I understand this to be a new pen name for historical romance author Lynne Connolly and I’m not surprised; Connolly knows the early-Georgian period better than almost any other histrom author I’ve ever read, and that knowledge of the period really comes across here and makes the story feel completely authentic. For a mystery series there’s a strong thread of romance in it too, but don’t be expecting steamy sex scenes, as those are absent. Indeed, the book opens right after heroine Julianna’s appallingly violent and brutal wedding night… which was a lot more violent and brutal than even she realised, since her new husband is dead beside her, stabbed through the heart.
Sir Edmund Ashenden (Ash) is a lawyer who assists the investigators of Bow Street on occasion, and this is definitely a case of interest, since Lady Julianna is one of the peerage. On meeting her, he realises almost immediately that he doesn’t think she did it… even if she clearly had cause. Determined to prove her innocence, he takes her case and the pair of them start investigating, following leads into London’s seedy underbelly.
Julianna and Ash are both from awful family backgrounds, though very different ones; Ash has a large group of living, and loving, siblings whereas Julianna is an only child. Ash’s parents were abusive but are now gone; Julianna spends much of the book trying to escape the control of hers. I feel like the shared struggles they face will make for a tight bond, and Ash understands Julianna better than someone who had grown up with loving parents ever could, and will give her the space she needs to get past the awful abuse she has suffered. I’ll be interested to see how their romance progresses in book 2, since they’ll actually be married in that one.
About the only thing I didn’t like here was the actual capture of the murderer. Yes, it completes the setting up of underworld boss The Raven as a series protagonist, but it also removed any real sense of triumph for Ash and Julianna and I think it was a mistake not to let them ‘solve’ the crime themselves.
Even with that quibble, however, I did genuinely love this and I will absolutely be looking for the next book in the series. Be prepared for potential triggers for sexual violence, but if you like historical mystery with a heavy side of romance - it’s almost historical romantic suspense - I think you’ll really enjoy this. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.