A PERFECT EQUATION by Elizabeth Everett
Berkley Trade Paperback Original | On sale February 15, 2022
Slipping through the crowd, Letty approached the building as a thin wail rose from the doorway. A beady-eyed man with a pinched mouth and spidery fingers had grabbed the shopgirl by the wrist, halting her escape.
“Don’t bother trying to go to work. We’re shutting this place down until they stop employing women in their factories and hire the men back,” the man said.
A tinkling of broken glass punctuated his threat as someone launched a sign at the ground-floor window of the shop. The atmosphere turned in an instant from hectoring to predatory. With a foreshadowing of violence, the group of individuals molded into a single organism-a dragon ready to pounce on whatever threatened. This monster’s hoard consisted of power rather than gold.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Letty said through gritted teeth, clenching the straps of her heavy reticule in one hand.
“Letty!” Sam called after her. “Letty Fenley, you come back here this instant. I know you don’t listen to me, but for goodness’ sake, will you listen to me?”
Fear set her stomach to churning, but Letty allowed nothing to show on her face. Instead, she stuck her chin out and her shoulders back. Never again would she suffer a man intimidating her into submission, and she’d be damned if she watched this happen to any other woman. As Flavia Smythe-Harrows always said, sexual dimorphism does not excuse bad behavior.
What a pity Letty didn’t have that printed on a banner.
Without benefit of a rival sign, she used what was available in the moment. Swinging her reticule around twice to achieve maximal momentum, Letty brought it down, hard, on the wrist of Beady Eyes.
“You let go of that girl, right now, you weasel-faced, onion-breathed . . .” Letty’s stream of insults was drowned in the crowd’s protest at the sight of their fellow man being assaulted by what someone deemed “half a pint-sized shrew.”
“Half a pint indeed,” Letty shouted back. “I’m less than an inch shorter than the median height for a woman of my weight, based on-Oy, stop waving that sign in my face.”
Before Letty could take another swing at Beady Eyes, the sound of horses whinnying and men shouting from somewhere at the edge of the crowd broke the tension; a decrescendo from taunting voices to garbled protests heralded the arrival of authority. Jumping up for a better look, Letty spied two well-dressed men on horseback.
“On your way,” a clipped, aristocratic voice shouted to the crowd. “Disperse at once.”
The crowd buckled, its mood shifting from dangerous to frustrated. Letty protected the girl as best she could from the sudden shoving around them. Most of her attention, however, fixed on the familiarity of those crisp, clean syllables echoing in the air.
She would know that voice anywhere. Their rescue rode toward them in the form of Lord William Hughes, the Viscount Greycliff. A traitorous wave of relief that he would put an end to the danger was quickly followed by a cold dose of shame.
Six years ago, she’d believed him the epitome of nobility and elegance until that voice had delivered a verdict upon her head. The words he’d said and the pain they’d caused were etched into her memory forever.
“I don’t care if you’re Prince Albert himself. Move your arse, man!” A deeper baritone, the voice of Greycliff’s companion, now carried over the crowd. “Put down the signs, or I’ll put them down for you.”
“Are they here to rescue us?” the girl asked.
Visions of Greycliff riding up on a snow white steed flashed before Letty’s eyes. A handful of years before, such an image would have set her heart to racing and put roses on her cheeks. She would have caught her ruffled skirts in one hand, ready to be swept away by a hero, lit from behind by a shaft of golden sunlight.
Not anymore. The dirty grey-brown reality of working-class London remained solid and smelly before her eyes. These days, romantic scenes remained between the pages of a well-thumbed book.
“Never wait for someone else to rescue you,” Letty advised. “Especially a man. They’ll ride away on those fine horses afterward, and where will you be? Still here, cleaning the mess, having to work for an owner who couldn’t even be bothered to come out here after you. Rescue yourself, my dear.”
“Shall we run for it?”
“We could, but I’ve a better idea.” Letty turned to Beady Eyes and held up her reticule. The man flinched, but she had other plans.
“Want to get rid of two troublesome women?” she asked him. Pouring out a palmful of coins, Letty made an offer. “Here’s your chance.”
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Secret Scientists of London, #2
Release Date: February 15, 2022
Years ago Letty made a mistake that cost her and her family their tenuous place in society, it also caused the rift between her and Grey. A rift that remained intact until they were forced to work together and Grey learns the truth of what really happened versus the “truth” his godfather Lord Melton told him. Plagued through childhood by seizures, Lord Melton was the man that took Grey under his wing and molded him into the disciplined, emotionless, serious man he is today. He is also the man that brought Grey into the “Department” a secret government agency that manages domestic strife, and now that he is retiring, he has offered the position to Grey, but when the leader of the Guardians vies for the position, Lord Melton suggests that Grey close down Athena’s Retreat will show the funders of the department that he is the best choice.
As a brilliant mathematician, Letty fights tooth and nail to dissuade Grey from closing the club, a place that is a safe haven for so many women, herself included. And at the same time fights to keep herself from falling in love with a man she should despise! Because despite his many flaws, Grey shows her great kindness and respect and she finds she is not as immune to him as she thought. Together they try to find a way to keep the club open and out of the Guardians sites – but when danger strikes, Grey may have to betray Letty to keep her safe and the price may well be their HEA.
This is the second installment of the Secret Scientists of London series, but this well-written novel can certainly be read as a standalone title. This book is not quite as wordy as the first book and while a lot is going on, it also seems more focused than the first book. The book does sport some steamyish love scenes, great secondary characters, a few amusing scenes, secrets, closure, and a sigh-worthy ending. I did enjoy this book more than the previous offering, but with that said, I still felt that romance was muted and not quite as satisfying as I had hoped for. Overall, this was a very good read, which I would happily recommend and I am looking forward to the next installment!
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*