I don’t particularly like revenge stories or heroes who are escaped convicts, but it’s amazing how little all that matters when you are reading a good book. And Sweet Revenge is a good book.
When Jack Dalton finds out that the man who killed his sister is in town, he engineers his escape from prison in a day. His plans only extend to getting out of the place and killing Lord Rockley; he knows he’ll likely be captured and killed right after that, but he doesn’t care. His revenge will be complete. But when he completes his harrowing escape and arrives in Rockley’s hotel room, he finds not Rockley but a group of people calling themselves Nemesis, apparently led by the beautiful woman holding a gun to his head. They want his help to bring Rockley to justice and make him pay. They make him promise not to kill Rockely – and in return he can start a new life elsewhere afterward. Jack is between a rock and a hard place, so he reluctantly agrees.
The aforementioned beautiful woman with the gun is Eva, a mysterious woman who leads a double life: Respectable governess by day, Nemesis operative by night. They’ve sought out Jack’s help because he’s Rockley’s former bodyguard, and he has unique knowledge about Rockley’s intimates and activities. Nemesis exists to help wronged parties – mostly women – exact revenge on the powerful, wealthy people who wronged them. In this case, Rockley has ruined a young woman’s reputation as well as her tradesman father’s business.
Sparks begin flying between Jack and Eva when he changes out of his prison clothes in a carriage as they are making their escape. And they don’t stop flying. Jack is a big, powerful man – Rockley’s ex-bodyguard and a boxer before that. His size and strength are as major plot point, and also a huge part of his allure for Eva. Eva has a more modest background. Her parents were missionaries, and she was raised modestly. But her do-gooding has taken a different direction, and her loyalty to Nemesis is her top priority. There doesn’t seem to be a future for her and Jack; as soon as they bring Rockley to justice, Jack will have to start over with a new life and new identity. Nemesis is Eva’s life, and she has no intention of leaving London or her work there.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. I liked everything about it, really, but the characters are the main strength. If you’ve had your fill of lords and ladies, look no further than Jack and Eva. Their story is real, hot, and full of sexual tension. Both of them are interesting and likable – particularly Jack. I admit to being something of a grammar snob in real life (don’t get me started on people who say “between you and I…”), but I surprised myself by finding Jack’s earthy, slummy dialect hot. I could definitely see what Eva saw in him. That neither of them is from the upper crust is a huge part of the appeal. One of the best scenes is when they get dressed up to go to a ball in order to corner one of Rockley’s associates. It’s a completely novel experience for both of them, and their take on it is so much more refreshing than it would be if they were bored lords and ladies complaining about marriage-minded mamas and the questionable temperature of Almack’s lemonade.
I also really liked the writing itself. I read Sweet Revenge on the heels of two duds, and it’s amazing how much that can color your experience. The quality of the writing was obvious from the first page; I almost breathed a sigh of relief as I thought, “Yes, this is what good writing is like.”
I’m adding Zoe Archer to my list of promising authors. I’m not sure why I’ve never read her before, but I’ll definitely be reading her again. Sweet Revenge is a great start to an intriguing series, and I encourage you to try it even if you’re not all that keen on revenge.