When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve.
Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?
This was a really great book by an author I’ve never read before, and I almost missed it! Set in London’s less than rich and beautiful areas just before the Victorian era began, it was a fantastic mix of crime, romance and intrigue.
But – oh My God! – the packaging! The cover… I thought it was a contemporary romance in the spirit of Mills and Boon’s racier lines. The title has pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with the story. (Maybe the goal was for the series to be named in the spirit of Madeline Hunter’s? Ravishing in Red, Dangerous in Diamonds etc.?). I downloaded the review book when I ran out of historical reads, and only after checking out a slew of positive reviews.
The reviews were right. It wasn’t quite perfect, but I’m VERY glad I read it.
This is almost exactly the type of historical romance I want to read. Not entirely focused on the romance, and properly capturing how life was back then – no fairy tales. Interesting characters and true nineteenth century “morals” coming into how society operated. A real exploration of London beyond the ballrooms.
Our heroine is a single mother and very young (nineteen). Her past is a mystery to most people. She was strong and intelligent and interestingly Irish Catholic, which of course had a huge effect on her life in England in the 1830s. I did think she was a little too composed for her age and had her future a little too well organised (having lived on my own in London at nineteen, I know I was nowhere near that “together” at that age!).
Our hero was wonderful because he was flawed enough to be believable. He doesn’t have all the answers, and at twenty-four he is still trying to find his way while rebelling against his upper middle class family. One of my favourite things was that he was nowhere near the sex expert he hoped people would believe he was.
For example, when he tries out something he learnt from a naughty book, and Poppy ends up with a bleeding lip:
Yet she couldn’t help but giggle at the absurdity of him sitting at home in his great library, surrounded by classics, combing over the pages of a tattered pornographic pamphlet.
And when he brought her a present she couldn’t accept:
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, remaining in the doorway of that tenement house. Red spread across his cheeks, and she couldn’t bring himself to add onto his crestfallen state.
I did think that the relationship moved a bit too fast; the entire book takes place over a very short space of time, and huge life changes are made based on that attraction. I also thought the villain was a bit over-the-top evil with not enough motivation.
Additionally, there were a few jarring Americanisms (gotten often appeared two or three times a page). The worst offender was the second floor washing that was apparently hitting Thaddeus in the face – he’d had to have been a giant for that to happen! Outside of America, you have the ground floor on ground level, and then the first floor is the first floor up, and so on!
However, this was a great read, and I didn’t feel that I’d missed out on any important backstory by starting the series with book two.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.