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Wicked Temptation: A Nemesis, Unlimited Novel

Wicked Temptation: A Nemesis, Unlimited Novel

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by Zoë Archer
     
 

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Award-winning author Zoë Archer returns with another novel of breathtaking suspense as Nemesis, Unlimited schemes to avenge injustice--and conquer a woman's heart--in Wicked Temptation.



FATE BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.

Newly widowed, Bronwyn Parrish's fortune has been spent settling her late husband's

Overview

Award-winning author Zoë Archer returns with another novel of breathtaking suspense as Nemesis, Unlimited schemes to avenge injustice--and conquer a woman's heart--in Wicked Temptation.



FATE BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.

Newly widowed, Bronwyn Parrish's fortune has been spent settling her late husband's debts—thanks to an unscrupulous business manager—and now there's nothing left. Society has no place for a woman without means, and with nowhere to turn, Bronwyn is lost…until, from out of nowhere, a handsome gentleman steps in and makes her an offer she can't refuse.

WILL DESIRE TEAR THEM APART?

Secrets and subterfuge are in Marco Black's blood. As one of Nemesis, Unlimited's most senior agents, Society women aren't his usual cup of tea. But Marco's sixth sense tells him that there's more to Bronwyn than meets the eye…and he wants to help the brazen beauty retrieve her lost fortune. But is his attraction to her worth the risk? His mission will lead him all the way to Les Grillons, France's most ruthless crime syndicate. Soon, Marco and Bronwyn will find themselves facing a danger that could cost them their lives—and a passion that is priceless.

"Zoë Archer's books are not to be missed!"
USA Today bestselling author Alexandra Hawkins

Editorial Reviews

EBOOK COMMENTARY

Praise for Sweet Revenge

 

“Unforgettable…This bold mix of an unlikely romance, a gritty setting, and a page-turning thriller will leave readers craving more.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

 

“Revenge can be sweet, smart, sexy and make for a fast-paced, non-stop read when Archer’s the storyteller. Creating heroes to die for and empowered women and bringing them together in powerful action/adventures with depth of emotion and sensuality is her forte. To readers’ pleasure, she brings an amazing cast of characters, a strong plot,and romance to the first in her Nemesis, Unlimited series.”—Romantic Times BOOKreviews

 

Sweet Revenge is an intense, fast-paced read. A strong plot, memorable characters, genuine emotions—not to mention plenty of heat. What more can a reader want?”
—Sherry Thomas, author of Tempting the Bride

 

Sweet Revenge is a sexy, action-packed romance with a to-die for hero and a true love that will make you swoon.”—New York Times bestselling author Courtney Milan

 

“A dark, riveting tale from beginning to end.  Zoë Archer’s books are not to be missed!”—USA Today bestselling author Alexandra Hawkins

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466805453
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/03/2014
Series:
Nemesis Unlimited , #3
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
476,589
File size:
767 KB

Read an Excerpt

Wicked Temptation


By Zoë Archer

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Zoë Archer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-0545-3


CHAPTER 1

London, 1887


Bronwyn Parrish haunted her own home. Ironic, given that she was still alive and her husband, Hugh, was chill and alone beneath the earth. It had been eight months since his death, eight lonely months, and yet only now as she drifted from empty room to empty room in her Leinster Square house did she feel the ghostliness of her widowhood. She looked down at her hands, half expecting to be able to see the marble floors through them.

But no — they remained solid. Blue veins threaded beneath the surface of her skin.

Dropping her hands, she looked around at the chamber that had once been the drawing room. It, too, was haunted. By the shadowed forms of servants, who'd at one time silently slipped in and out of the room with glasses of sherry and trays of cakes. By the specters of imported mahogany chaises, and the elegant guests who'd sat upon them and talked of society. She and Hugh had always given lovely dinner parties — everyone had said so. Afterward, she'd retire for the night feeling satisfied with her role as a wife and companion. Before he'd head to his own bedchamber, Hugh would kiss her on the cheek and murmur, "Beautifully done, sparrow."

