Heartbreaker is the second book in the Hell’s Belles series. It’s a jam packed book – there’s a road trip with racing carriages, highwaymen, kissing, stabbings, witty banter, a duke, a thief, and the last room at the Inn, with only one bed, of course. It all adds up to a very good time.
The book begins off with a bang. In the opening scene, our heroine Adelaide Frampton is at her wedding, which quickly turns into a riot between two very violent, rival gangs, one of which is run by her father. She escapes and ultimately joins the Hell’s Belles, a group of very strong women. Though society knows them as part of the ton, their passion is taking down aristocrats that abuse their power and then helping save the women those aristocrats have harmed. Among other things, the Belles work to prevent young women from marrying rogues and scoundrels. Adelaide is their Matchbreaker, the one who exposes dirty secrets and breaks matches. She is skilled, brilliant, fearless, and awesome.
Adelaide grew up the daughter of a crime boss and had to pick pockets just to survive. After escaping her father, she changed her name and was taken in by The Duchess, leader of the Belles. Adelaide has bright red hair and spectacles but disguises herself as a wallflower at balls so that no one recognizes her as the daughter of a famous London criminal.
She first meets Henry, the Duke of Clayborn, at a ballroom in Mayfair where he speaks rudely to her and she believes he is a cold and arrogant. Clayborn has a flawless reputation but unlike many of his peers is passionate about changing the law in order to end child labor.
Early in the book, Adelaide is breaking into her father’s desk to retrieve information to help the Belles. She finds the information she wants but also sees he has hidden away a wooden puzzle box. Sure it must somehow be important, she takes it, too. She is leaving when, much to her surprise, Clayborn appears and stops her. He doesn’t know the office they are in is her father’s, but the puzzle box she has taken is his, and he very much needs it back. Her father’s goons appear and the two work together to escape.
The next day, she is called to a meeting with Clayborn. His younger brother John, Lord Carrington, has run off to Gretna Green with Lady Helene, a young woman Adelaide is trying to find. Helene, Lord Havistock’s daughter, witnessed her truly awful father commit murder and the Belles want to spirit her to safety where she will then be able to testify against Havistock. Adelaide is determined to rescue Helene before she can wed, but Clayborn wants to see them married because he believes they are in love. And so the race is on as Adelaide and Clayborn each try to catch up with the young couple.
MacLean has penned a rip roaring adventure. I loved watching Adelaide and Clayborn fall for each other and seeing the Belles use their vast network of spies, disguises and explosives to help them along the way. The two of them are perfect for each other but of course it takes them some time – and embraces – for them to see this.
I had a few quibbles. At one point, Clayborn is knifed in a fight and lies unconscious for four days. When he awakes he gets up, has a shave, and has a long love scene with Adelaide. I wondered how he had the strength to manage that? Also, Adelaide spends too much time in repeat mode protesting why she and Clayborn can’t be together. Again and again, she says she isn’t good for him, that he is a Duke, and she is a thief and they cannot be together. It was tedious.
But, in general, I really enjoyed this book. And if readers haven’t read the first book in the series, Bombshell, they needn’t worry, because it stands up well on its own. Heartbreaker ends with a lead in to the next book which looks to feature Lady Imogen, the Belle who’s a chemistry (and explosives) expert, and Detective Inspector Thomas Peck. I can’t wait!
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Kayne Spooner is a retired science teacher, dog owner, and proud grandma who lives in beautiful Colorado. While she's an avid reader of all genres, romances have always swept her off her feet. Kayne gravitates toward stories with humor, swoon-worthy love interests, and memorable furry sidekicks, although really, if there's a happy ever after, she's here for it! She loves sharing her passion for books with the romance community and connecting with fellow readers. Follow her at: TikTok @kspoonerfish.