Madeleine DuMais, the illegitimate daughter of a French opium-addicted actress and an English naval officer, is a French spy, ser-ving the English government. She is called to a mission in England where she is to aid Thomas Blackwood in discovering the perpetrators of an opium smuggling operation.
Thomas poses as a scholar, writing his war memoirs, while Madeleine is to be his French translator. Needless to say she encounters all manner of gossip and ill treatment for being French and for living with an unmarried man, whatever the supposed nature of her employ.
Madeleine, at 29 and living on her own for many years, is hardly the shy virgin. In fact, it is Thomas who delays the physical side of their relationship until he can get Madeleine to care for him. Everything hinges on his being able to make her fall in love with him when he reveals who he is and the role he has taken in her life.
While the love story between Madeleine and Thomas is passionate and moving, the plot itself is troublesome. Neither Madeleine nor Thomas is a particularly convincing spy. And Madeleines virtual obsession with all things English due to her French mother mistreating her and her English father, whom she saw only four times in her life but who supposedly loved her, hardly rings true. Nevertheless, the love story itself is intriguing if one discounts the improbability of the plot. SENSUAL (Jun., 350 pp., $5.99)