The Prisoner

The Rose & the Warrior

The Wedding Escape

The Witch & the Warrior

My Favorite Thief
by Karyn Monk
(Bantam, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-58441-3
A sequel to Monk’s The Prisoner, this is the story of one of the “urchins” that was adopted in that previous book. The book stands alone; unfortunately, My Favorite Thief is an unsteady story with too many sub-plots and a hero and heroine who are inconsistent.

Charlotte is the ward of the Earl of Redmond, and was rescued from a poor beginning in life. Born of a thief, she was raised to be a thief and eventually a whore. But when she was eleven, her father broke her leg, leaving her a cripple. Then she was arrested for theft and rescued by Genevieve, the soon-to-be Countess of Redmond. She and her siblings were taken care of for the rest of their childhood. Her adopted parents have given in to her need to help and assisted her in opening a home for refugees seeking to change their lives. Charlotte’s household now consists of a reformed Scottish thief, several cooks and housekeepers who were victims of abusive husbands, a young pickpocket she is training to be a footman and several women who want to give up the life of a prostitute.

At twenty-three and crippled, Charlotte believes she will be a spinster for life. Yet she attends soirees and galas with the hope that she will convince the ton to contribute to her charities. She is unfortunate enough to stumble upon a jewel thief at one of these parties, and helps him escape by forcing him to take her hostage. When a man is murdered, she is confronted with harboring and abetting a possible murderer.

But the man she helps is not a murderer, having only a knife and a hairbrush as weapons. He is the Earl of Bryden, Harrison Payne. Is he the Dark Shadow, the jewel thief everyone is looking for? Yes and no. The explanation is too long to get into, but suffice it to say that he is able to convince Charlotte he is worth helping.

Intrigues abound, and most of these are so convoluted that it is tough to keep up with, much less describe in a review that is space-limited. Here is a brief synopsis. Charlotte is being blackmailed by her real father and turns to Bryden, thinking he has the means to get her money she needs, by stealing. (Although she wants to believe that he is not really the thief.) Then she feels guilty when all evidence points to the fact that he does steal and has killed a man in the doing. Yet she finds she loves him, and goes to him to offer comfort, whereupon they consummate their relationship in his study. Not to be outdone, Bryden contends he didn’t steal or kill anything or anyone, at least not recently. But then who is the thief? He decides to help Scotland Yard out, but gets caught instead.

Oh, how weird a web we weave (sorry Mr. Shakespeare!) Monk tries to keep the reader engaged, but she does so by dropping little hints that she hasn’t dropped all the information yet. Then when we learn the truth, it seems silly or far-fetched. Even up to the last several pages, we are learning how things click together. But by that time, I didn’t care.

Bryden suffers from debilitating headaches and is forced to take laudanum many nights. He is worried he is going crazy like his father. His mother suffers from dementia, regularly imaging her husband by her side, even though he has been dead 16 years. Because of the way Monk writes the story, there are inconsistencies in his actions and in what he tells us. This leads to a sense that I cannot really trust him. And frankly, if I can’t trust the hero…he is not a hero I can embrace and root for.

Charlotte goes from being a strong-willed woman who knows what she can do and is determined to get it, to a simpering twit who does stupid things and gets herself into messes of her own making. Just as I thought she had turned the corner, she reverted back to simpering twit behavior.

The menageries of supporting characters are all stock characters whom we have met in a thousand other books. The villain is obvious, because he is the only choice introduced, and his motivations are implausible.

I wanted to like this book, and stayed with it determined to find its redeeming value. Sadly, My Favorite Thief never delivered the goods.

--Shirley Lyons

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