The fourth book in the series jumps into action fairly quickly, with the deaths of eight young women at Magdalene House, a Quaker refuge for prostitutes wishing to reform. A subsequent fire burns the place to the ground in order to disguise the murders, but it’s clear to Hero Jarvis that things aren’t what they seem. Hero is a young woman who has made brief appearances in the previous books – she is the daughter of Lord Jarvis, a man who has been a fierce opponent of Sebastian St. Cyr, Lord Devlin. She had been at the house to interview Rose, one of the women, as part of her research into what drives them into prostitution. In their attempt to escape, Rose was shot and died in Hero’s arms, after making it clear that she was the one the assailants were looking for. With no one else to turn to, Hero seeks out Devlin to assist her in finding out the truth.
It’s eight months after the close of the last book, and Devlin has been doing his best to mend his broken heart by “…giving himself over to drinking and gambling and riding to hounds with a reckless abandon that seemed calculated to get him killed sometime in the very near future.” His affair with Kat Boleyn had come to a disastrous end after discovering her true parentage (spoiler alert if you haven’t read book 3) – Devlin’s father apparently had an affair with Kat’s mother who became pregnant…making them half-siblings. I’m not entirely sure if this was true, based on something Lord Hendon says at the end of the book, but Kat has now married someone else and for the time being is out of Devlin’s life. So when Hero comes to him about the case, it piques his interest and rouses him out of his self-pity.
The two of them decide to investigate together, as well as separately, and it takes them from the glittering salons and ballrooms of the ton to the slums and brothels where Rose had been hiding. There’s no shortage of suspects, and it’s soon clear that Rose’s death has more implications than either Devlin or Hero realized. There are a few attempts on their lives, one of which results in an encounter in an underground cave that will change their relationship. While he’s not losing his heart anytime soon, he admires Hero for her intelligence and her no-nonsense attitude, and the two of them make a great pair working together.
Once again, Ms Harris does a great job of bringing Regency London to life, blending the history of the time with the fictional elements seamlessly. The characters continue to be engaging and well written, and I enjoy seeing the usual crew make their appearance to help Devlin along the way.