Book 11 in the series moves Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, out of London to the seemingly sleepy Shropshire village to visit the grandmother of Jamie Knox (a man who was most likely a half-brother, and killed in the last book because of his resemblance to Devlin) and to hopefully uncover more clues to his parentage. Alas, even in such peaceful surroundings the grim reaper raises its ugly head. A young woman is discovered dead on the bank of the river, and all indications point to a suicide. However, the village’s inexperienced magistrate isn’t sure this is the case. He’s aware of Devlin’s visit, and humbly inquires if Devlin would be able to review the situation just to be sure.
Emma Chance, the deceased, was a visitor as well to the village – a young widow travelling with a recently hired maid, she was ostensibly there to sketch the various picturesque scenes in the area. It’s soon clear, however, that this is case of murder and Devlin is quickly embroiled in the mystery. Being away from London means that he is unable to call on his longtime friend Paul Gibson to do an autopsy, and has to make do with the local surgeon who would rather deal with his livestock. Still, with the help of his wife Hero, Devlin begins to realize that the quiet village is full of secrets, lies and deception from the past that people would prefer be kept hidden.
Again, Ms Harris has written a compelling story. It’s a nice change of pace to have this set away from London, and away from much of the political intrigue that have dominated the last few books. The only nod to that angle here is the character of Lucien Bonaparte, estranged brother of Napoleon, who is in exile with his family. His presence makes Devlin wonder if this was a politically motivated murder, or was it something less complicated? As he pokes deeper under the bucolic veneer, Devlin realizes that Emma was not what she presented herself as, and her life story has similarities to his own search for family ties.
Devlin and Hero continue to grow as a couple. They are finding a life together that neither expected at the start of their rather unexpected marriage, and their respect and passion for each other is clear every time they are together. It’s not an in your face, overtly sexual depiction, but you know they are happy and likely enjoying the intimate side of marriage when they’re alone! As someone who has read a lot of romance books, I’m good with that in this series – sometimes you don’t have to read all the erotic details!
At any rate, this was a great book and while you could read it as a stand alone, it’s best if you read the whole series. I now have only one book left to catch up on the whole thing, and then I guess I’ll have to wait (impatiently) for whatever comes after that.