Lavinia Lake is a a woman who has a business of her own in Italy, business selling statues and other items that look Antique. But one night a man comes into her shop and starts breaking the pottery vases, jars and statues, and hustles her back to England, telling her that her shop has been used by members of a criminal enterprise to pass messages onto each other, and that he must protect and remove her for her own safety.
But Lavinia is sure that this man, Tobias March, is lying to her and has some ulterior motive for coming into her shop and destroying her livelihood, although she cannot say what it is exactly. So she determines to take her revenge at some point in the future- when she cannot tell, but she will live to have her revenge on him for what he has done.
Unfortunately for Lavinia, she finds out that Tobias March wasn't joking when he said she might be in danger. When she is blackmailed by a man named Holton Felix over what happened in her shop in Italy, she decided to search his rooms to see what it was that he would hold over her. But someone had gotten to Felix before her, and killed him. And in the man's rooms, she once more encountered Tobias March.
He informed her of what Felix had been up to, and that he had been in possession of a diary that apparently belonged to the leader of the gang. Not only did it have information about many people, but also contained data on Treason that occurred during the war. Since Lavinia is once again involved as a blackmail victim, it is likely that she will be blackmailed again by whoever now owns the book. If she wants to be free of such problems, she will have no choice but to work with Tobias to find the new blackmailer and killer and bring him or her to justice.
Tobias finds himself attracted to Lavinia right away, and before long, she finds herself returning his feelings. But with the strain of putting her beautiful niece, Emmeline, on the marriage mart, she does not want to marry herself. Too bad for her that Tobias's own brother-in-law, Anthony, has taken an interest in Emmeline, and doesn't want to see her married to anyone else. But as they pursue inquiries related to the Diary and a place known as "The Blue Chamber", Lavinia and Tobias struggle towards their developing relationship, as well as avoiding the people after them to kill them. Will they succeed in discovering the true culprits behind it all, and will Tobias persuade Lavinia to marry him?
I liked this book, and it ends on quite an interesting note. Yes, they have overcome the true villain of the piece, but have they installed yet another to replace those from the Blue Chamber? This sort of ending meshes well with the feelings of the two characters, as Lavinia goes from hating Tobias to feeling something for him quite quickly, whereas he comes to his own passions much quicker.
Their romance is played out in synch with that of Anthony and Emmeline, who are also falling in love, but keep to the proprieties that their elders are *not* observing.When Anthony discovers what Lavinia and Tobias have been doing, almost under his nose, his reaction is so startled that I actually laughed when I read it. It brought a sort of "Heathcliffe" vibe to the story, with the passions of the elders being greater than that of the young people, and more willing to give into them, because they can more easily avoid scandal.
I found the mystery intriguing, and the romance enthralling. Lavinia comes off as quite a modern woman, with her refusal to be married or to allow a man to have any sort of hold over her. She wants a "friends with benefits" arrangement, or so they call it nowadays, while not seeming to realize that it will be very hard to have that sort of a relationship with Tobias, who wants to marry her. Still, he can succeed if he shows that he isn't willing to order her around... but he's not at that point yet. The first in a series, and recommended.
Lavinia doesn't want to see Tobias again, but feels she has no choice but to work with him.