Regency England, January 1813: The mutilated body of a young French doctor found in an alley beside a mysterious, badly injured woman entangles Sebastian in the deadly riddle of the “Lost Dauphin,” the boy prince who disappeared during the darkest days of the French Revolution.
In one of the poorest areas in London, two bodies are discovered – a woman, near death and a man, dead with his heart viciously removed. Paul Gibson, a surgeon/anatomist, has stumbled across this gruesome scene as he was heading home. When the identities are revealed, he turns to his old friend Viscount Devlin, Sebastian St. Cyr, to step in and assist. The dead man is Damion Pelletan, a French physician who was in London for peace negotiations, along with Alexandrie Sauvage, also a surgeon. Devlin is shocked to realize he knows her from his past in the army, and he distrusts her immensely. She has no memory of the attack, however, so Paul takes her into his own home to recover in an attempt to keep her safe.
The story that unfolds has ties to the legend of the missing prince, who some believed didn’t die, but was switched with another and hidden away. Devlin’s mission takes him to visit the prince’s sister, Marie Therese but she is suffering from what we would call PTSD now, and eventually refuses to speak to him again. She is extremely bitter, as you would expect, and determined to bring the Bourbon family back to power. As usual, Ms Harris weaves real historical characters into the story, giving some fresh life to the old facts of the French Revolution. To be honest, the depiction of how such a young child was treated in prison, just because he was the royal heir to the throne, is staggeringly horrific.
Aside from the mystery of who killed Pelletan, there is the impending birth of Devlin’s child. His wife, Hero, is close to term but there is a slight problem with the position of the baby in the womb. Medical practices being what they were at that time, the suggestions for correcting this were rather terrifying – and Hero being the strong willed woman she is, was having none of that. Eventually, Devlin must put aside his dislike for Alexi Sauvage, and trust her to help his wife and unborn child so that both of them survive. Alexi also steps in to help Paul Gibson with his autopsies, and to give him some much needed companionship. It will be interesting to see if this plays out further in the next book.
Overall, another well done book. Devlin and Hero continue to hold my interest as a couple, and I enjoy their interactions, both intimate and intellectual. My only quibble would be that as someone who has read through all of these books in close succession, it’s a little tedious to have all of the details of who’s who and the familial backstory told each time, but I can see where it would be helpful to someone jumping into the series at mid-point!