Tracy’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Pretenders, #1
Release Date: August 7, 2020
Harry Sheffield, younger son of the Earl of Aylesbury and constable for Bow Street, has been tasked by his father to learn all he can about a fortune-teller named Madame Sybila, whom his mother has been visiting. He has tracked her to a perfume shop on the Strand and hopes to get the proof he needs to shut her down. But Madame Sybila surprises him, she refuses to see him and no matter how much he offers, she won’t “read” his cards. She asks him to leave and when he says he will be back, she surprises him by saying Bow Street is not that far.
Selina Blackwell aka Madame Sybila aka Lady Gresham is exactly what Harry thinks she is – a scammer and a fraud. She has had a hard life, orphaned early in life and raised with her brother on the streets of London, then sent to school, where she met another lost child, Beatrix. After years at school, she lost touch with her brother and built a life for herself and Beatrix. She has returned to London as Lady Gresham to introduce Beatrix to society, with the hope that her father – the Duke of Ramsgate – will acknowledge her and offer to support her. She plans to steer clear of Harry, but when she learns he is looking into a fire that killed several people – including her brother – she decides to befriend him to learn who killed her brother and get revenge. But things don’t work out as she plans and she learns that her brother is not dead and happens to be the “Vicar”, the very criminal mastermind that Harry is looking for!
Selina plays a deep game, juggling her many personas and trying to keep herself from falling in love with Harry. Harry is thwarted at every turn in his investigations of Madame Sybila and the Vicar and completely smitten with Lady Gresham. Harry is falling hard for Selina and begins to think of forever, but when the truth comes out, he is shattered and any chance of HEA is gone…or is it?
I thought this was an interesting story, there was a lot going on and was not quite as cohesive as I have come to expect from Ms. Burke. I liked the characters, Harry is to die for, but I was not thrilled that Selina kept lying to Harry for so long, I understand the reasoning, but I still didn’t like it and while I didn’t hate her, I spent a good portion of the book disappointed with her. The book has a bit of everything, intrigue, shocking revelations, secrets, lies, fraud, betrayal, steamy love scenes, a kleptomaniac, a meddling yet loving family, heartache, a very forgiving hero and finally a HEA that seemed impossible.
This is the first book in a new series, but it has ties to the Spitfire Society and you will see some familiar names if you have read that series. And as there were some lingering, unanswered questions in this book, I will be looking forward to the future installments with the hope that they will be resolved in Beatrix and Rafe’s stories.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by the publisher.*