebastien and Cordelia meet the next day. The reasons for their meeting however, were not. After that ball, Cordelia returns home to find that the plans for the Andraste were stolen. She then has Sebastien appearing on her doorstep, a raging inconvenience. I loved how Cordelia stands up to him and puts him on the defensive. As a reader, this is when you subconsciously recognize that you are reading a well-conceived and developed novel.
    Cordelia has secrets she needs to keep. Sebastien is so charming and virile that she may just lose her head along with her virtue and her heart. The two are thrown together with a frequent urgency as the stakes get higher and higher for Cordelia, Sebastien, the Zodiac and England.
    Sebastien wants to trust Cordelia, but he faces evasion and subterfuge at every turn with her. She is determined to keep her secrets. They are more valuable to her than her virtue. Cordelia is almost on the shelf at the age of twenty-seven. She knows she won’t marry after being her own mistress for so long. She can never give a man the power over her that could stop her work or her freedom. However, she wishes she had passion. Enter Sebastien again. The two have been panting after each other and warily eyeing each other with passion and mistrust.
    Things get very steamy. But also very complicated. Cordelia is sure that she wants to be in Sebastien’s arms and bed, but not his life. I think what I loved so much about this story is how both lead characters were afraid of the other. They were afraid to open their hearts and share their true nature with each other. Being intimate provided shelter from the truth for a while, but it ate away at them to share only a part of who they were.
    The author has created a wonderful, tangled web of deception and truth. The mystery of the plans for the Andraste make the story leap off the page and dictated a force that both Cordelia and Sebastien couldn’t control. The plot had no holes in it and I really admired that Elizabeth Cole created such a strong female character. This is a real strength of the author, as her other books in the series contain female characters who have backbone and intelligence. Woe is the man who underestimates a woman in this series of books.
    I strongly recommend picking up this series and there is a fourth book in the works according to the author. I sincerely hope that we will get to read about all twelve signs as this series is unique, extremely well-conceived and well written.
    Reviewed for www.kiltsandswords.com


    Overall a good read. Perhaps not for me as I never felt particularly invested in the characters. But the book itself was well thought out, very detailed and you can see a lot of hard work went into its construction. Though it often felt like dry reading and was too wordy at times.

    The male lead was irritatingly dismissive and judgmental of the female spy at the start. Without due cause. They both acted rather immature in their first reactions to each other. Yet neither had done anything to warrant the other putting his back up.

    You would think no one could take offense within mere minutes of a first time meeting, especially when introduced through a trusted friend, but it was set up in that Let's hate each other passionately for no discernible reason! way, perhaps to have conflict.

    The lead female, Sophie was also trying a little too hard to seemcool I guess we would say in modern parlance. She didn't really seem very comfortable in her own skin. And the emphasis the author placed on her not being a lady by birth meant we spent a lot of time with her hang-ups about this fact.

    A lot of effort was put into describing surroundings unnecessarily. It's kind of hard for me to pinpoint exactly what I mean when I talk about too much focus on triviality but I suppose this passage below shows it a little with all the rigamarole around some hot water.

    Did water really have to feature that prominently that it's mentioned three or so times in a passage? It's water. Move on, a one sentence mention would do.

    “In her most ladylike way, she ordered the best room, and insisted the hot water be brought up as soon as possible. Bruce had stayed with Jem to see that the coach was indeed fit to travel the next day.
    Sophie was shown to a large, bright room. The water was heated and brought up with remarkable efficiency by the innkeeper’s children. Sophie hoped it wouldn’t cool too quickly.
    Fortunately, Bruce came in then, worn down by the effort of final repairs to the carriage. “Good news,” he said. “There’s only minor damage. Jem will handle the rest of it, and we can continue on in the morning as scheduled.”
    “I ordered you some hot water,” Sophie said, pointing to the pitcher and basin.”

    This is a really minor quibble and it was probably only noticeable in conjunction with other things but I kind of almost wanted to throw the water in someone's face. Lol

    I guess it also has to do with how used to the genre you are. For someone reading a historical romance for the first time these details are perhaps interesting and helpful in constructing an accurate impression of the norms and culture of the time period.

