On a pale purple cover, a man and woman dressed as a maid and butler are surrounded by a border of flowers with items like tea cups and a castle illustrated in between.

About the Book

Title: The Secret Service of Tea and Treason (Dangerous Damsels #3)
Published: 2023

First Impressions: Third Time’s A Charm
What’s Your Type? Spies, Fake Marriages, Only One Bed, Two Straight Men In A Crowd of Pirates, Learning To Love
Meet Cute: Fake Marriage Of Convenience
The Lean: Competency Porn
We Need to Talk: Thoughtfully Fun
Was It Good For You? A Standing “O”

First Impressions: Third Time’s A Charm

I’m glad this cover falls in line with the other two and they didn’t mix it up at the end of the series. It’s pretty and girly and I love all the little touches that relate to the book.

What’s Your Type?

  • Spies
  • Fake Marriages
  • Only One Bed
  • Two Straight Men In A Crowd of Pirates
  • Learning To Love

Dating Profile

Agent A—or Alice to her friends, if she had any—is one of the top agents in A.U.N.T., a secret government agency comprised of people who can fade into the background: your butler or valet, your ladies’ maid or server. Because A.U.N.T. recruits from young orphans and trains them to be loyal workers, not much ruffles Alice’s feathers, and there’s no ugly dress or would-be assassin she can’t handle.

Alice’s greatest rival in the spy agency is the elusive and extremely capable Agent B, who has apparently spent the last few years undercover in the pirate Alex O’Leary’s home as his right-hand man. That much forced proximity to the rakish rogue has made the eminently proper and stoic Daniel Bixby a little…different than he used to be, as evidenced by the earring he’s kept wearing long after his job with Alex ended.

Meet Cute: Fake Marriage Of Convenience

Alice and Daniel actually met briefly in the last book in Bath, where they were both pretending to be nothing more than a maid and a butler. Alice is excited to learn she is going to work a high-stakes undercover mission with Agent B, until she finds out it’s the only man she’s ever thought more than two seconds about. Worse yet, they’re going to need to be pretend to be married AND pirates if they’re going to infiltrate a pirate party to search for a weapon designed to assassinate Queen Victoria. It will be the ultimate test of their skills.

The Lean: Competency Porn

Both Daniel and Alice are orphans raised by an uncaring spy agency, so their emotional maturity is quite stunted and they’re both secretly longing for a human touch yet unable to voice that need. It’s quite clear with every reveal they learn about each other that they’re equally smitten, and Holton finds the right balance between “just kiss already” and shaking your head in amusement at these silly fools in love. I enjoyed seeing the two of them, both quite capable, become more protective of each other while still recognizing the other’s killer strengths.

Dirty Talk

By this point in the series, you know that Holton delights in nothing more than a witty, pithy double entendre or euphemism, and her love scenes are true to form. There were some moments of sweetness:

He smiled, making her shiver right through. “You know when you open a new book and realize it’s going to be perfect?” he whispered.

“Yes,” Alice said.

“That’s how I feel when I look at you.”

However, my favorite “dirty” moments were when Alice just did not get the euphemisms everyone around her was using:

As Daniel returned to the washroom to dress again, Alice and Veronica shared a speaking glance. “Oh my giddy aunt,” Veronica whispered.

“Your giddy A.U.N.T.?” Alice whispered back, confused.

Veronica’s eyebrows gave a suggestive dance. “I’ll bet that man has a golden gun, if you know what I mean.”

“No, it’s metal, with—”

“And balls of steel.”

Alice felt like she had fallen entirely off the roller coaster of this conversation. “Do you refer to some variation of cricket?”

Veronica fanned herself with her apron. “I wonder if he would shoot me if I asked?”

Alice stared with concern at the girl. She was rambling incoherently and expressing suicidal ideation; clearly, A.U.N.T. had overworked her!

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose

Forget purple prose—once again I highlighted so many snort-worthy lines and scenes that I’m surprised my e-reader didn’t just ask if I wanted ALL of it to be highlighted pink. Some choice nuggets:

“Very well, return to headquarters and bring us back the information. But be quick about it. Any moment now, the Wisteria Society might—”

“Find the weapon and use it for nefarious purposes,” Mia said, nodding somberly.

Daniel frowned . “ I was more thinking they might—”

“Discover your identity and force you to walk the plank?”

“Make us play another parlor game,” Alice said, and both she and Daniel shuddered.

She nodded to the old man, then strode across the room, her bootheels tapping smartly against its wooden floorboards. Alice loved that sound. It made her feel like a capable woman. An intelligent woman. A woman who had this morning made an omelet without it turning into scrambled eggs! Certainly not a woman who had tossed and turned all night, trying to ignore visions of a bespectacled butler straightening his cuffs after having bashed a man senseless.

The pirates were my FAVE this book:

“Let us in,” Mrs. Rotunder called out in a voice as sweet as Mrs. Kew’s tea. “We only want to chat!”

“Chat you right off the plank,” Millie added, chuckling.

“Millie!” Mrs. Rotunder tsked with exasperation. “I’m trying to fool them into a false sense of security.”

“They’re spies, not idiots,” Millie retorted. “Well, not complete idiots.”

“Fair point,” Mrs. Rotunder said, and the thumping against the door grew louder.

Now the pirates were enjoying a quiet period, much in the same way the eye of a hurricane is quiet. Settled in the Ecru Drawing Room, they engaged in ladylike occupations such as needlework—“oh, stop sniveling, Olivia, I’ll have this tattoo finished in one minute”—sipping a few extra cups of tea—“dearest, could you pass me the milk jug, and by milk jug I mean rum bottle”—and attending to their correspondence—“I say, Hadiza, how do you spell extortion?

We Need To Talk: Thoughtfully Fun

It’s never made explicit in the text, but I got the sense that both Alice and Daniel may have been on the autism spectrum. Some of it was definitely just the way they were raised by literal killers, but there were other moments, like the memories they shared about their childhood punishments, and Alice’s reactions to what she perceived as over-stimulating experiences, her issue with light touches, and her inability to recognize idioms. It made for a bit more of a grounded story than the previous two, mainly because you just wanted to see these attention-starved people finally get the love and appreciation they deserved from someone other than their favorite books.

We’ve already seen plenty of the Wisteria Society pirates, and their wacky hijinks were on full display in this book, and I loved every glimpse of their antics even as it exhausted our main characters. Please, someone, invite me to a pirate house party! I would love to play “the floor is lava” with them while trying to steal the host’s silver candlesticks. I also liked that our previous main characters popped in here and there for little cameos, tying everything together.

Was It Good For You? A Standing “O”

The ending made me happy-sigh, and I laughed my way through the book. It’s such a fun, inventive, and smartly funny series that has surprised and delighted me for the last few years, and the author gave it a happy conclusion. I look forward to seeing what new worlds India Holton comes up with next!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Berkley. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Secret Service of Tea and Treason is available now.

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Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.