The Mistaken Wife

A Novel

The Mistaken Wife

It is the autumn of 1797. The war between the British and the French is being fought not just openly but also in secret by a network of spies. Reluctant heiress Mary Finch is no stranger to adventure, but even she hesitates before accepting this assignment: to travel secretly to Paris and disrupt vital Franco-American negotiations. She must rely wholly upon a stranger while deceiving her "dearest friend," Captain Robert Holland. Once in France, Mary’s safety rests on a knife-edge, and her colleague has secrets of his own. Undaunted, she sets about her task with wit, stealth, and determination. But she is not the only spy in Paris, and there is more than one British life in jeopardy if she fails. As implacable enemies join forces against her, Mary may lose everything.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 432 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416560951 | 
  • September 2010
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Mistaken Wife includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rose Melikan. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Mary Finch is feeling dissatisfied with her sedate life in the English countryside, so she is thrilled when the mysterious Mr. Shy once again offers her a chance to spy for her country—only this time, she must travel to Paris, the heart of enemy territory and the scene of so much Revolutionary violence. Keeping her plans secret—even from the dashing Captain Holland—Mary becomes the “wife” of an American artist, Samuel Vangenzen.

Vangenzen reveals to Mary that he is already married to a former slave, Minta, with whom he lives in Paris. The two women are wary of each other, especially as Mary’s efforts to disrupt important Franco-American negotiations expose both the Vangenzens to danger. Mary’s difficulties grow when she discovers that Captain Holland is also in Paris, charged with recovering a strange new invention that could turn the tide of war. She and Holland must hurry to complete their tasks while avoiding the suspicions of the French authorities, including their old adv see more

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About the Author

Rose Melikan
Photo Credit: Jeff Cottenden

Rose Melikan

Rose Melikan was born in Detroit, Michigan.  Since 1993, she has been a Fellow of St. 
Catharine's College, Cambridge.  Her academic research centers on 18th and early 19th 
British political and constitutional history.  She lives in Cambridge, England with her husband.