Benedict Thorpe hadn’t planned on ever returning to England after leaving under a cloud seven years ago. Learning he’s about to be declared dead and the marquessate is about to devolve to his wastrel cousin, though, he reluctantly decides to return - only to have his identity questioned and his life threatened as his cousin valiantly attempts to oust him. A shocking death raises the stakes dramatically and throws everything into question - everything but his admiration for Lady Dorothea Rowland, a lady investigator determined to get to the bottom of the whole mess on behalf of her banker employer.
The mystery at the heart of this story had some intriguing twists and turns, although the villain of the story was logically obvious from early on as the only person with both motive, means and opportunity. For two smart people, Ben and Dorothea were a bit too willing to accept certain characters at face value, something I don’t think I’d be doing if a family member had been murdered and attempts made on my life. On the other hand, they were perhaps somewhat distracted by falling in lust.
The more I thought about it, the more irritated I felt about Ben having just abdicated his responsibility for years on end, especially with his mother ill. I couldn’t see any real reason which justified it; yes, sailing from America to England and back was quite the production in those days, but he literally owned a shopping company, and he knew from correspondence with the one trusted friend who knew he was alive that his cousin wasn’t doing right by the estate. Having failed in his responsibility thus far, I really didn’t get why he didn’t just continue to get on with the very nice life he’d made for himself and wash his hands of the title he didn’t want or use anyway.
The romance in this was excellent, and I really bought into Ben and Dorothea as a compatible couple (though once again he irritated me with his plans to push off back to Boston and leave her in charge). Dorothea is so delightful as a single lady who has embraced her status of being firmly on the shelf and found something productive to do with her life, so much so that she turns down Ben’s first proposal in a marvellous scene where she tells him she’s waited this long, she’s not settling for anything less than love.
Lynne Connolly is one of the best historical romance authors out there in terms of making her work feel genuinely authentic to the period; her research and knowledge really shines through and there’s no moment in this where it feels at all anachronistic. For that alone, I really want to give this five stars, but my continuing annoyance with the hero mean I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. Four stars, but it’s a very good read.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.