Tainted Angel by Anne Cleeland

Tainted Angel by Anne Cleeland
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Historical
Length: Full Length (352 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

A deadly game of deception
A notorious beauty with a shadowy past

In the time of Napoleon, Vidia Swanson appears to live a gilded life of ease and luxury. Beneath this façade, however, she works for the Home Office as an ‘angel,’ coaxing secrets from powerful men who may or may not be traitors to the Crown. In the course of her latest assignment, matters take an alarming turn when she realizes that her spymaster suspects that she is the one who is tainted–a double agent working for the enemy.

Lucien Carstairs is a fellow agent with his own dark secrets–unless he is setting an elaborate trap to reveal her own supposed treason. Backed into a corner, she can only hope to stay one step ahead of the hangman in a race to stop the next war before it destroys them–and destroys England.

Tainted Angel offers up a compelling game of cat and mouse in which no one can be trusted–and anyone can be tainted.

Replete with foreshadowing, clues, and chameleon characters, Tainted Angel is tantalizing and seductive. Trust is not to be found, but allegiance to the cause of saving England and staying alive in the process rules the lives of agents.

Vidia Swanson, a renowned beauty who survived incredible odds as she made her way through the Napoleonic War zone from Portugal to England, does whatever needs to be done for the secret undercover group she works with. To be honest, she thrives on the danger and excitement. It keeps bad memories at bay.

Living in a house one man bought her, sleeping with another man, and fending off advances of would-be lovers, Vidia treads a perilous path. She knows some people suspect she is a double agent and would have no qualms about having her hanged. The mystery and suspense that surrounds her actions keeps the reader on tenterhooks. She lives on the brink of disaster and knows honesty is not part of the equation as she deals with people. Even the agents in her group are trying to set a trap for her.

She works as an “angel” most of the time. She distracts while another agent carries out the undercover operation. Her beauty is her most useful weapon and she uses it with phenomenal skill.

Carstairs, the agent she has worked with and now sleeps with, has an assignment to find out the truth about Vidia. Their attraction to each other is strong, but duty is stronger. They both agree “to be as honest as they can be in their dishonesty.”

Benjamin Brodie, the man who bought the house for Vidia, is a wealthy, self-confident, adventure-loving puppet master that plays people with consummate skill. He likes what he does. He takes care of himself at every turn and no one is quite sure of his allegiance. Is it to England, France or just to himself? His relationship with Vidia is unique and, to me, a real surprise. He is a planner deluxe.

The spymaster is one of the most interesting secondary characters. The way he relates to Vidia later in the story is riveting. None of the secondary characters can be discounted. They all add their special design to the overall tapestry of Tainted Angel. The subtle, but ever-present question about the elusive gold threads through the tapestry to the very end. Who would have thought of it being where it was?

Who ‘the rabbit’ is and the significant of the Argo kept me searching for clues.

Anne Cleeland’s concise writing style with its undercurrent of danger kept me turning pages with bated breath much of the time. While I wasn’t sure I even liked the characters in the beginning, as their back stories came to light and their true motivations were revealed, I felt a unique kind of empathy for them. Ms. Cleeland left plenty of ‘bread crumbs’ along the way, but I still got more than a few surprises. She tells a riveting tale about a time in history that redefined how governments would govern. More especially she created memorable characters, a plot that sizzles, and a happy-ever-after with a touch of humor. Good Reading!


  1. Thank you, Camellia, for your wonderful review.

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