England’s only female doctor and a lethal government agent with secrets of his own fall in love.
The fourth book in Kleypas’ (Devil in Spring, 2017, etc.) The Ravenels series brings back a popular minor character, the capable and friendly Dr. Garrett Gibson. Kleypas modeled her on Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who in 1865 became the first Englishwoman to qualify as a doctor. Garrett lives with her father above her busy office, and although her friendship with the Ravenels grants her proximity to wealth and nobility, she is fulfilled in her career and content in her life. At age 28, she may be "on the shelf," but "it happens to be a very interesting shelf." Little does the good doctor realize that in a chance encounter two years prior, her brilliance and beauty captivated secret government agent Ethan Ransom. Ransom, a “by-blow” of the late Earl of Ravenel, was raised by a prison guard. Rejecting his biological connections, he prefers a solitary, anonymous life, the better to exercise the espionage skills he gained under the tutelage of England’s most powerful spymaster. Kleypas’ depiction of the city Garrett and Ransom adore is one of the novel's delights: “It was a mean, big-bellied, prosperous city, shod in brick and iron, wearing a thick overcoat of factory smoke, carrying a million secrets in its pockets.” A terrorism subplot gives Ransom strong reason to stay away from Garrett, who is game for a fling but concerned about her reputation, precarious as it already is given her controversial line of work. While Ransom's workplace issues never quite gel, vivid romantic encounters in nooks of London not often featured in this subgenre—a fencing club, a raucous street party, a darkened lab—make this a love story to savor.
Another winner in Kleypas’ Ravenels series, with elegant prose, a fascinating heroine, and a Victorian London constructed with compelling historical detail.