Her sigh now echoed off bare walls. It was gone. All of it, gone. And soon, she would be gone, too.

Leaving the drawing room, she walked down the stairs that led to the ground floor. The unlit chandelier hung above the echoing foyer and the front door stood wide open. She hadn't bothered closing it after the men had come to remove the last of the furniture that morning, including her bed. She'd slept in it last night — or attempted to sleep — knowing that this was to be the last place of her own. It wasn't even hers now. But the moment she set foot outside the door, she'd have no home ever again.

She went to stand in the room that had served as her private study and practice room, and wanted to hide her eyes from the bookshelves' nudity. They gaped in forlorn dereliction. God, even her books. Nothing had been spared. She ran her hands over the shelves, saying good-bye to the room that had contained her happiest moments. This small chamber, situated at the back of the house, had been given to her by Hugh so he wouldn't have to listen to her working out the strains of Paganini's Caprice No. 24 on her violin. Hugh never objected to her playing once the piece had been mastered — in fact, he loved that his wife had so unusual a talent — but it was the learning of it that always set his nerves on edge.

But Bronwyn hadn't minded the scratches and skips, the juddering stops and wrong notes. She'd enjoyed the process as much as the end result.

In truth, she'd always nursed a secret desire to play professionally. But hadn't told anyone — it would've been a scandal if a woman with her bloodline actually chose to work for a living. But she would have never considered playing the violin work. Still, the idea was the same. An aristocratic woman actually earning money was a disgraceful impossibility.

When she'd encouraged Hugh to take her to concerts featuring violin solos, he'd only imagined she went to appreciate the music. He hadn't known that she used to picture herself as the soloist, a throb of envy and joy pulsing beneath her chest when she'd watched the swaying figure. That could have been her. It should have been her.

Instead, she'd played for dinner parties. And herself.

Would they let her play her violin? Whoever they were. The nameless, faceless woman or girl that she hoped might hire her as a companion.

Bronwyn patted her pocket, feeling the small fold of pound notes and a few coins that constituted the whole of her wealth. It had to be enough to last her until she found herself a situation.

A situation. It wasn't the work that she objected to, only that she'd never been asked to do it once in her life, not real work beyond the planning of dinner parties or organizing of charity bazaars. And here she was, lingering for a few minutes longer in her hollowed-out home, with a boardinghouse in Barnsbury waiting for her. She had enough money to last her through the month, plus the expense of taking out an advertisement in the paper, offering her services as a "woman of good breeding to oblige as companion to other women of good breeding."

Bronwyn had seen those companions. Silent, suffering, pinch-faced, and put upon as they chaperoned debutantes or accompanied single or widowed ladies of means on their travels. Not a servant. Not a friend, or equal. Something in between. A nothing. One of those "surplus women" they talked about in periodicals — mainly, wondering what was to be done about them.

That was her now. A surplus woman. Wanted by no one. Not welcome anywhere, including her sister's home. Frieda's husband was an ass, a bully who thought no one's opinion more important than his own, and he'd made it quite clear that Bronwyn wasn't to warm herself with coal he'd purchased, nor steal roast off his plate. Even if her sister had defended Bronwyn, living with that man was an impossibility.

A humorless smile touched Bronwyn's lips. At least I'd get a roof and two meals if I killed him. Until they hanged me, of course.

Neither Hugh's father nor brother had offered to take her in. Perhaps they blamed her for his death, though all the doctors had said there had been nothing to be done once the disease had settled in his lungs. She'd been the one at Hugh's bedside when he had died, and for that, it seemed, neither the senior Mr. Parrish nor his son could forgive her.

Quickly, she strode from her former study, back down the hall, across the empty foyer, and into the front parlor, where she stared at the street. Life continued on out there. Carriages rolled by, residents and servants walked back and forth, tradesmen hurried to back entrances. None of them knew or cared about her circumstances. She'd even had to remove the black drapery from the windows and unmuffle the knocker on the front door, so no one would know that death had touched this house with its thieving hand.

