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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review - Sweet Revenge

Welcome to September, back to school and fall is approaching (at least in these parts).  Today we are time traveling to Regency England for a mystery featuring a unique heroine and lots of chocolate!

Author:  Andrea Penrose

Copyright:  April 2011 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series:  1st in  Lady Arianna Hadley Mystery

Sensuality:  light romance, heavy innuendo and period cursing

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character:  Lady Arianna Hadley, although a lady, her father was disgraced and died when she was 15 and she had to make her way alone and penniless in the world.

Setting:  1813,England

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Since her father was murdered when she was fifteen, Lady Arianna lived through hellish times to survive, with her driving goal to find her father's killer and make him pay pushing her on. Which is why she is disguised as a French chef in Lady Spencer's home gathering information for her revenge. Her plans are interrupted when somebody attempts to poison the Prince Regent using her chocolate desert. Somebody felt the chef was the easy target to set up for such a treasonous act and Lady Arianna is now under scrutiny.

Alessandro De Quincy, the Earl of Saybrook is enlisted by an underhanded government official to investigate in spite of his war injury to his leg. Nevertheless Saybrook had been in the intelligence branch during the war and is sharp and devious. He sees through Arianna's disguise, just in time to save her from a bullet. He decides that she can be of use in the investigation and they reluctantly join forces to determine who tried to kill the Prince and why.

While this had all the ingredients to have been a good regency romance, the author kept the romantic tension in the background and focused on making a suspenseful mystery which paid off exponentially. Arianna is a heroine that you route for immediately. She has been through the school of hard knocks and survived with vengeance driving her. She picked up many skills along the way including the use of disguise from a theater group and especially how to fight dirty to survive. She has hardened herself and believes that she has no heart anymore after the things she has had to do in life. Trust does not come easily at all, and she sure doesn't trust the aristocrat Saybrook, after all, it was an aristocrat that murdered her father.

Saybrook has never been the same since the war and his injury. The assignment tossed to him by the government is clearly to let him be the fall guy for any missteps in the investigation. Saybrook takes this new lease on life and is inspired to get to the truth and not be used as a convenient scapegoat. The Saybrook character is just complicated enough with glimpses of his personal pain yet fire for life.

The plot has plenty of twists and surprises making it suspenseful. Who killed Arianna's father is not who anybody expected and that goes for the person who made the attempt on the Prince's life. The motivation for all this becomes clear as the story plays out.

The climatic confrontation with the killer is a nail-biter and gets the blood pumping, so kudos there. I must confess I didn't expect this level of writing, plot and character development that was balanced and polished throughout. I feel this should have been released in hardcover and spotlighted by the publisher more.

This novel contains drama, mystery, intrigue, adventure, smuggling, an influential criminal ring, history, sharp wit, and a touch of romance all blended seamlessly. I found this novel easily rivaled the Sebastion St. Cyr series and for me may (may) have even out done it. If you enjoy historical mysteries with plenty of suspense and intrigue, Sebastion St. Cyr, Charles Lennox, the gaslight mysteries with Sergeant Frank Malloy, or the Lady Emily mysteries I think you owe it to yourself to read this novel.

Some chocolate history

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Jo said...

Sounds good. My library doesn't have it, but I added it to my WL.

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