on February 4, 2012
Set in London, 1886. Evelyn Turner Hadley-Attwater, the Countess of Waterson, has an interesting past. Until two years ago, Evelyn had been an agent of a secret government department. But after five years of service Evelyn had wanted to settle down with a husband and have a family. The first time she had danced with Adrian Hadley-Attwater, the Earl of Waterson, Evelyn felt as if they had known each other forever. Once she had retired from service, Evelyn wasted no time in marrying the man she had fallen in love with. She has not told Adrian about her time with the department because they had both agreed that nothing in their lives mattered before the time they had met. Evelyn has not heard from the department since she had sent in her resignation to her contact, a mysterious man known only to her as Sir. Therefore Evelyn is not at all happy to get a visit from Sir Maxwell "Max" Osgood, the current head of the department. An important file has recently been stolen and she is the only person he can trust at the moment. Evelyn would have declined to help, but when Max informs her that Sir's name is in the file, Evelyn feels she must agree. Sir had saved her life more than once in the past. Recovering the file is the least she could do. It is to be one last duty for the Crown.
For Adrian, the last two years with Evelyn has been bliss. He well understands just how lucky he is to have, somehow, earned the love of Evelyn. Yet recently his wife has been distracted and Adrian begins to worry that she is growing bored of him. Fearing that Evelyn may be seeking a lover, Adrian begins keeping a close eye on her. When he comes to an erroneous conclusion of who Evelyn is seeing and which hotel room they were at, Adrian ends up bursting in on Lady Dunwell and her paramour. With luck, Evelyn would never learn of the event.
Lady Beryl Dunwell has few scruples, her morals are questionable, and she is quite selfish. She has little sense of propriety and her reputation is extremely wicked. But she is unfailingly loyal to the few people she considers to be her friends. Evelyn is one of the few and Beryl tells Evelyn about the dreadful scene. Of course, Evelyn is furious to learn that her husband believes she would cheat on him. Hurt and humiliated, Evelyn confronts Adrian and they have their first major argument. Until Adrian can convince her that he loves and completely trusts her, Evelyn would reside at the house left to her by her deceased parents.
Adrian knows he deserves Evelyn's anger. Adrian has known Max a long time and figures that the man is somehow involved in his wife's recent strange behavior. Then Adrian begins to wonder how much she loves him and whether she regrets getting married. To find out, Adrian begins a deception that, should she ever learn of it, Evelyn would be hurt again and far worse. This would be the most dangerous game Adrian has ever played.
**** FOUR STARS! This is a hard story to explain without using spoilers. Everything in my synopsis is from the first half of the novel and everything I revealed is easily deduced by the reader early in the story. Most of the tale focuses on Adrian's mistakes, although Evelyn has her moments too. The author has also given Max a lover with another secondary character. It will be interesting to see how Max manages to snag her (in a later story.) If that is not enough, Adrian's mother is meddling ... uh, helping her other six children with their marital problems or lack of having a spouse. Readers see a bit of foreshadowing for future adventures.
The author has given all the main and secondary characters the ability to prevaricate; however, each character has his or her own personality and set of quirks. Filled with a few unpredictable twists, this story kept me guessing and the story ended before I was ready to let these fascinating people out of my life. I console myself by knowing that I have not heard the last of them. I can hardly wait to learn what the next "Sinful Family Secret" is. Spectacular! ****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.