'New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens knows the world of Regency London, especially the exclusive enclave of luxury and wealth in which the aristocracy lived and loved. But beyond that glittering circle lay another world…and in this book Laurens pulls back the curtain that has hidden it from us - until now.
'Penelope Ashford, Portia Cynster's younger sister, has grown up with every advantage - wealth, position, and beauty. Yet Penelope is anything but a typical ton miss - forceful, willful and blunt to a fault, she has for years devoted her considerable energy and intelligence to directing an institution caring for the forgotten orphans of London's streets.
'But now her charges are mysteriously disappearing. Desperate, Penelope turns to the one man she knows who might help her - Barnaby Adair.
'Handsome scion of a noble house, Adair has made a name for himself in political and judicial circles. His powers of deduction and observation combined with his pedigree has seen him solve several serious crimes within the ton. Although he makes her irritatingly uncomfortable, Penelope throws caution to the wind and appears on his bachelor doorstep late one night, determined to recruit him to her cause.
'Barnaby is intrigued-both by her story, and her. Her bold beauty and undeniable brains make a striking contrast to the usual insipid ton misses. And as he's in dire need of an excuse to avoid said insipid misses, he accepts her challenge, never dreaming she and it will consume his every waking hour.
'Enlisting the aid of Inspector Basil Stokes of the fledgling Scotland Yard, they infiltrate the streets of London's notorious East End. But as they unravel the mystery of the missing boys, they uncover the trail of a criminal embedded in the very organization recently created to protect all Londoners. And that criminal knows of them and their efforts, and is only too ready to threaten all they hold dear, including their new-found knowledge of the intrigues of the human heart.' (Publication abstract)
'Inspector Stokes of Scotland Yard calls in aristocratic sleuth Barnaby Adair to assist in a most puzzling case...
'Penelope Adair, wife and partner of amateur sleuth Barnaby Adair, is so hugely pregnant she cannot even waddle. When Barnaby is summoned to assist Inspector Stokes of Scotland Yard in investigating the violent murder of a gentleman at a house party, Penelope, frustrated that she cannot participate, insists on a detailed report – and promptly arranges a private dinner party so that she and Griselda, Stokes’s wife, can be duly informed of their husbands’ discoveries.
'But what Barnaby and Stokes uncover only leads to more questions. The murdered gentleman had been thrown out of the house party days before, so why was he returning? And how and why did he come to have the fabulous Finsbury diamond necklace in his pocket, much to Lord Finsbury’s consternation. Most peculiarly, why had the murderer left the necklace, worth a stupendous fortune, on the body?
'The conundrums compound as our intrepid investigators attempt to make sense of this most baffling case. Meanwhile, the threat of scandal grows ever more tangible for all those attending the house party – and the stakes are highest for Lord Finsbury’s daughter and the gentleman who has spent the last decade in darkest Africa striving to resurrect his family fortune so he can aspire to her hand. Working parallel to Barnaby and Stokes, can our would-be lovers find a path through the maze of contradictory facts to expose the murderer, disperse the pall of scandal, and claim the love and the shared life they now crave?' (Publication summary)
'Montague has devoted his life to managing the wealth of London’s elite, but at a huge cost: a family of his own. Then the enticing Miss Violet Matcham seeks his help, and in the puzzle she presents him, he finds an intriguing new challenge professionally . . . and personally.
'Violet, devoted lady-companion to the ageing Lady Halstead, turns to Montague to reassure her ladyship that her affairs are in order. But the famous Montague is not at all what she’d expected—this man is compelling, decisive, supportive, and strong—everything Violet needs in a champion, a position to which Montague rapidly lays claim.
'But then Lady Halstead is murdered and Violet and Montague, aided by Barnaby Adair, Inspector Stokes, Penelope, and Griselda, race to expose a cunning and cold-blooded killer who stalks closer and closer. Will Montague and Violet learn the shocking truth too late to seize their chance at enduring love?' (Publication abstract)
'With her husband, amateur-sleuth the Honorable Barnaby Adair, decidedly eccentric fashionable matron Penelope Adair is attending the premier event opening the haut ton’s Season when a body is discovered in the gardens. A lady has been struck down with a finial from the terrace balustrade. Her family is present, as are the cream of the haut ton—the shocked hosts turn to Barnaby and Penelope for help.
'Barnaby calls in Inspector Basil Stokes and they begin their investigation. Penelope assists by learning all she can about the victim’s family, and uncovers a feud between them and the Latimers over the fabulous shoes known as Lady Latimer’s shoes, currently exclusive to the Latimers.
'The deeper Penelope delves, the more convinced she becomes that the murder is somehow connected to the shoes. She conscripts Griselda, Stokes’s wife, and Violet Montague, now Penelope’s secretary, and the trio set out to learn all they can about the people involved, and most importantly the shoes, a direction vindicated when unexpected witnesses report seeing a lady fleeing the scene—wearing Lady Latimer’s shoes.
'But nothing is as it seems, and the more Penelope and her friends learn about the shoes, conundrums abound, compounded by a Romeo-and-Juliet romance and escalating social pressure…until at last the pieces fall into place, and finally understanding what has occurred, the six intrepid investigators race to prevent an even worse tragedy.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Miraculously spared from death, Malcolm Sinclair erases the notorious man he once was. Reinventing himself as Thomas Glendower, he strives to make amends for his past, yet he never imagines penance might come via a secretive lady he discovers living in his secluded manor.
