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Miss Amity Doncaster, world traveler, is accustomed to adventure and risk. Benedict Stanbridge, a man of science and a spy for the Crown, has faced danger in the darker corners of foreign lands.
But they are about to face a threat that is shockingly close to home . . .
One does not expect to be kidnapped on a London street in broad daylight. But Amity Doncaster barely escapes with her life after she is trapped in a carriage with a blade-wielding man in a black silk mask who whispers the most vile taunts and threats into her ear. Her quick thinking, and her secret weapon, save her . . . for now.
But the monster known in the press as the Bridegroom, who has left a trail of female victims in his wake, has survived the wounds she inflicts and will soon be on his feet again. He is unwholesomely obsessed by her scandalous connection to Benedict Stanbridge—gossip about their hours alone in a ship’s stateroom seems to have crossed the Atlantic faster than any sailing vessel could. Benedict refuses to let this resourceful, daring woman suffer for her romantic link to him—as tenuous as it may be.
For a man and woman so skilled at disappearing, so at home in the exotic reaches of the globe, escape is always an option. But each intends to end the Bridegroom’s reign of terror in London, and will join forces to do so. And as they prepare to confront an unbalanced criminal in the heart of the city they love, they must also face feelings that neither of them can run away from. . .
Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz) scores again with this entertaining romantic suspense novel set in Victorian-era London. The first scenes are set in the Caribbean, where Amity Doncaster stumbles across a gentleman in an alley, bleeding from a gunshot wound. A doctor’s daughter, Amity quickly staunches the wound, summons help, and proceeds to nurse her patient back to health as they sail for New York.
Cut to London, to which Amity has returned after several years away. A soon-to-be-published author of a guide to globetrotting, the seasoned traveller is is shocked but resourceful when kidnapped by the notorious Bridegroom, a serial killer who leaves his upper-class victims with a plain gold ring on their finger. I got a kick out of Amity’s secret weapon, which helps her fight and escape from the Bridegroom.
On hearing of Amity’s brush with death, Benedict Stanbridge rushes back to London, and the two team up to try to locate the Bridegroom. Joining them are Amity’s widowed sister Penny, with whom she is living, and Inspector Logan of Scotland Yard, newly assigned to the case. Matters are complicated (of course!) by a second mystery having to do with Benedict’s covert mission and the question of who shot him and why. The plot becomes almost impossibly convoluted, in fact, but Quick/Krentz is always good at making the implausible seem believable, and the twin mysteries were complex enough to keep me guessing for a long time.
I liked Amity very much; her courage, curiosity, practicality and confidence as a traveler contrast nicely with her relative inexperience in matters of the heart. She’s certainly no fainting violet! Benedict is a refreshingly normal hero. An engineer, he’s intelligent and scientifically-minded, not given to romantic speeches. He’s quick to see and plan for possibilities, which is critical to the plot on more than one occasion. He’s a perfect match for Amity, and there’s surprisingly little tension between them beyond the attraction they both feel. This leaves the mysteries to carry most of the suspense, but with two puzzles and at least two threats to deal with, there’s more than enough to keep you turning the pages.
Interwoven with the main story is a sweet but quiet secondary romance between Penny and the quiet, handsome, well-spoken Inspector Logan. Penny is forthright — one of her conversations with Benedict is shockingly open for the time period — but there are hints that all was not well in her marriage. She’s protective of Amity, but understands her very well and doesn’t try to restrict her in any way. I enjoyed both Penny and Logan, and could easily see them as main characters in their own book. There’s nothing in the novel’s ending that suggests a sequel, but conversely, there’s nothing preventing one, so it’s not completely out of the question. Still, the book works perfectly well as a stand-alone.
Jayne Ann Krentz is one of my auto-read authors — I read everything she puts out. Otherwise Engaged may lack a little of the heat and tension of her very best books, but it’s engaging (if you’ll pardon the pun!) and satisfying nonetheless.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Recommended for: Readers who enjoy romantic suspense in a historical setting.