A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis

Jillian Stone
September 2012, European Historical Romance (Late Victorian England)
Pocket, $7.99, 432 pages, Amazon ASIN 1451629052
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Hot

There is very little truly, intrinsically wrong with A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis. In fact, in many ways, it's a unique and fun novel. But I found I was able to put it down for a week at a time, and not miss it, something that doesn't quite recommend it.

Rafe Lewis is a younger son of a Scottish nobleman who has taken up a trade: he's a detective with Scotland Yard. A few mysterious "accidental" deaths lead him and his fellow detectives to the conclusion that someone is targeting industrialists and killing them with their own inventions. Ms. Francine(Fanny) Greyville-Nugent's father, a famous and very wealthy inventor, was recently killed by his new machine and with her very vocal plans to take over the company, she has become a target, so Rafe is sent to take her into protective custody. There is one problem, though; they once were betrothed, until Rafe suddenly and mysteriously called it off five years ago.

Fanny is obviously reluctant to go off with him, but when a band of persistent but inept abductors come after her and Rafe, they must take off and flee across Scotland to escape death or kidnapping, all while figuring out who these "natty blokes" are, and why they are targeting industrialists. Meanwhile, Rafe and Fanny also face the events of five years ago, reveal secrets, and rekindle their passion for each other.

Fanny and Rafe certainly have chemistry, and more than just the physical kind. They bicker and squabble but still obviously care for each other. What happened five years ago is revealed fairly early on, but not in its entirety. I thought it was dragged out a bit longer than necessary. I can see the possibility that many people will have a hard time forgiving Rafe for what he did, but I see it more as a serious lapse in judgment, coupled with some machinations on the part of his friend, than a true act of betrayal.

The rest of the plot is interesting, sometimes confusing, fast-paced, and creative. It’s a mix of bloodless violence (lots of people get shot and simply “collapse”) and rather gruesome details. There’s a jauntiness to the story that, somewhat surprisingly, works very well with the time period and the almost steampunk nature of the plot. I liked the tone of the dialogue a lot. It was pithy and witty, with a great voice of the era.

As much as the book had going for it, though, it was just too easy to put down. Good books – hell, even some bad ones – occupy my thoughts when I’m not reading, and that just wasn’t the case here. All the flaws in the story would have been manageable had it been more of a compelling read. As it stands, the book was enjoyable when I was reading it, and forgettable when I was not.

-- Jane Granville

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