Linda Francis Lee's final book in the Hawthorne Brothers trilogy is a page-turning romantic suspense story set in turn-of-the-century Boston. The search for the clues to solve the identity of a murderer and the sparks between the hero and heroine combine for an exciting drama.
Alice Kendall is a lawyer at a time when few women are lawyers. After her mother's death when she was a baby, she grew up in a household consisting of her father, the local District Attorney, her uncle, the chief of police, and her brother. Family dinners were often discussions of the latest
criminal cases and Alice eagerly and intelligently joined in. Her father supported her when she decided to go to law school. She is a new graduate and has opened her own law office. Wanting to be independent, she has even moved to the guest house at their home and has successfully defended several small cases in court.
Alice is quite surprised when Lucas and Grayson Hawthorne arrive at her office asking her to defend Lucas against a murder charge. The brothers are members of one of Boston's blue-blood families. Grayson is a successful attorney, but specializes in civil cases. Lucas is the family outsider. He unapologetically owns a gaming house that is just this side of the law. He
has been charged with the murder of a prostitute whose body was found in the alley behind Nightingale's Gate, his gaming establishment.
Alice turns down the Hawthornes, saying that she just does not have enough experience to properly defend him. When she tells her father and his assistant, Clark Kittridge, that she had been asked to defend Lucas, they both tell her that there is no way she can successfully defend the case and that their office expects to throw the book at him. Clark, the man Alice and everyone else expects her to marry, and her father are so dismissive of her chances that she changes her mind, determined to take the case.
Alice is fun to watch. She knows that she has law skills and determination. She stands up to Lucas, who has made a habit of intimidating people to keep them from really seeing him. Her quick temper arises when she feels uncertain, adding sparks to their encounters. Lucas is shocked that the prim and proper, but pretty, Alice can see so well through his public persona. He wants to stay unmoved by her, but her energy and innocence tempt his jaded soul. He also does not tell her everything he should about the murder because he is protecting someone. She has quite a job trying to prove his innocence with this roadblock. Through their encounters, they begin to see how much they are really alike.
The Hawthorne family makes numerous appearances, some involving threads from the two previous books. The brothers' mother, Emmaline, is living at the gaming house with Lucas, having left the boys' father. Both brothers and their wives appear to support Lucas during the trial. I do plan to read the two previous books because enough hints were given about the brothers' lives to intrigue me about their stories.
The Kendall family was also quite involved with Alice's father appearing on the opposite side of the courtroom from her and her uncle, the police chief, responsible for finding the criminal evidence against Lucas. Alice’s brother also appeared, mostly to be supportive of Alice. A number of questions about Alice's father, uncle, and her long-dead mother were not answered. I wondered if Ms. Lee was planning to write about the brother at a later time where those answers might be resolved.
The clues to who the murderer is lead to a number of red herrings. I did not guess the real culprit until it was revealed at the end of the book but I certainly enjoyed the trip getting to the answer.
--B. Kathy Leitle