Title: When a Lady Dares
Author: Tara Kingston
Series: Her Majesty’s Most Secret Service #2
Genre: Victorian Romance
Available: 22nd May
Sophie Atherton knows a liar when she sees one. Perhaps because she’s so skilled at deception herself. Searching for clues to a string of mysterious deaths, the secret operative for the Crown has connived her way into a phony medium’s confidence. When a dashing archaeologist seeks out the charlatan’s services, Sophie suspects he’s after more than a long-lost heirloom. Their electric attraction storms her defenses, but loving the rakish scholar would threaten her investigation and the life she’s crafted.
Gavin Stanwyck is a man on a mission. Masquerading as a treasure hunter to trap the spiritualist, he’s drawn to the medium’s enigmatic assistant. As treacherous forces close in, passion awakens his hardened heart—he’ll protect Sophie at all costs, but he cannot give her his love. Uniting to survive a sinister plot, they must tear down their defenses and learn to trust their hearts.
Source: ARC from Entangled: Select Historical via NetGalley
While there’s nothing inherently bad about this book, I didn’t find it as intriguing as I’d hoped. Both Gavin and Sophie have interesting occupations, but neither of them play much of a part. Instead it’s mostly the two of them flirting and sparring while occasionally stumbling around in the hope that a solution will pop up. The level of actual investigation is pretty low and because the focus is heavily on the romance, there isn’t really much mystery to any of it.
Sophie is a decent character. She’s extremely independent and perhaps a little too modern in her thinking (the attitudes of everyone towards female sexuality and modesty weren’t the least bit Victorian), but she’s determined and not overtly foolish in her methods – well, apart from the walking home in the dark thing. I just wish she’d spent more time investigating the crime instead of brooding over Gavin.
Likewise, Gavin’s attempts at uncovering the plot that killed his friend are nonexistent. The pair of them are so easily distracted by each other that it’s a wonder the crime is ever solved at all.
None of this is helped by the slow pace. It takes half the book to get through two days, most of which is either Gavin or Sophie recapping the same scene for the third time. There is a spark between them, but for me the book was too heavily weighted towards the romance. I wanted real investigation attempts from Sophie (we get one scene) and a little digging from Gavin (since he’s an archaeologist and all), but instead I got flirting and brooding. Which meant that when the big reveal came, I didn’t care.
Throw in that bafflingly overwrought final chapter (to which the answer was obvious since they both wanted the same thing!) and the overly complicated solution and I’m sorry to say I was a little disappointed with this. It’s not terrible, but neither was it what I wanted, leaving me mostly indifferent about the whole thing. Your mileage, of course, may vary depending on how much you mind a mystery not being too mysterious and the romance trumping everything else.
When a Lady Dares is out May 22nd.
Visit Tara Kingston for more details.