Torn from her life of privilege by her father’s death, Kate Morgan relies on her knowledge of fine things as a fence for stolen goods in one of London’s dark and depraved rookeries. The last man she ever expects, or wants, to see again is Daniel O’Reilly, the man who promised to love, honor and protect her, but who instead fled amidst accusations of murder.
One drunken night cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved and the life he’d worked so hard to create. If he ever wants to reclaim that life—and Kate—he’ll not only have to prove he’s innocent of murder, but convince the pistol-wielding beauty to forgive his many sins.
With a killer on the loose, time is running out for them.
Publisher and Release Date: Quillfire Publishing, January 2014
Time and Setting: England, 1832
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Susan
The underground world of London’s rookeries in 19th century England is the backdrop for Erica Monroe’s romantic drama A Dangerous Invitation. While most historical romance authors delve into the lifestyles of the English beau monde defined by earls and their countesses, dukes and their duchesses, and marquises and their marchionesses, Monroe is inspired to write a love match that blossoms in the poverty-stricken slums of East London, those districts that Charles Dickens wrote about in his novels The Adventures of Oliver Twist and The Old Curiosity Shop.
A Dangerous Invitation – the first book in Monroe’s series The Rookery Rogues – takes place in 1832, a time when the rise in corpses delivered to hospitals by grave robbers, (also known as “Resurrection Men”) and the London Burkers, has appalled the public and influenced the English Parliament to pass the Anatomy Act of 1832. Monroe integrates the circumstances which led up to the public uproar and implementation of the 1832 act into the love story, conjuring an abiding romance amidst the dramatic events. The dusting of historical facts injected into the story enhances the plot’s credibility and give readers a reference point for the romance.
The heroine and hero, Kate Morgan and Daniel O’Reilly respectively, are flawed characters whose struggle and tendre for one another link them together. Both fall from grace and are condemned to a life of hardship and disenchantment. Morgan, the daughter of Richard Morgan who owned and operated the recently defunct Emporia Shipping, is ruined and penniless. She is tossed into East London’s squalor living among bawdy houses and brothels, earning her income in the stolen goods racket by finding buyers for merchandise that’s been wrongfully appropriated by thieves. Her fall from grace is propelled by her boyfriend, Daniel O’Reilly, an assistant to her father at Emporia. Daniel is accused of viciously murdering Tommy Dalton, a warehouse laborer at Emporia and a member of Jasper Finn’s gang of grave robbers.
The reader comes into story as Daniel re-enters Kate’s life three years after he runs away from his trial for Dalton’s murder. Monroe spoon feeds audiences in digestible increments, never overloading them with background details yet supplying sizable information which makes them want to invest their time in Kate and Daniel’s story. Secondary characters are essential to moving the story ahead, discovering who framed Daniel for Dalton’s murder and the identities of Jasper Finn’s gang who are behind Dalton‘s murder and the downfall of Emporia.
Monroe has an inclination for turning thieves into heroes, like Daniel’s friend Atlas Greer and Kate‘s friend Owen Neal. She sheds light on the prejudices brought up against the Irish in 19th century England, showing sympathy for them particularly through Kate. The stereotypes foisted on the Irish as criminals and the wrongful accusations made against them are recurring themes through the story.
The author has a vision for creating the perfect atmosphere in each scene. Her descriptions have a corporeal feel that enables audiences to picture the action, phrasing words poetically to produce the sentiment which she desires. The slang which the characters use in the rookery has an authentic touch. Whether the expressions are accurate or not is inconsequential. The unique vernacular developed by the lower classes of East London is what the audience gleans from the language used, and like a Dickens novel, evokes compassion from the reader for the characters and their struggle.