This is the first book in the historical mystery series set in the time period of great unrest in Britain. King George III has gone mad and his son is about to be proclaimed Prince Regent, hence the Regency Period. As the book opens, Ms Harris sets a mysterious tone with a description of murky yellow fog on the streets of London, wrapping around a young woman’s lantern in wraithlike drifts as she heads toward an old church for a rendezvous. Who is she meeting…the answer is unclear as she is soon brutally murdered, raped and left half naked in front of the altar. The only clue left behind is a dueling pistol, engraved with the insignia of Viscount Devlin.
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is immediately targeted as the criminal due to circumstantial evidence and all that. He is the heir to the Earl of Hendon, a man who holds a position of power in the government. Devlin had been in the army for several years, and recently returned home. He and his father don’t get along that well, due to reasons that aren’t clearly stated in this book. Devlin is described as tall and lean, dark haired with tawny yellow eyes. He has extra sharp hearing, and excellent night vision, both of which helped him during combat. Since his return to London, he’s been restless and living a somewhat rakish life. The woman he thought he loved six years earlier had left him, and he wasn’t in a hurry to settle down with anyone else.
Sir Henry Lovejoy is the chief magistrate, and sets out to arrest Devlin for Rachel York’s murder but a misunderstanding makes Devlin have to flee. He realizes that his only hope of saving himself is to find out who the real murderer is, and thus the adventure begins. Along the way, he meets and befriends a street urchin named Tom, and enlists the aid of an old friend Paul Gibson (a surgeon) and his old lover Kat Boleyn. There’s plenty of adventure and political intrigue, mixed with blackmail, espionage and sex. Devlin manages to get himself deeper in trouble and he isn’t averse to physical violence in order to protect himself or those he cares about. He dons disguises and assumes different identities, gets into scrapes and has a myriad of injuries by the end of it all!
The story takes a lot of twists and turns, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, not guessing whodunit until it was becoming clear at the end. Ms Harris does a great job of describing the side of London I don’t often see in the romantic versions of the Regency period. There are several colorful characters that obviously will make an appearance in subsequent books, and while we mostly see Devlin’s perspective of things, it’s not told in first person. We get a bit of perspective from Lovejoy from time to time, and Kat definitely has her own agenda, keeping secrets from Devlin. The romance is obviously not the main focus of the book, but there are some intimate moments between Devlin and Kat. There’s definitely still feelings between them, and we learn the reason Kat left him previously, so I’m curious to see where that leads in the next book(s).
Overall, this was a quick read (the chapters are quite short) and well written. Sebastian is a worthy hero – intelligent, caring, honorable and sexy. There are currently 12 books in this series, and I’m looking forward to reading them all (I’m already half way through the second book!).