Bronwyn pressed her hand to the cold glass. Her wedding band glinted in the pale sun. She'd continue wearing it until ... at least two years. Until her proper period of mourning was over. But she might always wear it. It would make her seem more respectable. This world was all about respectability.

Though poverty trumped respectability. A widow only eight months into her first mourning would never move, never leave the house. Of course, that presupposed the widow had a home. Which she no longer did.

"Damn it," she whispered, allowing herself a small act of defiance by cursing. Though it was still a whisper in an empty room.

She ought to stop putting off the inevitable, and leave. There wasn't anything to be gained by lingering.

She left the parlor then lurched to a sudden stop. Her hand clapped over her mouth to muffle her startled yelp.

A man stood in the foyer. A man who'd appeared out of nowhere and made not a single sound, though her own delicate shoes tapped against the marble floor.

"Get the hell out of my house." In truth, she didn't demand this. Instead, she said stiffly, "I was given to understand by Mr. Moseby that I had until two o'clock this afternoon before I vacated the premises."

The man watched her from beneath heavy-lidded, dark eyes. He held a very fine hat in his gloved hands, and his suit was of far better quality than one might expect from a land agent's hired muscle. The stranger was also, she noted coldly, exotically handsome. Olive skinned and black haired, with a neatly trimmed goatee framing a thin but sensuous mouth.

Despite the elegance of his appearance, an air of calculation and danger clung to him, like a silk cravat wound about the neck in order to strangle someone.

When he spoke, she shivered.

"You misunderstand, Mrs. Parrish." He had a deep, husky voice. Cultured, but sounding as though he were used to speaking in dark places. "I'm not here for the house. I'm here for you."


* * *

Bronwyn took an instinctive step backward. Should she scream? All the heavy bric-a-brac in the foyer had been cleared out with the rest of the furnishings. There was nothing to use as a weapon. Nothing but her speed. Back in boarding school, she'd been a champion runner. She glanced at the space between herself and the open front door. Could she make it past this stranger before he caught her?

As if reading her thoughts, he took a step to one side, giving her an unimpeded path to the door. This alone made her pause.

"Who are you?" she demanded. Her heart beat thickly beneath her widow's weeds.

"My name's Marco," the man answered. "I'm here to help you."

She ignored his last statement. "Is Marco your first or last name?"

"First." He offered her a smile, which was perfectly white and straight and even rather coolly charming, but it didn't calm her at all. "Last names are ... unsafe."

"Yet you know mine," she shot back.

"Naturally. We know quite a bit about you." He didn't fidget or make any extraneous movement, only continued to hold his hat in his gloved hands. "Helping you would be a more complex business if we didn't."

"We." Ice climbed through her at the word. There was more than one of him, whoever this Marco was.

His dark gaze held hers. "Nemesis, Unlimited." A pause followed, as though he expected her to react.

"I've no idea what or who Nemesis, Unlimited, is," she snapped.

His lips gave a slight, rueful twist. "No, I suppose you wouldn't," he murmured half to himself.

"Get out." She pointed to the door, hoping her hand didn't shake too much and betray her.

"Your husband, Hugh Alistair Parrish, died eight months ago from consumption," the stranger Marco said, quickly but in a low voice, as if reciting the result of a parliamentary vote. "He caught it after a trip to inspect a Glasgow cotton mill. It took three months for the doctors to finally reach a diagnosis. You went to the spa at Amélie-les-Bains to get a cure, but nothing worked, and he died with you at his side. The room had white curtains and blue-flowered wallpaper."

Nausea swamped her. These were facts no one but she herself knew.

Yet Marco continued, relentless. "When you finally returned home after burying him, you discovered that your money — including the portion you brought with your marriage — was completely gone. So you approached his financial agent and executor, one Edgar Devere. But Devere told you Hugh had died in arrears."

He quieted for a moment as someone passed by on the sidewalk outside. Once the pedestrian moved on, Marco continued. "Hugh's bank accounts were emptied and all of his liquid assets — including this house — were used to repay his debts. All your finances were tied up with your late husband's. It's been difficult to retrieve your lost fortune because of your widowhood. Everyone you've spoken with, all the attorneys and advisors, have told you the same thing." He drew a slow breath. "You're destitute and no one can get you back your money."

