Quick (Lie by Moonlight, 2005, etc.) takes us to the waning days of Queen Victoria’s reign, adding some clever feminist touches and a dollop of premarital sex.
The theft of a notebook from the newly discovered, 200-year-old laboratory of Sylvester the Alchemist lies at the heart of this nimble historical romance. After the theft, Gabriel Jones, a member of the Arcane Society founded by Sylvester, transports his other relics to the society’s isolated headquarters for safekeeping. Comely photographer Venetia Milton is invited to Arcane House to record the top-secret objects, and handsome Gabriel seems the perfect partner for her private plan to rid herself of her virginity without jeopardizing her social standing in Bath. A spirited virgin in her late 20s (and she’s psychic too!), Venetia has no hopes of marrying, charged as she is with supporting her siblings after the death of their parents. She has no problem seducing Gabriel, but he fully intends to marry her, in order to tame an atavistic brutality he’s afraid he harbors. Some menacing thugs lurking in the bushes outside Arcane House temporarily separate this unlikely pair; whoever stole the notebook is also a killer, and in order to elude him, Gabriel goes underground, faking his own death. He hadn’t counted on Venetia taking advantage of this death to claim status as his widow and becoming a hit in London as a portrait photographer. Things turn sticky when Gabriel re-materializes, and the couple has to make awkward appearances together as man and wife. As part of this cozy ruse, Gabriel is installed in the attic of the Milton residence, thereby ensuring the acquaintances of Venetia’s 16-year-old sister Amelia, winning younger brother Edward and well-intentioned Aunt Beatrice.
Polished, proficient romantic suspense.