City of Scoundrels
In this third installment in her Counterfeit Lady series, Victoria Thompson continues the story of con-woman-turned-society-lady Elizabeth Miles, a self-reliant young woman determined to right some of the wrongs society has done to others of her sex. This is not my favorite book in the series, but it’s still an enjoyable read, especially if you’ve already read the previous instalments, but if you’re thinking about starting with this one, you might find yourself a bit confused by certain plot points, so I recommend going back to City of Lies which is where the series begins.
Elizabeth is working hard to be a respectable member of society. She’s engaged to Gideon Bates, a successful attorney who has just been drafted to fight in the First World War, something that causes Elizabeth no small amount of anxiety. She can’t bear the thought of losing the man she loves, but Gideon feels it’s his duty to go off to war and nothing Elizabeth can say dissuades him. However, before he heads off to basic training, Gideon assists a young man named Tom in making a few changes to his will, changes that will provide for Tom’s new wife if anything should happen to Tom, who is on his way to fight in France. He’s kept his recent marriage a secret from his wealthy family who would not approve of the match, but he wants to make sure his wife will be well taken care of if he doesn’t return from the war.
Time passes and the day of Gideon’s departure draws closer. Elizabeth has resigned herself to his leaving, and she tries not to let him see how worried about him she really is, so when Tom’s wife shows up in Gideon’s office bringing news of her husband’s recent death and the suspicious disappearance of the most recent copy of his will, Elizabeth throws herself wholeheartedly into helping this war widow get the money she deserves. After all, if she’s focusing on Rose Preston and her problems, maybe she won’t worry so much about what might befall Gideon once he joins the fighting in Europe. Of course, all manner of mayhem ensues as soon as Elizabeth gets involved, and it is this mayhem that makes City of Scoundrels so much fun.
I’m not going to tell you anything about how Elizabeth manages to resolve things in Rose’s favor, but trust me when I say she’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. She enlists the help of her family, a group of con artists who have appeared numerous times in the previous books, and as always, the schemes they come up with are ingenious! These are people I wouldn’t want to go up against in real life.
If you’re looking for a mystery with super high stakes, this one probably isn’t the book for you. There’s a lot going on, but the story doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s more of a light-hearted romp instead of a dark and twisty mystery. I was pretty sure things would work out well in the end even if I wasn’t sure exactly how the various dilemmas would be resolved.
The relationship between Elizabeth and Gideon is one of the strongest elements of the series, and this entry is no exception. They have some things to work through, namely Gideon’s desire to protect Elizabeth from harm and her inability to remain on the sidelines of even the most dangerous situations, but their deep and abiding love for one another shines through, even when they are involved in a disagreement. Like the mystery, the romance is less angsty than others I’ve read, but that’s honestly part of its charm.
I highly recommend this book to fans of lighter mysteries with strong romantic elements. It’s the type of thing I don’t often pick up, but it works well when I need a diversion from the stresses of my everyday life. It’s a series I intend to keep reading, so I hope Ms. Thompson will give us another installment in the not-too-distant future.