To Love a Thief
I feel like I was deceived by the story description of To Love a Thief. It promised an exciting story of jewel heists, political intrigues and reunited lovers working to solve a case to save Queen and country. Technically the story hit on all those points but there was very little excitement. Instead I had to slog through a lot of questionable storytelling to get any bang for my buck.
London has become the focus of the world on the eve of The Great Exhibition. Dignitaries and royalty from across Europe are there to see and be seen, while inventors and businessmen have gathered to showcase their newest innovations to the masses. Nathan Hawk has returned to England after ten years living in America to unveil a locking mechanism he devised for his company Steel Hawk that is guaranteed to be uncrackable. To prove his device works, he has managed to convince the princess of Zarrenburg to display her crown jewel, the Pasha Star, in a case protected by his lock. The future of his company rides on keeping the jewel safe during the course of the exhibition.
Rose Valetta would have been content to visit the Crystal Palace as a spectator; however her father’s life may be at stake if she cannot keep the real Pasha Star from being displayed. Three nights ago her father was taken from their apartments by men from their home country of Zarrenburg. She knows they want her father for his skill at crafting paste jewelry that looks like genuine stones, and from what she overheard during the kidnapping, fears they are going to steal the Pasha Star and replace it with one of his fakes. Trying to beat the kidnappers at their own game Rose crafts her own replica and makes her way to the exhibition hall to switch the pieces and use the real jewel to secure her father’s release. Everything becomes more complicated when Rose discovers that the jewel on display is already a fake and that the man who created the safe it’s in is none other than her father’s former apprentice, Nathan Hawk.
With so much on the line for them both, Nathan and Rose form an uneasy partnership to find the real Pasha Star. Their history together and Nathan’s sudden departure from England years before awakens conflicting emotions in Rose. She loved the young man he was but felt angry and betrayed when he left without a word to her or her father. Can she trust him now to find the jewel and save her father or will he simply run again? Nathan knows he is not the same man who abandoned Rose years before but he is wary about letting her back into his life and heart when his return to America is imminent. He is also confused when someone starts using his old alias The Raven might be involved in the theft; however Nathan cannot tell if he’s friend or foe. As the investigation gets closer to uncovering the real thief it leads to sinister revelations that threaten the Zarrenburg monarchy itself.
My hackles are instantly raised whenever an untried person suddenly believes they can solve a case better than professionals, as that situation requires a considerable suspension of disbelief. Rose is motivated to save her father and throws herself into the case of the missing jewel but she’s entirely dependent on Nathan’s rusty skills to infiltrate the London underworld. The two of them stumble into clues rather than discovering the connections on their own. It’s the miracle of storytelling that all the contacts Nathan had ten years ago are still alive, are friendly to him upon his return, and have the information he needs.
There is also a lot of confusion about the past Nathan was running from and how he was tied to the new person calling themselves The Raven. As Rose comes to trust Nathan, he tells her the truth about what made him leave England; however it’s only vaguely explained that he was a thief and created a name for himself on the streets as The Raven. When he starts poking around his old haunts he discovers that someone else has taken up the name and is asking about the Pasha Star, too. That angle of a third person quietly following Nathan and Rose’s progress is a non-starter and only serves as a device to help them out of a dangerous situation later on.
Unfortunately the major problem with To Love a Thief is that too much of the romantic relationship between Rose and Nathan depends on what the author tells us rather than watching it develop on the page. There is no depth to their emotions other than a renewal of youthful lust and an adult attraction to each other. The whirlwind nature of the investigation leaves little time for them to really connect or think about all the variables to a future together. Every part of their courtship is handled in the present, with barely a thought about what comes next. It’s difficult for me to picture a happy ever after when the characters are only thinking about happy for now.
Readers who can accept a few jumps in logic and a tepid love story may find something entertaining in To Love a Thief. For me there just wasn’t enough to earn a higher rating.