    But if you are familiar with it already it becomes a case of too many factoids thrown in randomly and it merely distracts you as a reader. It draws you out of the story.

    It's as if the author did a lot of research and wants to include every interesting thing learnt along the way. For example, the fact that society marriages were often cold by virtue of being arranged for dynastic purposes is so generally known that the titbit about wives included below merely causes the scene to lose momentum...

    “Bruce stripped to the waist without so much as a warning. Sophie, a little stunned, watched him as a wife might…though in a society marriage, it was entirely possible that a woman might never see her husband half-naked save for in the darkness of a bedroom. And many proper ladies would never dare look more than they absolutely had to.”

    Or even just the fact that upper servants go by their last names which can be shown not told to the reader-

    “My name’s Maggie.”
    “And your family name?” Sophie asked. Ladies’ maids were customarily referred to by their surname only.
    “Sawyer, ma’am. But I’m not a proper lady’s maid, so Maggie it is.”

    And sometimes we would leave one character, move over to the POV of the other and have him/her rehash everything that had just happened between them, which can get dull.

    Bruce and Sophie took too long to finally like each other, I thought. Quarter of the way through the book they still disliked and distrusted each other and since they had no improved opinions of each other I really didn't like them any more that I had at the start when all I felt was indifference.

    It was still an interesting read, with some very insightful dialogue at times. I particularly liked the line about how women move through the world versus the security inherent in being a male. Things men do unthinkingly, such as walking around late at night, going to an unknown party location with a casual male acquaintance, getting into a cab, are things women can't always feel safe doing for practical reasons. Life as a woman might not be as extreme as in the author's example but it's a poignant point Sophie makes.

    “I said I would tell you the very first thing a woman thinks on seeing a man.”
    “I give up. Tell me what a woman thinks on seeing a man.”
    Sophie said, with deliberate calm, “She thinks, How can he hurt me?”
    Bruce stopped what he was doing, the washcloth falling into the basin with a splash. “That’s not true,” he said instantly.
    “I promise you it is,” Sophie said. “It is the first thought to cross a woman’s mind, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, powerful or desperate. Maybe not all women even realize they think it—but they do.”
    Sophie nodded. “She thinks: Can this man hurt me? How much could he hurt me? In what ways could he hurt me? How can I escape? How do I fend him off? How do I survive this?”
    Bruce stared at her, his previous task completely forgotten. “Is that what you thought when you first met me in the club?”
    She nodded again.
    “But Julian vouched for me, did he not?”
    “What does that matter?” Sophie asked. “Believe me, all women share the same fear. Only after she asks that question and makes those dozen small decisions can she move on to what you think of as normal thoughts.”
    “That’s mad.”
    “That’s life for a woman. Understand this, and how can you go about treating half the world in the same way?”
    He frowned. “You make me sound like a monster.”
    “Not at all. I merely acknowledge you’re a man, and as such have never had to ask yourself the same questions.

    *Received a review copy Paperback 3.25 stars.

    The heroine is an engineer, yes true, she designed, build and sell ships.
    Her latest designs is very advanced, in the wrong hand can be a very powerful weapon, and when The English and The French in wars, that won't good. Not many know about this because she created an imaginary guy to continue her work.
    The hero? He is a spy who tried to get his hand on this latest design.

    See? So much potential for this story but unfortunately the execution not quite there yet.
    Especially the first 30%, gosh it was boring:(
    For this kind of work, I wanted to see more about her work, show us how she did it, one page she sitting in her office home won't do! Then we know the villain from early on and the suspense bits was too tame.

