3 out of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this work.
Arista was raised as a thief and pickpocket and now is one of London’s most recognizable criminal figures: Lady A, who will pay generously for the secrets of the nobility. What most people do not know is that Lady A is just a puppet for Bones, the man who rescued her from poverty-filled death, but was still really abusive.
Another criminal, Wild, offers her a way out of Bones’ clutches, but into his. Caught between a rock and a hard place Arista takes his offer and is placed in the home of a wealthy merchant. She continues to deal in secrets, but slowly comes to love the son of the merchant, Grae. She desperately wants to escape with him, but Bones and Wild are both unwilling to let her go.
This book started off looking like it was going to lead to a love triangle, but it actually did not really end there, which I appreciate. But, there was a lot more relationship time than I would have wanted given the premise of the novel. I wanted a historical novel about a cool, brave heroine who sneaks around and blackmails the aristocracy. I wanted political and social tensions and then some action. What I got was romance, more romance, and a bit of sneaking and lying. Everything about Arista’s criminal life seemed just like set dressing for the romance and relationship stuff.
What I did get of the crime plot line was neat. Lady A trades secrets amongst aristocracy. Someone will pay her big to find out that one of their rivals is illegitimate, but will have to pay for that secret with one of their own. Bones ends up collecting the money, but Lady A is the one who physically goes out and meets the customers at fancy balls and dinners. She is a street urchin made up like a lady, trying to pass as belonging to a world she can only briefly visit. She eventually wants to escape to India with her maid, and she takes the deal with Wild, hoping she can save enough to catch a ship over one day. Her two lives as Lady A and a pauper collide when she is set up in a household and expected to act like a well bred young lady, but not reveal that she is the infamous blackmailer.
Arista is a proactive enough protagonist that I really enjoyed reading about her exploits, but she does spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about boys. That is where this book really failed me. The action parts were great, but too few and far between. Read this if you want a lot of romance in your historical fiction. If not, maybe give it a miss.