"How ... how ..." was all she could manage. Her head spun, and she walked backward, until she collided with the wall. It took all of her strength and lessons in etiquette to keep from sliding to the floor.

She'd tried so hard to keep all these sordid facts from being known. Hugh was the son of a baron's youngest son, and the family name meant everything. Scandal would follow like a relentless hound if anyone learned that her husband had died insolvent, but it was Hugh and his mortification from beyond the grave that had had her work intensely to prevent these details from being made public. To all of their acquaintances, she'd said only that she'd put everything into storage, and planned on staying with her sister in the country for an indefinite time.

"You're a reporter," she accused.

The cursed man had the nerve to chuckle. "I've been called many an insult, but never that one."

"Then how can you know any of that?" Not only the details of her financial disaster, but the color of the flowers on the wallpaper in the hotel room where Hugh had died.

"I'm here to help," he repeated.

"I don't see how or why," she snapped. Fear, exhaustion, and a dozen other emotions shortened her temper.

"There's a tea shop on Edgware Road." He gestured toward the door. "Come with me there, and everything will be explained."

She raised a brow. "Is this what's become of the world, then? Penniless widows are the latest prey. And here I'd thought that white slavery was a myth to keep girls and women from leaving their homes."

Any lingering signs of humor left his face immediately. "Slavery continues to exist. In many forms. But in this instance, Mrs. Parrish, there aren't any plans to spirit you away to some dockside brothel or sell you to an opium lord in China."

"What a blessed relief." Though it was considered crude, she crossed her arms over her chest. "Unless you plan on dragging me bodily out the door, I'm not going anywhere with you, Marco."

He had the audacity to give her a slow, deliberate perusal, from the hem of her bombazine gown to the top of her head. Since she was home, she didn't have to wear her widow's bonnet and veil, and she fought the old self- conscious urge to cover her coppery hair with the flat of her hand.

His look wasn't salacious, however, and he didn't seem to care that she had unfashionably red hair. All he said was, "You'd be a slight burden to carry."

Heat crept into her cheeks. She'd lost weight over the course of Hugh's long battle with consumption, and since returning home, she'd only been able to afford two meals a day, neither of them lavish. "And you are nothing but impudence."

"Waiting for us at the tea shop are an associate of mine, and Miss Lucy Nelson."

Bronwyn pushed away from the wall with a surge of anger. "If you've hurt Lucy —"

"Miss Nelson is as safe as a guinea in the national treasury. She was the one who sent me here."

Confusion thickly clouded Bronwyn's mind. "Why would my former maid contact you?"

The inscrutable man seemed to lose the smallest thread of patience. His jaw tightened. Just a little. "Because, as I've said twice before, I'm here to help."

"Lucy should have come here, herself."

"She wanted to, but the house is being watched, and I didn't want to attract too much attention. Don't go to the windows."

Bronwyn stopped in the act of doing just that. "Moseby's men?"

"The same. They're on the alert that if you make what appears to be an attempt to retain possession of the house, they are authorized to use force."

She swallowed hard. Dear God, what sort of man was this Moseby, that he'd use violence against a woman? "They wouldn't." But her voice didn't sound especially confident.

"I know Moseby," Marco answered, "and he most certainly would."

Pressing a hand to her mouth, she wondered what had become of her life. It had turned bleak and squalid in a matter of months. She was a gentleman's daughter. These kinds of things happened only in periodicals full of exciting, lurid stories. Now here she was, just like one of those women in the stories. Except this was truly happening, not a work of fiction.

Marco turned one palm up. "Come with me. Fifteen minutes of your time simply to listen. And if you don't like what you hear, then I'll be happy to pay for your cab fare to the boardinghouse in Barnsbury."

Of course he'd know her intended destination. But then, he had Lucy to tell him everything. Bronwyn had trusted Lucy. Why would her maid — a woman she'd known for six years — betray her like this? Unless Lucy, and these Nemesis people, truly did want to help her. Why? At this point, it didn't much matter. She'd already reached her nadir at the age of twenty-eight. Anything would be an improvement.