    Gosh! This could be a good read but it make me wanted to chuck my IPad!!:(

    But still an ok read and currently free on Amazon.
    I check the author's other books in this series, they all got a better rating than this one:)
    I probably try to read her books again one day. Paperback Meh. Picked this up because it was free on ibooks, read it on my work breaks because I had nothing better to do. Romance isn't my genre, but every now and then there are standout gems that I enjoy; this just wasn't one of them. That being said, I don't think it would be fair of me to rate it given that I knew going in that it wouldn't be my thing. It passed the time, and it wasn't grossly chauvinistic, and that's good enough. Paperback We met Lord Forester in the first book of the series as he helps Sebastien and Cordelia escape France. I loved that both are back in the telling of Forester’s story!
    Forester meets with Neville aka Aries for his next mission. Although he is a Lord, he has no use for the fripperies of society and would rather be working his estate and managing the land. His work for the Zodiac is of vital importance to him and he can’t imagine his life without being in service to the Crown. However this mission is different. Usually members of the Zodiac work independently of each other, but this mission requires two agents. Bruce meets his partner, Sophie, also known as Libra. He is absolutely astounded that a woman could be an agent – and a French woman as well! From the moment they meet its game on. They take a hearty dislike to each other and have no interest in working together on this mission. So not only are they fighting the enemy, they are warring with each other too. Reading this I almost felt gleeful as I just KNEW it was going to be a spicy, scintillating tale that would have abundant passion, reckless adventures and a lot of danger.
    Sophie and Bruce must impersonate a French Comtess and her husband at an elite house party for those sympathetic to the French aristocracy. Sophie is the master of disguises, a trick she picked up from being an actress as her cover story. Bruce is adept as well at subterfuge, but he still wants Sophie out of the way. As soon as they are alone, it becomes a contest of wills and seduction. Sophie uses her feminine wiles on Bruce and he cannot deny that he wants her. This is a big mistake with someone like Sophie as she now knows his weakness.
    The house party was equal parts solving the mystery of who in the British government is supporting the scheme to reinstate the French aristocrats and the relationship between Bruce and Sophie. The two are complete opposites of each other. Sophie likes to improvise and is quick thinking on her feet. Bruce’s strength is his strategy and planning skills. They disagree about almost everything to do with their mission and not only battle each other, but the guests at the party as well. Sophie must use her charm to attract the men they are seeking to investigate, but it burns Bruce to watch her have to do it. It isn’t just because she’s a woman, it’s because he is starting to see her as his woman.
    Sophie has had a very difficult life. She narrates her life story to Bruce over the course of the house party and it’s clear that she has fended for herself from a very young age. Without the security of family or marriage, the Zodiac has become her life, which is something Bruce can definitely relate to. With that common bond, they find a truce with each other, which turns to passion. My heart was clearly engaged with this couple as when Sophie and Bruce first have sex she tells him he is the first man she has wanted to do it with. I think I fell a little more in love with this series as this book explored the complexities of Sophie’s life and the danger she exposed herself to for the Zodiac. Bruce has his troubled past as well, but nothing compared to the life Sophie has endured.
    This is an example of how this series doesn’t shy away from difficult or harsh topics. The brutality of their jobs and the challenging decisions they have to make only make the words on the page have more depth and feeling. Sophie could be very stubborn when she felt wronged and because she was such a well-developed character, you completely understood her motives and feelings. It never hurts to have a man grovelling in a historical romance novel.
    When their mission gets blown to bits, Bruce and Sophie finally work together to salvage what they can. The mission became as important to me as their relationship. I was on the edge of my seat to learn how it finished. As mentioned before, Cordelia and Sebastien play a role in this book and it was fabulous to get a glimpse of them.
    I know I’ve stated this before, but you know you are reading something special when you are emotionally invested in the book you are reading. Everything about this book and series has just sucked me right in. I adore Elizabeth Cole’s wonderful world she has created. The characters, the mystery, the details all stand out for me as excellence. This is a series I will be reading to the bitter end. And you should too!
    Reviewed for www.kiltsandswords.com
    Paperback Better than typical Regency romantic suspense. Heroine was pretty damn smart, but not off-putting. Definitely unconventional, but not quirky. Typical villain though. Hero was great. Plot was unique but the author left a plot line unfinished (perhaps for the next book in the series?). The HEA was so very typical and a little too sweet considering the story. Paperback