Whew! My head is still spinning after finishing this book. In one book you get a romance, a murderer, a thief, a spy, a smuggler, revenge, treason, blackmail, treasure hunts, and a really strange household where deep dark secrets reside. Yes, it is very busy! It is also fast-paced, well-written, interesting, and filled with characters you either want to get to know better – or you want to slap them (or worse). The main focus of the story is the mystery, but the romance dovetails nicely into it. Those of you who like steamy romances will be disappointed because there is no steam, but there is a very honorable hero who treats his lady with trust, honor, and respect. I say that is a well done.
Phoebe Radcliff, a gifted artist, is the daughter of Lord Torrington who is a spymaster. She left home in disgrace two years ago and is now studying under the tutelage of a renowned artist, Miss Drake. Phoebe and her friend Daniel are making good progress on their art project, but she’s not so focused that she doesn’t wonder about some of the goings-on. Why are Mr. and Mrs. Fagean there as permanent guests? They are odd people and Mr. Fagean is practically running the estate.
Lt. Graham Burke unexpectedly arrives at his aunt’s home with a load of antiquities he plans to sell to a neighbor and isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. When his aunt, Miss Drake, is murdered things really start popping. The weapon used would tend to implicate Graham, but he loves his aunt. As she lay dying, she whispered a final message to Phoebe and that sets off a major treasure hunt.
Graham and Phoebe are trying to solve the riddles that will lead them to the treasure and solve Miss Drake’s murder at the same time. Are the two things connected? What about the strange behavior of Mr. and Mrs. Fagean? Daniel is also acting strangely. Secrets – secrets-within-secrets – how will they ever untangle this can of worms?
I thoroughly enjoyed the story, but I would have liked it just as well (or better) if some of the sub-plots were left out. It was just a very busy book. There was some very modern phraseology – like “How is that working for you”, but other than that it was a great mystery and a sweet love story combined. Goodness – I don’t think you can go wrong with that. The story also alluded to Phoebe’s parentage a couple of times, but never really finished it – so why include it at all?
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.