'Rose has a plausible explanation for why she and her children are residing in Thomas's house, but she quickly realizes he's far too intelligent to fool. Revealing the truth is impossibly dangerous, yet day by day he wins her trust, and then her heart.
'But then her enemy closes in, and Rose turns to Thomas as the only man who can protect her and the children. And when she asks for his help, Thomas finally understands his true purpose, and with unwavering commitment, he seeks his redemption in the only way he can–through living the reality of loving Rose.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'A young lady accused of theft and the gentleman who elects himself her champion enlist the aid of Stokes, Barnaby, Penelope, and friends in pursuing justice, only to find themselves tangled in a web of inter-family tensions and secrets.
'When Miss Cara Di Abaccio is accused of stealing the Carisbrook emeralds by the infamously arrogant Lady Carisbrook and marched out of her guardian’s house by Scotland Yard’s finest, Barnaby Adair’s cousin Hugo Adair takes umbrage and descends on Scotland Yard, breathing fire in Cara’s defense.
'Hugo discovers Inspector Stokes has been assigned to the case, and after surveying the evidence thus far, Stokes calls in his big guns when it comes to dealing with investigations in the ton—namely, the Honorable Barnaby Adair and his wife, Penelope.
'Soon convinced of Cara’s innocence and, given Hugo’s apparent tendre for Cara needing to clear her name, Penelope and Barnaby join Stokes and his team in pursuing the emeralds and, most importantly, who stole them.
'But the deeper our intrepid investigators delve into the Carisbrook household, the more certain they become that all is not as it should be. Lady Carisbrook is a harpy, Franklin Carisbrook is secretive, Julia Carisbrook is overly timid, and Lord Carisbrook, otherwise a genial and honorable gentleman, holds himself distant from his family. More, his lordship attempts to shut down the investigation. And Stokes, Barnaby, and Penelope are convinced the Carisbrooks’ staff are not sharing all they know.
'Meanwhile, appointed Cara’s watchdog until the mystery is resolved, Hugo, fascinated by Cara as he’s been with no other, seeks to entertain and amuse her…and, increasingly intently, to discover the way to her heart. Consequently, Penelope finds herself juggling the attractions of the investigation and the Adair family’s demands for her to actively encourage the budding romance.
'What would her mentors advise? On that, Penelope is crystal clear.
'Aided by Griselda, Violet, and Montague and calling on contacts in business, the underworld, and ton society, Penelope, Barnaby, and Stokes battle to peel back each layer of subterfuge and, step by step, eliminate the innocent and follow the emeralds’ trail…
'Yet instead of becoming clearer, the veils and shadows shrouding the Carisbrooks only grow murkier…until, abruptly, our investigators find themselves facing an inexplicable death, with a potential murderer whose conviction would shake society to its back teeth.' (Publication summary)
'On discovering the lifeless body of an innocent ingenue, a peer attending a country house party joins forces with the lady-amazon sent to fetch the victim safely home in a race to expose the murderer before Stokes, assisted by Barnaby and Penelope, is forced to allow the guests, murderer included, to decamp.
'Well-born rakehell and head of an ancient family, Alaric, Lord Carradale, has finally acknowledged reality and is preparing to find a bride. But loyalty to his childhood friend, Percy Mandeville, necessitates attending Percy's annual house party, held at neighboring Mandeville Hall. Yet despite deploying his legendary languid charm, by the second evening of the week-long event, Alaric is bored and restless.
'Escaping from the soiree and the Hall, Alaric decides that as soon as he's free, he'll hie to London and find the mild-mannered, biddable lady he believes will ensure a peaceful life. But the following morning, on walking through the Mandeville Hall shrubbery on his way to join the other guests, he comes upon the corpse of a young lady-guest.
'Constance Whittaker accepts that no gentleman will ever offer for her-she's too old, too tall, too buxom, too headstrong ... too much in myriad ways. Now acting as her grandfather's agent, she arrives at Mandeville Hall to extricate her young cousin, Glynis, who unwisely accepted an invitation to the reputedly licentious house party.
'But Glynis cannot be found.
'A search is instituted. Venturing into the shrubbery, Constance discovers an outrageously handsome aristocrat crouched beside Glynis' lifeless form. Unsurprisingly, Constance leaps to the obvious conclusion.
'Luckily, once the gentleman explains that he'd only just arrived, commonsense reasserts itself. More, as matters unfold and she and Carradale have to battle to get Glynis' death properly investigated, Constance discovers Alaric to be a worthy ally.
'Yet even after Inspector Stokes of Scotland Yard arrives and takes charge of the case, along with his consultants, the Honorable Barnaby Adair and his wife, Penelope, the murderer's identity remains shrouded in mystery, and learning why Glynis was killed-all in the few days before the house party's guests will insist on leaving-tests the resolve of all concerned. Flung into each other's company, fiercely independent though Constance is, unsusceptible though Alaric is, neither can deny the connection that grows between them.
'Then Constance vanishes.
'Can Alaric unearth the one fact that will point to the murderer before the villain rips from the world the lady Alaric now craves for his own?' (Publication summary)