The third book in this Victorian-set trilogy promises us answers to the various mysteries that have been running through the series so far, such as the whereabouts of the true heir to the late Earl of Moreton, and just who is so determined to keep our heroes from finding the answers that they’re prepared to kill anyone who may hold any clue to the puzzle at all. The main action for this instalment shifts out of London and to the earl’s home itself, a forbidding place that holds bitter memories for one hero of the earlier books, and offers no welcome to the heroes of this current story.
We’ve already met the central characters in previous books; Pen (Penitence) and his twin sister Greta (Regret) Godfrey are the Flying Starlings: the trapeze act that so enthralled Clem in the first book of this trilogy. Meanwhile, private investigator Mark Braglewicz is a friend to the heroes of both the previous stories, and has been tasked with finding the missing heir before any of the bad guys track him down and end his claim to the title through nefarious means. The guys don’t get off to a great start following their first meeting: Pen knows that people are looking for him and is determined not to return to the oppressive religious community in which he and his sister were raised. Nor is he keen to assume the role of an aristocrat, once Mark reveals the background to his own search; Pen has no desire to either give up the trapeze or to live life as a conventional man: wearing male attire all the time and cutting his hair into a masculine style.
Mark, however, is attracted to Pen no matter how masculine, feminine, or neither, the other appears on any given day or in any particular situation and eventually manages to persuade Pen and Greta to accompany him to the earl’s country seat, where the other family members and their various spouses and companions are waiting to learn of the outcome of Mark’s search.
Once there, it becomes apparent that several of the other guests have no more desire than Pen to see him proclaimed as the new earl, and at least one person is determined to do away with Pen and various other potential claimants to the title, as well as to destroy all evidence of those claims. Fortunately, Mark’s friends – the heroes of the previous books – are on hand to lend support and assistance.
I enjoyed this book, and was keen to see how the final mystery might be resolved, along with how a solution might be found to Pen’s dilemma over the title. Parts of the ending felt a little rushed, resulting in my not enjoying this book as much as I did the first in the series. That said, it was still very refreshing to read another book in which a leading character identified as neither male nor female all of the time, and in which this was not seen as an obstacle to romance or to a long-term relationship by other characters in the story. Definitely a keeper of a series.
A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
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