Series: Ladies of Lantern Street #1
Published by Putnam on April 24, 2012
Genres: Historical romantic suspense, Paranormal romantic suspense
Source: the library
Also in this series: The Mystery Woman
Also by this author: The Mystery Woman, Otherwise Engaged, Garden of Lies, 'Til Death Do Us Part, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, With This Ring, Rendezvous, Affair, Tightrope
Evangeline Ames has rented a country cottage far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal Gardens, she finds pleasure in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety.
Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There are rumors enough already, about treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle—who died of mysterious causes. With Evangeline’s skill for detection, and Lucas’s sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they have a common enemy. And as the energy emanating from Crystal Gardens intensifies, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long.
According to a recent interview with debut novelist Beatriz Williams, Jayne Ann Krentz is trying to “untangle” her three pen names now that she is done writing the Arcane Society novels. (A pity, since I rather enjoyed most of the Arcane series.) Crystal Gardens is the first in the “Ladies of Lantern Street” series, written under Krentz’s ‘Amanda Quick’ pseudonym. Like all the Amanda Quick novels, this one is set in Victorian England.
Evangeline Ames, first-time novelist, paid companion, and psychic private investigator, has come to Little Dixby for two reasons: to work on her book and to recover from a harrowing attempt on her life at the end of her last case. So when an intruder breaks into her rented cottage, resourceful Evangeline is out the window and pelting down the road to the neighboring estate before the assailant reaches her bedroom. Her best chance to escape him lies in the lush and eerie Crystal Gardens. There she is rescued by Lucas Sebastian, himself a psychic investigator —and her landlord. Lucas takes it upon himself to protect Evangeline and discover who is trying to kill her, and why.
Crystal Gardens finds Krentz/Quick in better form than in Copper Beach (Krentz, Jan.2012), though still not at the top of her game. The mystery holds together reasonably well; it certainly kept me reading. The characters are enjoyable, particularly Evangeline, though Sebastian is not unlike a number of other Krentz/Quick/Castle heroes in his dark, brooding, hunter-like qualities. There’s a bit of misdirection in the form of treasure-hunting intruders; unfortunately this is solved rather easily and thus loses its ability to distract and heighten the suspense, but there remain a few surprises nonetheless.
Crystal Gardens contains a little more background explanation for the psychic abilities shown by the hero and heroine than was evident in Copper Beach. Lucas, at least, had a mentor in his youth who taught him how to use and control his talents. However, the existence of psychic talents and devices (an unusual lantern or flashlight, for one) and their development still have no historical or explanatory foundation within the story, which I find annoying.
In short, I finished this novel feeling moderately but not totally satisfied. I’ve read better from Krentz/Quick, but there was enough here to enjoy.
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Note: It looks as though there will be at least two more books in this series. Evangeline’s closest friends and housemates, Clarissa and Beatrice, are similarly talented and work for the same private investigation firm.