The Kern Secretarial Agency provides reliable professional services to its wealthy clientele, and Anne Clifton was one of the finest women in Ursula Kern’s employ. But Miss Clifton has met an untimely end—and Ursula is convinced it was not due to natural causes.
Archaeologist and adventurer Slater Roxton thinks Mrs. Kern is off her head to meddle in such dangerous business. Nevertheless, he seems sensible enough to Ursula, though she does find herself unnerved by his self-possession and unreadable green-gold eyes…
If this mysterious widowed beauty insists on stirring the pot, Slater intends to remain close by as they venture into the dark side of polite society. Together they must reveal the identity of a killer—and to achieve their goal they may need to reveal their deepest secrets to each other as well…
Publisher and Release Date: Putnam, April 21, 2015
Time and Setting: Victorian London
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Lady Blue
Garden of Lies opens with a resounding bang, as Slater Roxton is buried alive under tons of rocks which collapse on him as he is on a treasure hunting expedition. He is the last man left inside, and is fully aware that his partner and their crew will assume there is no way he can survive. Even if they wanted to attempt a rescue, they can’t as they are far from civilization and have no equipment. Slater knows that his only chance of survival is to find another way out, if there is one. Miraculously enough, he does eventually make his way to safety, only to find his ship and crew gone. It will be a year before another ship comes and he is able to leave Fever Island, but such an experience is bound to change a person. Back in London, ridiculous rumors begin to circulate, saying that his experience has turned him mad, and even that he lures young ladies in off the street to his basement for “exotic encounters.” Slater’s way of coping is to become more controlled, and to hide behind spectacles he doesn’t need.
Ursula Kern has a sad past, as well. She was briefly married to a man who was a cheater, and left her destitute upon his death. Forced to earn her living, she was then used by her employer as a pawn in a scandalous scheme. With her reputation smeared, she changed her name, wears a veil, and started a secretarial agency. Due to her hard work and high caliber employees, she has become very successful. When one of her employees turns up dead, Ursula is convinced it’s not a suicide as ruled, but murder. Ursula is determined to investigate, so she tells a fairly new client, who happens to be Slater, that she will have to temporarily put aside working for him.
Slater had been using Ursula to catalogue items, and from the first time he met her, he felt interest and excitement that had eluded him for many years. He is determined to turn their business relationship into a personal one, but now his plans are thwarted by Ursula’s leaving. He insists that she tells him why, and eventually he wears her down enough that she does. Slater offers his help, both so he can maintain contact with Ursula, and so that he can try to keep her safe. Ursula accepts, and they begin their investigation which leads to a tangled web of drugs, prostitution, crime lords, blackmail, deception, and murder.
Slater is the kind of hero I find most intriguing – the strong, silent and unassuming type. His year on Fever Island caused him to become very introspective and philosophical. His intelligence is off the charts. I love his surprise and disbelief when Ursula tells him she finds him heroic. I also felt compassion for his feeling like an outsider, and for feeling the need to hide his perfect (and beautiful) eyes behind spectacles.
As is the case with all of Amanda Quick’s heroines, Ursula is intelligent, and somewhat ahead of her time regarding the role of women. She’s been a victim twice in her life, yet her strength and determination let her become a successful businesswoman. She is also willing to take a chance on a love affair with Slater, a man society generally fears. I found her to be just a little bit tougher on Slater near the end of the book than I would have preferred, but it all turned out as it should.
Garden of Lies held my attention with both the romance and the mystery. Two wounded souls healing each other always works well for me. Slater and Ursula have a fantastic sexual chemistry, and are very compatible working together as well. The plot is well written, and flows along at a great pace, and all in all, this is a very enjoyable read that I highly recommend.