From the desk of Sophia Rose:
When a mystery series is introduced with such words as, “…inspired by the novels of Jane Austen,” you may be sure that I will be more than willing to delve right in with alacrity. Wilde created a capable heroine who was high born, fallen with her family’s disgrace, and risen by her own resolution and strength as a useful woman to those who were once her peers, and what began with curiosity continues to impress with a deep appreciation for her spirit and intelligence.
And Dangerous to Know is so titled to best suit one of the intriguing real historical elements of this third installment in the Rosalind Thorne series which works best read in order. In this latest, Rosalind is involved with ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ Lord Byron, indirectly. While never actually present, he can be felt throughout the book.
Rosalind has recovered from her last encounter with murder and peacefully keeping up her prodigious amounts of correspondence, her household affairs, and trying to help her friend Alice figure out where Alice’s brother George has been disappearing to each evening. Meanwhile, she ponders the affairs of her conflicted heart—a duke or a detective?
This is all interrupted when an imperious summons brings her to the august doors of Melbourne House and she encounters its notorious mistress, Lady Melbourne, and her more notorious daughter in law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Melbourne has letters written by Lord Byron that have gone missing and they are such that ruin for several will happen if they are ever published or the contents bandied about. Rosalind has a bad feeling about the whole thing, but when Lady Jersey recommended her and another society queen wishes to hire her, there is only one answer to give.
When she goes home to retrieve her things to stay at Melbourne House pretending to be Lady M’s social secretary, Adam Harkness arrives with an even grimmer commission, but oddly related because a body was delivered to Bow Street and it had come from Melbourne House. Adam can’t get inside and investigate such aristocratic people, but Rosalind can. She agrees to help him.
The investigation is complicated by more people knowing about Byron’s letters than at first thought and all of them having strong motives to take them. No one claims to know anything about a visiting nurse’s disappearance save the laudanum-crazed Lady Caroline and the doctor who hides his grief over the loss.
Adam plans to back Rosalind up and follow up on his end of the investigation when a jealous superior pulls him off the case and puts him on another while directing Adam to accept social invitations to hobnob with the upper classes. He claims Adam’s star is on the rise and he’s trying to help him. Adam just wants to do his job and doesn’t appreciate the interference, but he has to be careful because his career is on the line and the supervisor already doesn’t like Rosalind since she was crucial in solving past cases. He has to make sure she is safe since he feels her put her into danger investigating such a powerful family and she means a great deal more to him than she should since there is a class difference. Rosalind will find a way through it all if anyone can.
And Dangerous to Know pulled me right back into Rosalind’s Regency world where wealth and splendor are a veneer for true human nature and motives. There are grit and grime to these stories and not just palatial homes and glittering balls.
The main characters are vulnerable and flawed people as well as gifted at what they do. Rosalind gets the bulk of the narration with Adam the close second, but there are also snippets from other major players so the reader gets a multi-faceted story. There are complexities to each character that make them as mysterious as the main plot.
The blend of fiction and real-life is seamless and it is fun to see how the author chooses to fill in the details of what can only be guessed at when it comes to the characters. I’ve read a biography of Lord Byron and read some of his poetry, which sorry, wasn’t my thing, so I could appreciate what the author did with the real-life personages in this story especially Lady Caroline and her husband, William Lamb. I thought the author’s balance between sympathetic and wanton was just the right touch.
The mystery kept me guessing until the final clues fell into place. I had that moment when the light bulb lit, and I felt I should have seen the truth before and was as distracted as Rosalind about where the facts were leading which is always fun in a mystery.
The ending felt rushed and left me somewhat dazed. I still had a few questions once the dust settled. After being introduced to all those characters, I would have liked their responses when the truth was revealed and not just a couple.
However, I can’t claim deep disappointment since I finished with a strong desire to have the next book in my hands. There are definitely a couple plot threads that are meant to carry over into the next book.
All in all, it was another smashing success in the series and I can’t recommend it enough to those who enjoy a more authentic historical backdrop, complex female lead, whiff of romance, and cunning mystery.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
And Dangerous to Know (Rosalind Thorne Mystery Book 3), by Darcie Wilde
Kensington (December 31, 2019)
Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (352) pages
Cover image courtesy of Kensington © 2019; text Sophia Rose © 2020, Austenprose.com