by Brianna Labuskes
Published on September 26, 2016 by Entangled Publishing LLC
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance
London, 1812. When the unconventional Gemma Lancaster embarked on a mission to infiltrate high society and avenge her beloved cousin's murder she never would have guessed she'd end up in the arms of a thief. At least, that's what she assumes when she discovers Lucas Stone breaking into a private safe.
Lucas Stone, the Earl of Winchester, has a reputation for arrogance and a soft-spot for his sister, which is how he ends up in the predicament of hiding behind a curtain at midnight with the dreadfully dull Miss Gemma Lancaster. But he soon discovers appearances can be deceiving when the country mouse turns into a spitfire in front of his eyes and she makes it clear she wants nothing to do with him.
Though one is chasing a blackmailer and the other a murderer, they quickly realize they are on the hunt for the same villain. Now they must work together, which would be fine, if they could decide if they'd rather fall in love or kill one another.
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What’s romance without a little murder?
We’re back in regency London where the ton are gossiping away about one scandal or another, playing matchmakers with their children, and ignoring one Gemma Lancaster. All except Lord Lucas Stone who knows there is more to the young woman than her easily overlooked appearance. While our leading lady and gentleman aren’t the killers themselves, they find themselves the perfect partners to investigate the death of Gemma’s cousin and the blackmailer extorting money from Lucas.
I loved this romance. Generally, novels in this particular genre have some type of mystery or intrigue in the background but the focus of the story rotates between sexual tension and sex, letting the plot take the backseat. Labuskes brought that plot forward and let her protagonists create a bond with each other. They certainly had flammable chemistry but I actually felt the friendship form before they started a fire.
Gemma is intelligent, snarky, and driven to find the truth regarding her cousin’s murder. She isn’t the type that’s all for doing everything on her own; she accepts help when she needs it but also isn’t afraid to get something done herself. In contrast, Lucas is more closed off but just as smart, a little overprotective, and the perfect balance for Gemma. He has his own secrets but finds himself falling for her with the little things: trusting her with personal information, knowing she’ll have his back when they go gallivanting about town searching for clues. They pair up believing both of their current missions are connected and in turn find an equal in each other they missed with the rest of their class..
Labuskes doesn’t just tell their story, however. Beatrice, the younger sister of Lucas, has a romance of her own with an employee of his, Mr. Harrington. It isn’t the strongest storyline in the book but plays its own role. Generally you see this in a sequel (a side character gets their own happily ever after) but I actually liked the addition to this story, solidifying the idea of plot being just as important as the romance.
There’s definitely a lot of mystery intertwined with Gemma and Lucas, but I wanted to see it drawn out further. I guessed the murderer’s identity pretty early on and I’m not sure if the author intended for it to be so easy or I picked up on something otherwise easily overlooked, but a longer novel would have afforded more time to explore the mystery. Plus, on the romance end, while I’m used to relationships moving quick in these types of books, I like this couple. I wanted more from them in terms of character development that wouldn’t necessarily have to be related to the mystery itself.
Overall, this has been one of the most enjoyable romances I’ve read this year and I only wish it was a series. I’ll definitely be looking out for more from Brianna Labuskes!