What happens when your god dies? Sebastian wondered. When someone is your sun and moon and stars, and then you discover something, something that reveals a hitherto unknown weakness so fundamental, so shattering that it destroys not only your trust in the other person, but your respect, too.
The second book in the St. Cyr series begins with a beautiful young wife of a marquess found partially dressed…and dead in the arms of the Prince Regent during a party at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. While the Prince may be a spoiled, childish man who doesn’t care about anything other than his own pleasure, his close advisors are quite sure that he isn’t a murderer. The problem is that the Prince can’t give any explanation for what happened, other than he was passed a note to meet the lady there and he passed out shortly after walking into the room.
In an attempt to solve the case without calling the Bow Street Runners, Lord Jarvis (cousin to the Prince and close advisor) summons Viscount Devlin to step in and investigate. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, had solved a previous murder mystery in order to clear his own name, so Jarvis believes Devlin will be able to do so again. Except Devlin isn’t sure if he wants to get involved in another murder investigation; many in society still give him the side eye about the last one. However, after seeing the body with a dagger in the back but no sign of blood and a necklace that had belonged to his mother draped around her neck, he feels compelled to discover what happened. His mother had supposedly drowned when he was a young child, and he is shocked to find her necklace show up out of nowhere. In delving into the death, long buried family secrets will be exposed, along with more political intrigue and espionage.
Many of the characters from the first book are back in this one – the young street lad Tom is now Devlin’s tiger (the term for a young groom wearing striped livery); Paul Gibson, the ex-army surgeon/coroner; Sir Henry Lovejoy, Chief Magistrate; and Kat Boleyn, actress and Devlin’s lover. Devlin’s father and older sister are also prominent in this book, along with his aunt Henrietta, as the mystery of his mother is unraveled parallel to the tale of the young Marchioness. Someone has gone to great lengths to frame the Regent, and nothing is what it originally seemed from the start. There are several possible suspects, ranging from a besotted Italian painter, to a former childhood friend to the aged marquess himself and it will take all of Devlin’s skills to find the truth.
Like the first book, Devlin gets himself into many scrapes and ruins many a pair of trousers and well-tailored jackets, to the despair of his valet. As a former soldier, he is accustomed to fighting, and his keen sense of hearing and sight are commented on several times. His affair with Kat continues, but she is still keeping a lot of secrets from him. He is determined to marry her, and she is determined not to and so they are at an impasse. They do share some passion, but it’s still unclear how this relationship will continue if she keeps lying to him. Again, the intimate scenes are not that detailed, so I’m at a loss to why some reviews on Goodreads despair there’s too much gratuitous sex!
Overall, this was another great read, and Ms Harris continues to create the Regency atmosphere in great detail. It’s clear that she’s done her research on the time period, and her author’s notes point out that while some readers believe she’s taken liberties, but details or characters she’s used that might seem unlikely are in fact taken straight from the newspapers and other primary sources of the period.