Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.
Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.
But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…
I am going to admit, I am still really bitter that The Ladies of Lantern Street series was not closed out. I get hung up, ok. I was super excited when this one popped up on Goodreads and was listed as a Lantern Street book, because I like things to finish. So when I found out it wasn’t it was another bitter disappointment for me that I guess will never be resolved.
In any event, on to the book. The delightful thing (for me) is how you pretty well know exactly what you are going to get from an Amanda Quick (AKA Jayne Ann Krentz book). Broody hero. Strong and assertive heroine. Mystery. Initial deflowering scene where he doesn’t quite get the heroine to the point (at least during the act). Secondary romantic scene where there is bliss for both of them. Eventual realizing of flowering love. Resolution of mystery. And then the all important happily ever after.
So yes, it is stock. But it is stock that I enjoy at least in part because of nostalgia. The rest of it, is that even as she is recycling plots, the characters are usually still fresh and charming, and she mixes it up. So for instance, while she has written a stories featuring protagonists who write serialized novels, in this particular instance it is the hero rather than the heroine who writes them.
Which brings me to an interesting point on this. Quick’s novels for some time have become more and more feminist, with the heroines becoming more independent, and this one perhaps more so than usual. But what I found really eye catching, is that whereas in With This Ring, the heroine was fairly desperate to keep her separate life as an author secret, while in this one the hero blurts it out to all and sundry. While this brought some funny scenes, because everyone is a critic and blurts their opinions-many of which denigrate the romance plot he is shaping up in his series (it is rather meta), it also kind of made me give it the side eye. I can’t quite decide if it is a blind spot, or if it is one of her few nods to the historical double standard. Quick’s novels tend toward being more wallpaper historical than actual historical. I don’t know, it is a point to ponder.
In any event, the hero and heroine were charming with good chemistry, and there was no real relationship angst. In fact I was kind of surprised that we didn’t get the hero’s authoritative marriage demand immediately after the deflowering and/or the marry in haste learn to love in leisure trope. Maybe that is why the book had more of a feminist facade to me?
Secondary characters were also enjoyable and integral to the story. And the mystery was satisfyingly twisty, even though I saw who the villain was from a mile away, it jumped enough to keep me entertained. YMMV on how fast or if you figure it out, but I think since I have read literally everything this author has ever written, it made it easier to see where she was going with things.
All in all, this is another comfort read from Quick and I think it might go on my regular re-reads rotation, but again, at the $13.99 Kindle price point, I might hold off until it goes down or you can get it from the library.