"My bags are in my room," she said.

"I'll wait while you fetch them."

Her life truly had altered utterly when a man expected her to retrieve her own luggage. Perhaps that was for the best. She'd played by all the rules of society and good breeding, yet here she was, in an empty house, without a groat, reliant on the word of a handsome but questionable man. Clearly, those rules served no purpose, offered no safety.

Without another word, she turned and walked up the stairs. She felt Marco's gaze on her with every step, and it filled her with a strange, unpleasant awareness.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Wicked Temptation by Zoë Archer. Copyright © 2014 Zoë Archer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there's nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master's degrees in literature and fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed Blades of the Rose series and the historical paranormal series The Hellraisers. Zoë and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, live in Los Angeles.


Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there's nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she now applies her master's degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed BLADES OF THE ROSE series and the paranormal historical romance series, THE HELLRAISERS. She has also written steampunk romances, SKIES OF FIRE and SKIES OF STEEL. Zoë and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, live in Los Angeles.

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Wicked Temptation 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
LITERALADDICTION_MLO More than 1 year ago
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Vivacious Valkyrie - Marta: *Copy gifted in exchange for an honest review Zoe Archer is a name I've seen cropping up quite a lot recently and I was quite keen to see just what all the fuss was about, plus, as I was in the mood for an historical romance, I thought this book would fit the bill nicely. Ms Archer is an award winning author who seems to straddle numerous genres with ease so it was with great expectation that I settled in to read this book which is part of her Nemesis Unlimited series. Nemesis is a secret organization run by men and women determined to right wrongs and fight for justice. It doesn't matter who you are, if you need help, then these dedicated men and women will move heaven and earth to be there for you.  Bronwyn is recently widowed but can't quite understand just what's happened to the money she and her late husband had. Bronwyn may have led a sheltered and privileged life, but she realizes that something just doesn't add up. Left destitute, she prepares to leave her home one last time but a strange man appears who informs her that he and those he works with have heard of her plight and just might have a solution. Bronwyn reluctantly agrees to listen to the enigmatic Marco but what she hears changes her life. Marco has a knack for espionage and has learned to use his skills to his advantage but he abhors injustice and so secretly works to help those who have been oppressed. When Bronwyns plight is brought to his attention he's pretty sure that the man her late husband entrusted their fortune with has embezzled it but proof is needed. Bronwyn is the only one who can identify the thief and so the hunt is on but there's just something about the young widow that appeals to Marco. Bronwyn has steel in her backbone and music in her heart but Marco has no time for romance or does he?  I really enjoyed this and found it quite unexpected . Its a very entertaining story that takes the heroine Bronwym on quite a journey both in terms of travel but most importantly on a voyage of self discovery! She lives in a time when appearances and rules are everything but polite society isn't always kind. Marco sees a wildness in her that has been hidden and as they spend more and more time in each other's company Bronwyn is like a butterfly leaving her chrysalis behind.  This was fast paced and filled with suspense and romance. A passionate awakening that just felt right and a couple you just want to cheer for. Loved the historical details and I personally hated the way women were perceived as little more than chattels but the author has done an excellent job of bringing those outdated views into her storyline. An intelligent heroine paired with a hero filled with depths, fabulous!
AustenStudent More than 1 year ago
