After the first madcap adventure featuring the Hope Diamond and a daring thief, I was eager to give the second book telling the story of Thomas Hope himself a go. I’ve always enjoyed it when an author daringly writes a fictional story allowing real life characters some page time. In this case, it’s not a serious historical fiction, but a fun, passionate historical romantic romp. I had a good time with Thomas and his intrepid heroine, Sophia (already a point in her favor b/c of the name).
This second book in the series could be read out of order as the pertinent stuff needed to get what is going on is present, but…yes but. This story is told parallel to the first book so it makes a whole lot more sense when they are read in order because the reader would always feel like they were missing stuff that is going on off stage.
The story opens with Thomas Hope, successful banker to England’s elite, being paid a clandestine call by a man he hasn’t seen in years. Henry Beaton Lake, espionage agent for the crown, has a mission that only Thomas can do. Hope argues that he is done with all that, but gets dragged back into the Game for King and Country. His task is to convince the Princess Charlotte to sell a large unique blue diamond known as the French Blue. The gem once belonged to the French royal family, is thought to be cursed and is now a viable bargaining chip wit Napoleon. Unfortunately, other agents are at work and he is driven to seek asylum with an old partner who he interrupts meeting with the last person Hope expects to see. Innocent miss and debutante, Sophia Blaise, is sitting in the parlor of one of the most successful courtesans there is.
Sophia knows the danger of the secret life she lives as the biographer to such an infamous woman and so the arrival of her family’s banker while she works on edits with La Reinette is most unwelcome. Suddenly she is in the adventure that she always dreamed about, but it is nothing like she imagined. Hiding in a secret closet with Mr. Hope, running with him for their lives, helping dupe the Princess and then helping to search for the stolen French Blue alongside a man who puts all the other men, including the very eligible wealthy marquess she plans to marry, to shame. Does she choose with her heart or with her head?
Thomas is frantic to get the stolen diamond back before the gossip gets out, his clients mistrust his ability to watch over their wealth, and he is ruined not to mention the Crown loses a good bargaining tool with Napoleon. With the help of an unlikely crew, they track down the thief only to discover that all is not so simple. Other parties want the gem and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Thomas wants Sophia to stay out of the excitement and thus out of danger, but she refuses. It breaks his heart to see her, love all that he has come to know about her, and yet know that he can never have her because she is determined to marry nobility and wealth.
Alright, so this story has a lot of excitement, intrigue, passion, and mad-cap ways to it. The pacing was good and it never dragged. There was a lot going on, but not to the point of crazy confusion. Again, I had no trouble because I read the parallel story that goes on at the same time and crosses through this one often. Not sure I liked the distraction of the two stories running side by side, but it wasn’t a big deal either. I had a good time for the most part. I liked the characters, the plot, the pacing, the light tone, but I was only mildly into it.
I struggled with the match up in this one. I have weird kick ups like this once in a while and whole-heartedly admit that this issue is on me. I have nothing really against the characters and liked them as individuals and would even accept them as affectionate friends, but as lovers they didn’t work for me. I have a hard time seeing an older mature man with a young fresh out in society young lady so it’s tricky to sell me on it. Sophia was a nice and sensible girl and she has an adventurous streak that leads her to writing a courtesan’s memoirs and demanding to be part of the dangerous hunt for the jewel. However, this did not make me find her a good pairing for a man of Thomas Hope’s experiences and depth. I actually saw Thomas better suited to his former espionage partner, Le Reinette, who had lived such a full, rich life too. I found her so much more fascinating a character and she dominated those early scenes putting debutante Sophia into the shadows. While, on the other hand, I totally could see Sophia with the adorable marquess that was courting her. They had so much more in common and felt more connected. So a little swapping around and I’d be content, but I get that it doesn’t work that way.
The barrier to the romance didn’t really do it for me either. They love each other, but the only barrier is Sophia’s insistence that she needs to marry a wealthy aristocrat even after admitting that Thomas lights up her world, he is constantly in her thoughts, and the passion they share is off the hook. He’s a wealthy banker so not a step up, but he is accepted in Society as much more than a tradesman so he’s not exactly a step down either. Yeah, I just got impatient with her and wanted to bop some sense into her.
Looking ahead, there is another story line that has simmered in the background through book one and into this one. Henry Beaton Lake, Hope’s spy friend, and Lady Caroline, another background character have bristled up at each other and given off serious sparks all along. There is something between the two of them and some of the explanation finally comes out in this one. I really want their story so I was thrilled to discover that theirs will be the final book in the trilogy. It ought to be a real humdinger.
All in all, it was fun and entertaining story. I like the author’s playful style that still offers a good adventure and some passion. I would recommend this book to historical romance fans who like their stories more of spicy romance and madcap adventure.
My thanks to Penguin Group and to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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