Saturday, July 12, 2008

The River Knows by Amanda Quick

Louisa Bryce is a widow largely ignored by polite society simply because she is not rich enough, well-connected enough nor high in rank to be anyone of importance. Yet she attracts Anthony Stallbridge's attention when he finds her attempting to sneak into the bedroom of Elwin Hastings... and not for a romantic tryst, either.

But when they are found by one of Hastings' bodyguards, a brutal man named Quinby, he pretends to have come upstairs with her for just such an assignation to throw off the man's suspicions. After they have escaped, Anthony drags her into his carriage to find out exactly what she was doing trying to sneak into Hastings' bedroom, for he was there on a mission to do the same.

After a bit of conversation in which Louisa assumes he is a jewel thief, she tells him that she is seeking confirmation that Hastings is involved in financing a brothel. A special brothel, called Phoenix House. But she isn't doing this just to satisfy her own curiousity, but as a reporter for a paper called "The Flying Intelligencer". So she hires Anthony to burgle the safe, a special model that only he could break into, as his father is the one who designed it. When he does so, he finds not only the papers that Louisa is looking for, but also a special emerald and diamond necklace that once belonged to his fianceƩ, who was presumed to have comitted suicide by throwing herself into the Thames. Stallbridge is convinced that Hastings murdered her, and the necklace is proof enough for him.

Nor is that all he finds in the safe, but papers indicating that Hastings is about to defraud one of his new investors out of a good portion of the proceeds of the business investment that they are in together. What makes this interesting is that the other man is a known crime lord, who up until this point, has been providing protection to Hastings.

When Louisa reveals that she knows the crime lord's mistress and that this woman sometimes helps her with her stories, she is able to arrange a meeting between the crime lord and Anthony Stallbridge in hopes of bringing Hastings down.

Hastings has an additional enemy, however, one who will try to bring him down, and one who doesn't feel any such compunctions about decency as Louisa and Anthony Stallbridge do. But after Hastings is dead, that same enemy turns their sights on the two who the enemy also blames for their current low position. Can Anthony and Louisa, who have fallen in love as they fought against Hastings, defeat both him, and their new, hidden enemy as well?

I love Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jane Castle's romances. All her characters are so interesting and yet realistically limited in what they can do. They fight against the forces of evil and gain love and happy endings, but none of them are stupid, not even when the plot calls for it. In fact, both hero and heroine are uncommonly intelligent and perceptive, but still get into trouble anyway... and are usually capable of getting themselves out of it again.

The love scenes are hot, and also somewhat sweet, which is a bonus. I like the interactions between the hero and the heroine, and how each learns from the other. I also like Anthony Stallworth's family, who accept Louisa with open arms, and yet are all as eccentric, warm, open and honest as Louisa herself is. I really, really enjoyed this novel, and I would gladly read it again. Top-notch.

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