After Sebastian St. Cyr is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, and blamed for another potential death, he escapes from custody, and decides the only way to not be executed for murder or spend his life on the run is to clear his name by investigating the murder himself. Fortunately, he worked in intelligence during his time in the Army while fighting Napoleon, so he has skill set that actually comes in handy for this type of investigation.
It is 1811, and the murder of which St. Cyr is accused is very scandalous and head line grabbing. Rachel, an 18 year old actress, was found murdered and raped in front of the altar of an old church in Westminster. Suspicions fall to Viscount Devlin because a pistol with his emblem was found at the scene and Rachel’s maid reports that Rachel had an appointment with St. Cyr. While the initial read is that Rachel’s murder may have involved a jilted or jealous lover or maybe a stalker, St. Cyr quickly realizes that Rachel was involved in a rather deep web of intrigue and while she had many friends, she also had a few enemies, leading to a very complex case with ever shifting suspects and motives.
The case brings Kat Boleyn back into Sebastian’s life. She is an actress currently in a production with Rachel, and six years prior, she and St. Cyr were romantically involved until she ended things with him. He went to war in France while she became the toast of the town through her acting. Due to their interactions, they end up rekindling their old flame as St. Cyr learns more about the circumstances of six years before.
The novel also introduces Hero Jarvis, daughter of one of the powers behind the crown. While she only has a short appearance, her introduction is so memorable that I have a feeling she will be appearing later on in the series with a larger role, especially since a future earl and an actress don’t have a future outside of romance novels. (While this is currently only speculation, this potential future plot development actually feels reminiscent of another series/story but I can’t quite place my finger on which one – I don’t think it was The Pink Carnation since all those novels have different protagonists. I guess it’s a common trope – femme fatale leaves hero for his own good, he ends up with the pragmatic woman, only for the femme fatale to return to his life once he was feeling settled/happy with his new relationship – at least that is my prediction for what will happen later in this series).
I really enjoyed this one even though within the wider story, I could see a few familiar tropes. The thing is, though, tropes are fine if they used well, and so far, I am enjoying the way familiar stories are being set up. I am especially looking forward to getting more into Sebastian’s family and his relationship with his father, his older sister, and learning more about the details of the deaths of his mother and two older brothers, which left him as his father’s heir.