Dangerous Charade by Elizabeth Means is the kind of book that gives me more as a reader than I expected. The story features a wonderful romance between a feisty, intelligent heroine and a strong, chivalrous hero with a painful past. Yet it also includes the twists and turns of a complex mystery with a culprit who isn't easy to identify.
The premise of Dangerous Charade is also fresh and interesting. Set in Victorian era England, the story opens when Gabrielle Broussard must escape her circumstances. A devious uncle plots to marry her off to one of his debtors, a cruel man of few charms. Her means of escape is an opportunity at a unique investigative agency that accepts female agents. After a period of training, Gabrielle takes on her first position at Westford Castle, home of the handsome Lord Julian Blackwell. The attraction between Gabrielle and Julian is instant, but unfortunately the mysterious lord is the prime suspect in the death Gabrielle is investigating - the recent murder of his wife.
Though this story is rich with many interesting characters and possible suspects, Elizabeth Means keeps the action moving and the focus on the budding romance between Gabrielle and Julian. She writes realistically and with sensitivity as her two main characters struggle with trust and doubt, even as they move toward solving the murder mystery that has blackened Julian's name.
Elizabeth Means' Dangerous Charade offers a unique Victorian era premise of a female private investigator while perfectly blending romance and mystery. Best of all, the pace of the story never slows. Just when all seems resolved, a fresh conflict and more action waits around the next corner.
To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home and becomes an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency. Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.
Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor. After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era. Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death. But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations. Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea...until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.