The third book in the gripping and gritty Victorian era series, Nemesis, Unlimited, by Zoë Archer. Bronwyn Parrish is a lady of privilege whose husband’s death has left her destitute, when Nemesis, Unlimited assists in helping her regain her lost fortune. An amateur violinist who relinquished the impossible dream of playing professionally due to her class and position, she possesses an inner fire and passion. "An unfortunate situation. That’s what wisdom and safety had netted her. A debt-ridden dead husband, with nothing left for her but a boardinghouse and advertisements in a newspaper.” (p25) Marco Black is a smooth and experienced agent, and a spy, who cannot let attraction get in the way of the mission. He’s reluctant to take on Bronwyn’s case but is quickly impressed by her zest for life, her inner hunger for righteousness, and her fearlessness and strength. They quickly enter a world of subterfuge and adventure as they pursue a powerful and very dangerous French syndicate. Along the way, they get to know one another and begin an affair that Marco insists will be temporary. And Bronwyn also develops a taste for risk and excitement. And, of course, for Marco, an enigmatic and mysterious English-Italian spy. Marco has no time for love in his perilous work, especially with a high-class widow, even though she has lost her wealth. But she attracts and intrigues him like no other woman ever has before. "Whether or not he felt a growing attraction to a spirited, redheaded widow was irrelevant." (p90) This has been a bite-your-nails series as Nemesis, Unlimited, an underground group of clever and daring vigilantes, helps those unable to seek justice for themselves. Bronwyn’s maid enlists their help for her lady, against Marco’s initial wishes for a woman of privilege. Their romance is passionate and sizzlingly sexy. Their conversations are beautiful to read as they get to know one another and pursue the dangers that surround them. The threatening situations they find themselves in often had me on the edge of my seat and the pacing in the story is excellent, a lovely balance of excitement and romance. This book can be read as a standalone but it’s preferable to read them in order as heroes and heroines from previous books make an appearance and/or are mentioned here. A sexy, thrilling, and enjoyable story.
Sailon More than 1 year ago
Nemesis is an organization created to help the helpless. In Wicked Temptation, one of the founders of Nemesis, Marco Black is a reluctant savior to the newly widowed Bronwyn Parrish. Claims of debt have been made against the Parrish name has left Bronwyn homeless and penniless. As a woman without a man, Bronwyn has no recourse to prove these debts false. Marco vows to assist Bronwyn in reclaiming her stolen money and bring those who pray on the weak/vulnerable to justice. Marco doesn't want to want a socialite but Bronwyn's tenacity and perseverance is just one of the many attributes that draw Marco in.  Passions fly in this wickedly delightful historical romance. This sensually enticing plot is infused with intrigue, mystery and action. Wicked Temptation is a highly entertaining and very enjoyable read.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 3 in the Nemesis, Unlimited series. After her husband's death, Bronwyn Parrish learns that her fortune is gone. The day she leaves her home to find work, she has an unexpected guest. Marco Black, from Nemesis Unlimited, has taken the job of trying to get her fortune back. Nemesis heard about Bronwyn's trouble from her former maid. They normally didn't help the nobility, but they were convinced that Bronwyn was worthy. They soon learn that Bronwyn's late husband's business manager stole the money to cover his gambling debts and travel to Paris to find him. After locating the man, they learn that he owes money to one of France's most ruthless crime syndicates, Les Grillons. Unfortunately, the business manager can't pay back the money he owes and is soon killed. Since Bronwyn and Marco witnessed the murder, they are now on the run from Les Grillons. Marco searches out a former associate of his for help. While running from Les Grillons, Marco and Bronwyn can't fight their attraction to each other and soon become lovers after agreeing that this would be a short affair. But what happens when their feeling start to run much deeper? I LOVED this story. You see bits of Marco in the other books in the series and knowing that he was a spy for England had intrigued me. His story did not disappoint me. Browyn was not your typical society wife. When she lost all her money, she didn't lose it. She had set a plan in motion when Marco swept in to help her find the missing money. Had she been the typical society miss, Marco would have never fallen for her. His background working with Nemesis has given him a dislike of the upper class. It said a lot to Marco that Bronwyn's maid was the one asking for help. She had to be someone special to inspire such loyalty from an employee. As with all the other stories in the series, the significant other seems to fall right into the life of Nemesis. The organization plays such a big part in their lives that the relationships wouldn't work otherwise. Because of this, these stories are not your typical historical romance with the relationships taking place at several society balls. If you are looking for that type of story, this book (and series) is not for you. But if you are looking for a historical romance with some adventure and mystery then this is the series for you. I'm really hoping that Archer continues to write this series as I just can't seem to get enough of it. Thanks go to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.