Author: Amanda Quick
Publication: Berkley (April 19, 2016)
Description: Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.
Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.
But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker...
My Thoughts: Calista Langley supports herself and her younger brother by running an "introductions" agency. She helps lonely people meet one another. However, she has begun to receive some odd gifts - mourning jewelry. That and she feels that she is being watched. She finds herself quite uneasy and that uneasiness escalates when the fortune hunter who threw her over for a rich woman comes back and wants to rekindle their relationship.
Trent Hastings has come to her agency, not as a client, but to check her out because his sister has become one of her clients. At first they rub each other the wrong way but they are soon working together to find out who is stalking her.
Along the way they find that other young women have received the same gifts of mourning jewelry and were later killed by having their throats slit. Trent, Calista, his sister and her brother are in a race to find the murderer before Calista becomes the next victim.
I liked that Trent was an author of mysteries and that his fame provided an entry into the homes of a number of people they wanted to interview. I also liked that everyone had an opinion, which they were very eager to share with Trent, about how the story should be written.
This was a darker Amanda Quick novel but very entertaining. I liked the Victorian setting. I also liked the relationship that grew between Trent and Calista.
"I'm an author, Calista." Trent sounded abruptly weary. "The older I get, the more I am convinced that a truth only makes sense when it is revealed in the form of a story. Without that context, it is simple a random event with no meaning. It cannot teach us anything and it cannot be used for any purpose. But a good story—that is another thing altogether. It can set us on a new path. It may the wrong path, but at least it takes us somewhere."Excerpt:
She belonged to him.
He was locked inside a cage the size and shape of a coffin. A dark thrill heated his blood like a powerful, intoxicating drug.
When the time came he would purify the woman and cleanse himself with her blood. But tonight was not the time. The ritual had to be followed correctly. The woman must be made to comprehend and acknowledge the great wrong that she had done. There was no finer instructor than fear.
He huddled inside the concealed lift, listening to the sounds of someone moving about in the bedroom on the other side of the wall. There was a narrow crack in the paneling. Excitement sparked through him when he caught a glimpse of the woman. She was at her dressing table, adjusting the pins in her dark brown hair. It was as if she knew he was watching and was deliberately taunting him.
She was passable in appearance, but he had seen her on the street and had not been particularly impressed with her looks. She was overly tall for a woman and her forceful character was etched on her face. She was dangerous. It was all there in her unnerving eyes.
The woman rose from the dressing table chair and moved out of sight. A moment later he heard the muffled sound of the bedroom door opening and closing.
He slid the cage door aside and opened the wooden panel. The wall sconce had been turned down low but he could make out the bed, the dressing table, and the wardrobe.
He moved out of the lift. The heady exhilaration he always experienced at such moments roared through him. With every step of the ritual he came closer to achieving his own purification.
For a precious few seconds he debated where to leave his gift. The bed or the dressing table?
The bed, he decided. So much more intimate.
He made his way out through the tradesmen’s entrance and slipped, unseen, into the gardens. The gate was still unlocked, just as he had left it.
A few minutes later he was lost in the fog. The weight of the knife in its sheath beneath his greatcoat was reassuring.
The ritual was almost complete.
The woman with the unnerving eyes would soon understand that she belonged to him. It was her destiny to be the one to cleanse him. He was certain of it. The connection between them was a bond that could be shattered only by death.
Posted by arrangement with Berkley Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Jayne Ann Krentz, 2016.
I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.