Rating: 4 out of 5.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4

This is a good historical fiction romance mystery book. I haven’t read many books with these components and it was a nice change of pace. This is book seven in the series. I haven’t read any of the previous books but since this is a stand alone story it isn’t necessary to read the others. There is also plenty of exposition that explains a lot of the backstory of the characters, so I didn’t feel lost.

Ned Wentworth came from the streets and used to pick pockets to survive until he was rescued from prison by a powerful aristocratic family. Since then he’s learned to dress, waltz, and express himself as elegantly as any lordling, but he still feels like the same low-born street kid, unworthy of anything good. When Lady Rosalind Kinwood’s maid goes missing, she turns to Ned to help her find the missing maid because of his street connections.

Rosalind is smart, strong and expresses her opinion, so naturally she’s seen as an oddity in social circles. But Ned values those qualities and actually listens to her, and Rosalind appears to see past Ned’s past. As the search for the missing maids becomes more dangerous, Ned and Rosalind risk not only their lives, but their hearts, to solve the mystery.

The author does a great job of building Rosalind and Ned’s characters. I really liked how they connected and discussed their problems. One of the things that bugs me about romance books is that some authors tend to use a miscommunication between the parties as a plot point to push the characters into realizing they love each other. This miscommunication always occurs between the couple doesn’t bother to actually talk to each other. Here, however, the characters start to realize the depth of their feelings because they are open and honest with each other and talk about what is going on. It’s refreshing to read.

The book started out at a good pace but when the mystery took over rather than the romance, it slowed down. There was also a lot of exposition about Ned’s past that also screeched the plot to a halt while we read page after page of backstory. This took me out of the story and I had to refocus after those passages ended. There were only a couple spicy scenes in the book, and they were a bit cringy and awkward. The story didn’t need them and I ended up skipping over them.

The multitude of minor characters add depth and texture to the story, as well as some much needed levity. Clearly the Wentworth family is a tight-knit group that love each other deeply and support each other, during good and bad. One disadvantage of not reading the previous books, however, was not having a firm grasp on who everyone was and their relationship to each other. This was a minor annoyance, however, and perhaps just my own inability to keep track of everyone.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing). All opinions are my own.