Monday, September 07, 2009

Deception by Amanda Quick

Olympia Wingfield is a scholar. She normally lives on her own, but has taken in three of her nephews whom no one else in the family seemed to want. To help her out, her uncle, Artemis, sends her back items to sell to keep her mansion in repair and to help her raise the boys.

But this time, Artemis Wingfield sends her back the Lightbourne Diary along with a warning "Beware the Guardian!". It seems that Olympia believes that the Diary is the secret key to a great fortune... if it can be interpreted. It's in a mish-mash of Greek, Latin and English, and only Olympia can decipher the code. Artemis sends the Diary to Olympia by way of a friend he's made on his voyages, Jared Chillhurst. Jared is a member of the Flamecrest family, and seemingly the only one with anything in the way of business sense. When he inherited the family business at 19, it had dwindled to a single leaky boat, and he was forced to go to extraordinary lengths to save it, which was resented by the family- but they certainly don't turn down the money that they get from the business!

Jared's family wants him to steal the Flamecrest fortune out from under Olympia after she unravels the clues to where it is hidden in the Lightbourne Diary, but Jared thinks that perhaps he can work with her. So he accompanies Artemis's chests of goods to the country where Olympia lives with her nephews. Once there, he realizes that the boys are without a tutor, so he decides to present himself in that light. In the process, he saves her from an over-amorous suitor, and she hires him.

But the over-amorous suitor isn't the only man preying on Olympia, and Jared does his best to actually teach the boys while warning off the local squire, who has been cheating the non-mercantile Olympia out of a great deal of the money she could have gotten from the goods. But when Jared goes after the squire to get him to give back the money he stole from Olympia, but the squire doesn't want to admit to being what he really is, a thief and swindler, and tries to poison Olympia's mind against Jared even more than he has been doing anyway.

And when someone breaks into Olympia's house, he's sure it is the squire looking for him, so he convinces Olympia to take the boys with her on an extended trip to London. She has wanted to go there to consult maps to unearth the Flamecrest treasure, but along the way, she and Jared become lovers, and he discovers it wasn't the squire who was breaking into her house, but his own relatives, all of whom want to cheat Olympia out of the treasure and keep it for their own.

But London brings its own excitements. Someone else is after the Flamecrest Treasure, and has been from the start. But who could it be? The "Guardian" that Artemis warned Olympia to be careful about? A member of the Society for Travel and Exploration? One of Jared's relatives, looking for an adventure? Or someone else entirely?

This was another excellent book. Both hero and heroine feel that they are more or less outcasts from their family- Jared is cool and businesslike, the antithesis of his family, who are descended from a pirate, and though he restored his family fortune, his family looks down on him for it. And Olympia was herself an orphan and unwanted child until her aunts took her in- so does the same for her nephews so that they can have a secure home- even if she has to give up her hard-earned quiet to do so.

Slowly, over the course of the book, the two come to care for one another, and to trust each other completely, and through the other, discover parts of themselves they have never known, Jared finds he has some swashbuckling in his soul after all, and Olympia finds that she can want to be a wife. Though Jared's realization gave me a mental image something like the "Got a Little Captain in You?" ads for Captain Morgan Rum and made me laugh inappropriately.

The story, balanced between love and mystery, was fun to read, with moments of real suspense. It was a delicious treat I wanted to gobble up, and I enjoyed it immensely. Well worth the time spent in reading, and highly recommended.

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