The Golden Leopard by Lynn Kerstan


RHFL Classification:

Heat Level 2
Historical Romance/Mystery




Lady Jessica “Jessie” Carville gave up on up men six years ago, after being deserted by Lord Hugo Duran, the man she loved beyond all reason. She has carried on with her life and . . . shockingly . . . with her career. Although most of Society frowns upon a woman in business, Lady Jessica is a natural at collecting and selling antiques. She’s put the past behind her until one night at an auction, when Duran shows up. He’s back in England, and he has plans that involve her. Can she resist what he has in mind? Duran, though willful and mysterious, is a gentleman—when it suits him. Yet he left his lover without so much a note saying why. Now he’s on a mission filled with danger. If he doesn’t succeed, he will die. Can he convince Jessica to help him without endangering her as well?

Review by Caz

I do have a few quibbles about this book, but overall, I enjoyed the story. The mixture of treasure hunt and romance was well balanced and the characterisation was solid.

Hugo Duran and Jessica Carville are a well-matched couple, even though neither of then come across as particuarly pleasant people to start with. He’s a chancer who abandoned Jessica without a word of explanation and she is rather self-absorbed (to the extent that she’s blind to her sister’s unhappiness). They had been lovers for a short time before the story starts, but he left without explanation, so naturally, she’s not especially keen to have anything more to do with him. Jessica is independent and strong-willed, the black sheep of her family – her brother is a stuffed-shirt and her sister is dutifully and unhappily married to a man who beats her. She ran headlong into her affair with Hugo, and in the six years since he left, built herself a reputation as an expert in antiquities, and when we first meet her, is masterminding an exhibition and sale of artefacts at Christie’s.

Hugo returns unexpectedly from India (where he has lived most of his life) and hopes to enlist Jessica’s help in searching for the Golden Leopard, which has been stolen from an Indian potentate, and which he tells her he has to find or forfeit his life. What he doesn’t tell her is that whether he finds it or not, he is to die anyway, at the hand of his constant shadow, Shivaji or the band of silent, invisible “Others”, who have been dispatched to watch his every move. Personally, I found this part of the story to be the most readable and convincing; how Hugo secures Jessica’s help, her disbelief and mistrust, their eventual success – and especially, in the last quarter of the book, Hugo’s escape and their reunion.

The quibbles I have are largely due to the development of the romantic part of the story – or more specifically to the way their sexual relationship is renewed. Jessica doesn’t trust Hugo for most of the story and yet she falls into bed with him at almost the first opportunity. I imagine we’re supposed to think they’re picking up where they left off six years previously, but the sex scenes add little or nothing to the story and feel as if they’ve just been tacked on for titilation (!) It’s difficult enough to believe that a well-bred young woman of the 1820s would have fallen into bed with a man – no matter how gorgeous or charismatic (and Hugo is both!) – at the drop of a hat; and I found it just as difficult to believe Jessica would want to resume it so quickly. The romantic part of their relationship worked much better as we see them both come to realise and admit how much they care for each other. There are times I wanted to smack Hugo around the head though, because he deceives Jessica on several occaions (or lies by omission) because he believes it’s best for her. And of course, his final deception is because he wants to keep her alive, so while what he does is rather underhanded, his motives are of the best.

Those caveats apart however, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a dash of romance in with their mystery (or vice-versa).

Thanks to NetGalley and Bell Bridge Books for the review copy. This title was originally published in 2002, so this is a review of the recent re-issue for Kindle.

About me

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. Current favourite authors include Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas and Cecilia Grant.


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