A Raven's Heart
K.C. Bateman     

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Secrets and Spies
Book: 2

When a bookish codebreaker and a dashing spy are reunited in this steamy historical romance from the author of To Steal a Heart, their lives depend on their ability to resist temptation. But fate is a mistress who cannot be denied. . . .
In the war against France, Heloise Hampden is a high-value asset to the Crown. She’s cracked the enemy’s most recent communication, and for that, someone is trying to kill her. However, it’s the agent assigned to protect Heloise who poses the greatest threat to her heart: William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood. Heloise has quarreled with the man they call Raven since childhood, yet always maintained a chaste distance. She’s sure nothing will change, thanks to the disfiguring scar on her face. So why is she so enchanted by the sight of Raven’s jet-black hair, rakish smile, and wicked green eyes?
Nothing has changed. Raven still wonders how Hell-cat Hampden’s lithe body would feel pressed against his, but for the mission he must remind himself that the woman takes more pleasure in ancient languages than she does in seduction. His imprisonment six years ago broke him in a way that makes the prospect of love impossible. Still, his heart beats like mad whenever he’s within ten paces of Heloise, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe—even if that means taking her to Spain as an unwilling hostage. Protecting her from danger will be a challenge; protecting her from desire will be pure agony.

I'm always hesitant to try new authors, but the blurb for A Raven's Heart sounded intriguing, and I was in for a most pleasant surprise.  Heloise has been in love with Raven (William, Viscount Ravenwood) for years.  He's a close friend of her brothers, and treated her with teasing affection until the event happened that changed him and the course of his life.  When he was only nineteen years old, Raven was kidnapped and imprisoned by some thugs looking to earn a quick ransom from Raven's grandfather, a wealthy duke.  The duke was determined not to give in to their demands, and hired his own investigators, who failed to find Raven.  Now in fear for his life, Raven manages to kill his guard and make his escape.  The experience left Raven estranged from his grandfather and set him on the path of becoming a spy and an assassin when necessary.

Years have passed, and Raven has become more jaded, living a rakish lifestyle while continuing his secret service to the crown.  His affection for Heloise has turned to desire, but he feels the person he has become is totally unworthy of her.  He realizes that she still wants him, but chooses to keep her at arms length by sniping with her and generally annoying her.  Heloise (affectionately called "Hellcat" by Raven) has a distinct talent for code breaking, which has also been put to use by the crown.  When it appears that her identity has been breached by the enemy and her life is in danger, Raven is assigned to protect her, much against his will.  As can be expected, when Raven and Heloise are constantly together, the sparks begin to fly.

I like both of these characters.  I admire Heloise's intelligence, and her ability to stand up to Raven's smart mouth, and give back as good as she got.  Occasionally her determination overruled common sense, but that's part of what made this the good read it is.  Raven is the typical bad boy rake who is really a wounded hero at heart.  I found this story so engrossing and entertaining that I read it all in one sitting.  The action and steamy romance flowed along at a great pace, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  I'll be picking up the first book in this series as well as future efforts from K.C. Bateman.

~ Bonnie