Desert Isle Keeper
City of Secrets
I don’t usually gravitate toward historical mysteries, not because that I dislike them exactly, but the few I’ve read have left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Still, when I first heard about Victoria Thompson’s Counterfeit Lady series with its con artist heroine, I decided to give it a try. Fortunately, book one (City of Lies) lived up to all of my expectations, so I was beyond thrilled to get a review copy of City of Secrets, the second in the series.
Before I get into the meat of this review, I want to point out that this is not a series you can read out of order. The mystery plots are wrapped up nicely by the end of each book, but there are several overarching storylines that will only make sense if you start at the beginning with City of Lies.
City of Secrets picks up pretty much where City of Lies left off. Our heroine, Elizabeth Miles, has managed to set herself up as a young woman from a reputable family who has come to New York City in search of a new start. Only a few people know the truth about her upbringing, and they are people Elizabeth is sure she can trust implicitly. In fact, one of them is the handsome Gideon Bates, a successful young lawyer who has developed feelings for Elizabeth despite her past life as an exceptional con artist. Gideon is determined to help Elizabeth start a new life, especially since he plans to marry her and society would frown on his taking a woman with a sullied reputation as his wife.
For the most part, Elizabeth has managed to fit into Gideon’s world with very little difficulty. His mother adores her, and many people follow her lead. Even so, Elizabeth can’t help but feel a little bit at loose ends. Keeping up the façade she has so carefully crafted is exhausting, and she sometimes wonders if it’s really what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Sure, she has strong feelings for Gideon, but will the two of them really be able to make things work when they come from such vastly different worlds?
Fortunately, Elizabeth is soon distracted from her misgivings by the plight of Priscilla Knight, a dedicated women’s suffragist who has been widowed for the second time under very mysterious circumstances. Priscilla and Elizabeth have begun to form a friendship, and the more Priscilla opens up to Elizabeth about the oddities surrounding her second marriage, the more Elizabeth begins to suspect that the misfortune that has befallen the other woman is not as much of an accident as someone wants the world to think it was. Soon, Elizabeth is in the middle of a dark and dangerous conspiracy involving some of New York’s most powerful families, and if she can’t get to the bottom of things soon, it’s possible Priscilla will lose her life.
It’s hard to say more about the plot of City of Secrets without spoiling it, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say this novel is a true delight from beginning to end. The story was dark enough to keep me interested without being overly graphic and Ms. Thompson managed to throw in some stellar twists that took me completely by surprise without going overboard or trying to shock the reader. The characters are expertly drawn, and the relationships they form with one another are quite easy to believe in.
Speaking of relationships, I love Elizabeth and Gideon as a couple. Gideon loves Elizabeth for who she really is rather than for who he thinks he can force her to become. He does act a bit overprotective at times, but Elizabeth manages to set him straight without a lot of difficulty. His slip-ups didn’t bother me as much as I expected them to, mostly because it was obvious he was acting out of a deep and abiding love for her. I loved how the two of them communicated, and that they didn’t fall prey to the pointless misunderstandings I encounter far too often in today’s fiction. They have wonderful chemistry, but they have yet to act on it. They’ve shared a few kisses, and I can’t wait to see them take their relationship further.
If you’re looking for a captivating mystery coupled with a sweet romance, you can’t go wrong with the two books in this series. The thought of waiting a year or more for the next installment saddens me, but I’m confident whatever the author has in store for Elizabeth and Gideon will be well worth the wait.