Beauty & the Spy

The Runaway Duke

Ways to be Wicked

The Perils of Pleasure
by Julie Anne Long
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-006-134158-8
This is Julie Anne Long’s debut at Avon and thus she begins a series about the feuding Everseas and the Redmonds. There is much to like in The Perils of Pleasure – but there are a tad too many coincidences and unwanted details to claim a full recommendation.

Colin Eversea, the youngest of four, is about to hang for a crime he did not commit. His brother Marcus is prepared to step in and marry Colin’s unofficial fiancée, Louisa Porter and this is what Colin regrets the most as he is prepared to meet his maker. Colin is accused of murder and the only man to witness the event (which was just an unfortunate accident) has seemingly disappeared. Colin is resigned to his fate, until on the way to the gallows a guard tells him to trip by the fifth soldier. He does so and all hell breaks loose. There are explosions and someone grabs him up and runs off with him amidst the chaos. He finds himself jostled and put into a carriage with his journey ending in a rundown section of London in what appears to be a basement. Before he can really come to his senses, he smells lavender and a female voice tells him to be quiet. She is determined to leave him there to be picked up by an unknown man. But before she can leave, a man enters and tries to shoot them.

Madeleine Greenway is a widow who is just trying to earn enough money to buy her passage to America. She almost has enough. Her husband and child died of smallpox and left her almost penniless. She lucked into her work as a mercenary, falling into a job and finding out she was good at it. It was her scheme that freed Colin. But it seems like someone has turned the tables on her, won’t pay her the final fee installment and now is out to kill her.

Colin and Madeleine team up, trying to discover exactly who is trying to kill whom; who framed Colin and what happened to the witness. Their journey leads them into trouble with resurrectionists (men who dig up dead bodies and sell them to doctors looking for cadavers to learn from), a countess Colin once knew, and the possibility that it was Colin’s brother is behind it all.

Colin is a complicated character, as is Madeleine. They have a past that is slowly revealed. The romance developed quickly (one of the things that troubled me). Here they are in this highly charged and dangerous situation for just a few days and the author asks us to believe that they not only fall in love, but truly love one another! Given their level of trust or rather their lack thereof, I found this hard to swallow.

Their relationship is satisfying thanks to Long’s talents with sarcasm and humor. These are intelligent characters and they treat each other as such, with conversation and true partnership. I enjoyed their romance and their sexual interludes are passionate. Their emotions just come on way to quickly, especially given that Colin is supposed to be in love with Louisa, who he spouts as his real reason for living. His goal is to clear his name in order to stop the wedding. It felt forced that his feelings changed so suddenly.

There are secondary characters aplenty – some are well developed and others I had trouble keeping straight. They travel all over and it was hard to be certain of the time frame…they talked of gaslights, yet none of the other modern conveniences that also came about at the same time. This lack of clarity was a bit disturbing.

I enjoyed much of this book. The mystery has depth and there are plenty of twists and turns, but it left a lot of unanswered questions too. Overall, I struggled to maintain my interest. There were parts where the pages flew by, but at other times, I felt like I had to slog my way through. And there were times I was not enthusiastic about picking it up once I had put it down.

The Perils of Pleasure is fun and at times deeply engaging. It is a solid field goal, but not a touchdown. It is however, an interesting start to the series and I am entertained enough to look forward to the next tale in the series.

--Shirley Lyons

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