I reviewed the first book SWEET REVENGE (click here) and the second in the series THE COCOA CONSPIRACY (click here), as well as interviewed the author (click here). Today I review the newest addition to the series and judge how well it is keeping up with the bar set in the first two books.
Copyright: December 2012 (Signet) 336 pgs
Series: 3rd in Lady Arianna Regency Mysteries
Sensuality: mild romance
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Intrigue
Main Character: Lady Arianna Hadley
Setting: England, 1814
Obtained Through: from publisher for an honest review
Time-wise, this book picks up closely after the finish of the second in the series. This book can stand on its own, but is richer if the prior two books have been read. We join Lady Arianna and her new husband Sandro, the Earl of Saybrook, as they travel with their friend Henley to Scotland to follow up on their discovery of a traitorous plot against England. They are ambushed on the road, and while in Scotland it is clear the adversary is one step ahead of them. Could their be a traitor among the English government? Who can be trusted grows more murky as Arianna and the Earl of Saybrook race against the clock to keep explosive plans from striking a blow against England.
To add to the personal stakes, the Earl's long standing friendship with a society lady, Miss Sophia Kirtland, is brought to the forefront since her assistance is needed. Arianna's conflicted feelings are swirling amidst the cat-and-mouse game of intrigue, which notches up the tension overall.
Arianna is a smart action oriented character, perfect for intrigue and improvisation as she dons disguises and chases shadows. The marriage of convenience with the Earl is getting more difficult as her feelings become stronger for him. In this addition to the series, the reader isn't as sure about the Earl's feelings as in the last book, which combines with the intrigue for an emotional ride. The Earl is more of a forceful presence as he and Arianna risk their lives. Their friend Hennley takes some emotional hits and his loyalties are even questioned. The Earl's friendship with Sophia Kirtland brings a new, strong female to the mix. She throws a few twists for Arianna, but adds to the overall story in her own right. Sophia was the breakout character that the reader can't help but become invested in.
This series takes full advantage of the regency time period with the innovations to hot air balloon travel and the rumors of Napolean attempting to escape exile and make a power grab. Scotland and London are wonderously portrayed taking the reader vividly to that time and place in the past.
The plot is an enjoyable romp with a few areas to catch your breath. The pacing is taut and finely balanced to create a page-turner. Well done! The climax has a well conceived and executed suspenseful chase. The wrap-up answers some questions, but leaves others dangling to entice the reader with the next book.
This book is on the verge of tipping over into a historical thriller with its breathless intrigue worthy of a regency-era Laura Croft-esque heroine and equally adventurous hero, yet with developed characters to contribute to the recipe.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. It really is that good. I am still surprised this isn't released in hard-cover. If you enjoy C.S. Harris or Tasha Alexander, you should love this book too.