Series: The Thief-takers #2
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: July 5th 2016
Genres: Historical Romance
Buy Online: Amazon ♥ Barnes & Noble ♥ Kobo
Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book. All opinions stated are solely mine.
She’s a liar.
She’s a con.
She’s a thief.
And God help him, but he’ll do anything to keep her safe.
Beautiful and conniving, maddening and brilliant, Esther is everything private detective Samuel Brass shouldn’t want. Esther knows she’s put herself in terrible danger, but nothing will stop her from making amends—not her family’s enemies, not old fears, and certainly not the domineering, interfering, and undeniably handsome former officer of the Scotland Yard. Yet whenever he’s near, Samuel makes her long for a life that can never be hers…and wish she were worthy of being saved.
A GIFT FOR GUILE is an entertaining story of redemption, with enjoyable and strong characters, great dialogue and a mystery to satisfy even the most dedicated mystery fan. My favorite thing about this story is the author’s dedication to building the characters and the story.
Esther Bales is facing an identity crisis and on a quest to make up for her past misdeeds but due to those misdeeds, London is not the safest place for her to be, so she has her very own personal escort in the form of her brother-in-law’s closest friend. Sir Samuel Brass is a devotee of the law, having lived his life on the right side of it, enforcing it and his attraction to Esther is unexpected and unwelcome because she operates on the other side of the law, but he is determined to keep her safe while helping her complete her mission.
But Esther’s path to redemption lies in accepting herself, even the less than savory parts and watching her get to that place of acceptance was a really enjoyable process. Samuel has a good heart and best intentions but he’s a bit clumsy in the delivery, often putting his foot in his mouth, but there is no doubt that he has Esther’s best interests at heart. I liked that they actually took time to talk to each other and that they put in the work needed to build their relationship.
In addition, there is enough mystery to get the heart pounding and a lot of humor to soften the explosions between them. One thing is sure: Samuel has his hands full with Esther and there is never a dull moment between them.
A GIFT FOR GUILE has something for every reader and if you love strong characters, an engaging mystery and witty dialogue, then this is one book that should be on your reading list. Ms. Johnson is a new to me author but I really enjoyed her writing and will be looking forward to more from her.
Fun Fact about the Victorian Age
Queen Victoria is largely credited with having popularized the white wedding dress. For her own wedding in 1840, she opted for all white over the gold or silver gown more traditional of English royal brides. By the 1850-60s, white was all the rage. It should be noted, however, that the white bridal gown did not originate with Victoria. Many wealthy brides chose white—an expensive, impractical color—as a way to advertise their family’s elite status. In fact, it can be argued that the white wedding tradition owes its longevity just as much to the relatively new concept of equating white with virginity, and to the introduction of bleach, as it does to Queen Victoria’s popularity.
Samuel grabbed Esther and shoved her behind him just as the gig raced by, launching a great wall of ditch water over the curb and onto him.
It soaked him through to the skin, and there was nothing he could do but drag a hand down his face and flick the excess moisture from his fingers.
Esther snickered. Actually, she coughed, but it was a hide-the-snicker sort of cough. It didn’t fool anyone.
He glowered at her.
She snickered again.
“Get in the carriage, Esther.”
For once, she complied without argument. She clambered inside, one hand covering her mouth. The moment the door was closed, her laughter filled the carriage.
“Oh. Oh, Lord.” She flipped up her veil. “I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry. But the state of you. Good heavens.” She calmed herself a bit and reached over to pat his knee. “My hero.”
Then she laughed some more.
He ought to be offended, really. Annoyed at the very least. But he couldn’t seem to move beyond amazed.
He’d never heard her laugh before. Not like this. Not with her head tipped back and the sound just flowing from her.
Samuel wracked his brain for a single memory of Esther laughing, really laughing, and came up blank. Years ago, when she’d been little more than a girl, she had giggled. Once or twice, she may have chuckled. Certainly, he’d heard her snicker. But he hadn’t heard her laugh. Not as a child, and not since he’d known her as an adult.
The woman simply didn’t laugh in front of him.
It seemed an odd thing not to have noticed before now. Stranger still that he should find an ordinary sound so extraordinarily appealing. There was a sweet, clear tone to it that made him think of wind chimes. Not the tinny sort Mrs. Lanchor had hung in the garden two years ago (and the beast had mauled into oblivion three days ago) but the solid sort that put one to mind of woodwinds.
Her laugh reminded him of wind chimes that reminded him of woodwinds. By God, he was England’s finest poet.
“You’ve changed,” he murmured. There used to be a brittleness about her, a deep unhappiness she kept hidden away along with her kindness and honesty, all buried beneath a layer of cool indifference. He couldn’t see that brittleness anymore.
“Beg your pardon?” Her laugh tapered off slowly, and she looked at him uncertainly. “I didn’t mean to cause offense.” A spark of mischievousness lit in her blue eyes. “Well, maybe a little offense, but—”
“I’m not offended… Maybe a little offended,” he corrected with humor. “But I wasn’t implying that you’ve changed for the worse. It’s for the better.”
“Oh.” Her lips curved in a small, hesitant smile. “Thank you.”
“You’re happier, aren’t you?”
“I am,” she agreed, and so readily that he could only assume she’d given the matter some thought recently. “I am starting to be.”
“It is nice to see.” It was more than nice. It was something else, something more.
Here, he thought, was the woman he’d caught glimpses of before. The remarkable one who amazed and fascinated him. Only it wasn’t just a glimpse. He remembered her insistence that he wasn’t a hard man and her defense of the little boy. And he wondered now if the traits he admired in her had never been quite as buried or transient as he imagined. Anything could seem like a glimpse, he realized, if one looked away too quickly.