Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.
I'm in the midst of "homework reading" for my library's annual literary event, and so far it's been a pleasant endeavor. I often say that when doing "homework reading" of this nature, it is totally incidental if I personally "like" the book(s) or not. I just need to be able to talk about them with other readers, and know enough to communicate with the author about said books. But honestly, this whole thing is a lot more pleasant when I do like the books - and A Dangerous Liaison With Detective Lewis by Jillian Stone is a book I really wanted to like. Alas, it ended up being a slog of a read for me and I skimmed large chunks of it.
Raphael "Rafe" Lewis is a detective for Scotland Yard and is called to the House Of Commons where the severed head and feet of a murdered MP are found. Said MP was a self-made industrialist and Rafe's boss is wondering if this new crime has any connection to the "accidental" death of another industrialist up in Scotland a few days prior. He sends Rafe up there to snoop around and to protect the heiress, Fanny Greyville-Nugent, who has publicly stated she plans to carry on her father's work. The fly in the ointment? Rafe and Fanny were childhood sweethearts, were actually engaged to be marry, Rafe broke her heart, and she called the whole thing off.
This is the second book in Stone's The Gentlemen Of Scotland Yard series and it stands alone very well. The Victorian setting has a certain panache to it and I loved that she made the industrial revolution aspects of the era (which were very, very important and can sometimes be glossed over in Victorian historical romances!) such an integral part of the plot.
What didn't work so well for me? Everything else. Which is a major problem since first and foremost, this is a romance novel. When I not only don't care about the main couple, but am at turns either bored or annoyed by them? It doesn't go well.
Fanny and Rafe were torn apart by a misunderstanding perpetrated by a weaselly third party. Honestly, given that they were extremely close childhood friends, and later sweethearts? It takes surprisingly little to upend the apple cart. And what does Rafe do in response to all of this? He goes out for a night on the town and oopsie-daisy! His dick falls into another woman. He heads back to Scotland for, of all things, an engagement party, sucks on Fanny's face, then when her father catches them in this compromising position, Rafe confesses he's....well....already married. Yeah, when his dick fell into that other woman? She, naturally, got knocked up. Fanny calls off the engagement and Rafe is now persona non-grata among the Greyville-Nugents and his own family.
I mean, really?!
To Fanny's credit, she realizes Rafe is there to protect her so even though she can't stand the sight of him, she doesn't fight him too much on that score. The problem is she doesn't fight him at all. There's a lot of banter. She makes her anger known, somewhat. But he charms and wheedles and my eyes roll back in my head. Why Fanny doesn't just say, "Look, I know I need you to protect me but if you flirt with me, make eyes at me, or lay on the charm I'm going to find the nearest derringer and shoot off your Little Scotland Yard."
There's a lot of running around Scotland, and then running around England, all the while trying to uncover the plot of who is murdering prominent industrialists. This was a halfway decent story, and one I was interested in - it just was helmed by a romantic couple that didn't work for me. At all. I have plans to read one more book in this series in the name of "homework reading." Here's hoping that in the next go-around I get both an enjoyable plot and characters in the same book.
Final Grade = D+