What a fun book! It actually worked equally well a nice mystery novel in addition to being a satisfying romance.
Colin Eversea is a member of the numerous, handsome and ever so scandalous Eversea clan of Pennyroyal Green. Their claim to fame is that no matter how big or small the scandal (or crime) it never seems to stick to the Everseas. Until Colin, the most scandalous (and handsomest rascal of the whole clan) is arrested and sentenced to hang for a murder he did not commit. Even as he is walking up the gallows stairs people somehow will not believe that he will be hanged. So the turnout for his hanging is the best London has seen in an age.
It shouldn't have surprised anyone when he magically disappears (in a puff of smoke, no less) minutes from having the noose flung around his neck. Colin himself is relieved, surprised and incredibly intrigued by the person who affected his escape. An incredibly capable and enigmatic widow, Mrs. Madeleine Greenway, claims to have been hired to engineer his rescue. She doesn't know who and she doesn't know why, she only knows she needs the money. But the person who shows up at the rendesvous point to give her the money attempts to assasinate her instead.
From this point, Colin and Madeleine form an uneasy truce as they are on the run from energetic soldiers. They are on a quest to find not only who hired Madeleine, but also who tried to kill her and and to track down the one, mysteriously disappeared witness who could testify to Colin's innocence.
This book was both a lighthearted romance and an airy breadcrumb mystery. I loved Colin, he was quick witted, funny, and reminded me a lot of Gideon from The Perfect Waltz. Madeleine was a cool customer. The book is at it's sparkly best when Colin is busy trying to understand and charm the formidable Madeleine.
The plot is a bit convoluted as Colin and Madeleine are led to one clue, only to be told only part of what they need to know and are sent off to another clue, another location. Like Hansel and Gretel following a trail of crumbs. At one point when they get to the end of the trail and find their disappeared witness they meet up with someone else who was trying to find the person who set him up. Colin is boggled to find out that that person had only looked at some account books to deduce the answer. Whereas Colin and Madeleine had run ins with cheating countesses, people with secret identities, crazy doctors and body snatchers.
Crazy plot notwithstanding, this was a quick and fun read.
Outside of the main romance and mystery plot is also the set up of what is looking to be a five(?) book
series. As set ups go, it is an excellent one. The Everseas and the Redmonds are the two pre-eminent families of Pennyroyal Green. And they are enemies along the lines of the Montagues and Capulets. There are some excellent cut-away scenes of both families as they are sitting in their sitting rooms during the time that Colin is supposed to be hanged. The author delves into what each family is going through as they are awaiting word. Of course we get great reactions when both families discover that Colin cheats death. I was so intrigued by the interplay between both families and the dribs of history she let drop that of course
I need to follow up with the rest of the series if for no other reason to discover what happened to the oldest Redmond son and heir, Lyon, who mysteriously disappeared, supposedly because of a broken heart at the hands of the beautiful Olivia Eversea. I am sure the subsequent books will include a lot more family drama between the two families and more hints about Lyon dropped. And then there is a titillating tid-bit at the end of this book that makes me wonder if she'll do anything about it in later books?
If you like light hearted romances with a healthy dash of mystery this is a great book to read.