Author: Brenda Joyce
Publication: HQN Books (February 22, 2011)
Description: On the morning of her wedding to Calder Hart, amateur sleuth Francesca Cahill is lured away to a private viewing of a portrait that could destroy her entire family: the nude Hart commissioned of her. Her desperate quest to recover the scandalous portrait leads her into a dangerous trap with no way to escape—until it's too late. And when Francesca finally arrives at the church, it's vacant. She has unintentionally jilted Hart at the altar.
When Hart tells her their estrangement is for the best, Francesca is devastated. With a blackmailer intent on destroying her reputation, Francesca turns to Rick Bragg, the city's powerful police commissioner. Together they scour the sordid streets of lower Manhattan, following a deliberately laid trail of clues in a race against the clock. And once it becomes clear that Bragg's marriage is failing, Francesca must war with her feelings for him, battle Hart's jealousy and escape a killer—all as she fights to win Hart back. But sometimes, passion just cannot be denied….
My Thoughts: This was another enjoyable episode in the Francesca Cahill mystery series. Francesca is on the verge of marrying Calder Hart when she is deliberately kept from getting to her wedding. The nude portrait that was stolen in an earlier episode of the books has made an appearance and its existence is threatening her social position and her relationship with Calder.
Francesca is a smart investigator but a rather naive and innocent person. She is remarkably optimistic. She makes friends in a number of situations because she will do anything for her friends. She is a social reformer and a rich man's treasured daughter.
I spent this book alternating between wanting to give Calder a swift kick in the behind and having my heart broken for him. His outward confidence mostly conceals a needy boy who has never felt himself to be loved. He uses indifference and a cruel streak to protect his vulnerable self which hurts Francesca terribly. He is a self-made millionaire and passionate art collector but he is also a lonely man.
But among all the emotional turmoil there is still a mystery to be solved. Who did steal the portrait and where is it now? Francesca and Calder both have acquired a number of enemies and there are a number of suspects. Francesca does a lot of investigating with Rick Bragg who is the police commissioner, Calder's half brother, her first love, and a married man. Calder thinks that Francesca and Rick would be a better couple - barring the existence of Rick's wife. Rick is also an honorable man and a social reformer who holds a lot of the same views as Francesca. They are very good friends.
This book had a lot of complicated relationships and an interesting mystery plot. I certainly recommend it to anyone who has read the other Francesca Cahill mysteries. I would suggest that new readers begin with the first in the series so that you can be up to speed with the characters and the setting. Joyce paints a fascinating picture of New York City in 1900.
Francesca wasn't there.Check out the rest of the books in the series here as well as her other books.
Of course she wasn't. There wasn't going to be a wedding--and he wasn't even truly surprised. She had come to her senses at last.