Penelope Ashford, younger sister to Luc Ashford and Portia Cynster, helps run the Foundling Hospital, a worthy institution that takes orphaned youngsters from impoverished circumstances and gives them a chance to train as servants and apprentices for various trades. She seeks the help of Barnaby Adair, 3rd son of the Earl of Cothelstone (and detective to the ton), when someone begins kidnapping the boys slated to come to her. She's afraid (and rightly so), that a nefarious scheme is afoot.
Barnaby Adair is fascinated--Penelope Ashford is certainly no standard simpering tonnish miss. She's intelligent, and fiercely passionate...about her work with orphans. Now, he just has to discover the key to turning all that fierce passion toward him!
Rejoice, fans of the Cynster dynasty, Stephanie Laurens has created a Cynster spin-off, featuring a smart, spunky heroine (o.k., she's also beautiful) who's just as determined to stay unmarried as the strong, equally intelligent (and dashing, of course) hero is to woo her into wedded bliss. We've met Penelope and Barnaby before, but little did we know they just needed to grow up a little more before they were ready to really strike sparks off each other.
Readers of Ms. Laurens will miss first-hand contact with our old favorite cast of characters--although most of them are mentioned. This crew is captivating in their own right, and they deliver two romances, as well as a nail-biting mystery and murder. In addition to the primary focus of Penelope's and Barnaby's courtship, Barnaby's colleague Inspector Stokes of the Metropolitan Police (who has appeared in several Cynster novels) finally meets his match in the plucky Griselda, a milliner who has climbed out of her East End beginnings to build a successful business, and isn't averse to helping Stokes with his disturbing case. The two couples form friendships that, as unlikely as they might seem, come across as believable. The setting is faithfully rendered; Ms. Laurens' grasp of the period's history is excellent, and she conveys the sense of the times and the different levels of society with a skill I can only envy.
Stephanie Laurens' unique characters would be enough to give us a good story, but with her historical knowledge, and her flare for dramatic suspense--yes, and her great love scenes! -- Where the Heart Leads is a great story with depth and breadth, sure to appeal to readers across the genres.
New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens knows the world of Regency London . . . especially the exclusive enclave of luxury in which the aristocracy lived in wealth and comfort. But outside that glittering circle lay another world . . . and Laurens pulls back the curtain that has hidden it from us—until now. Penelope Ashford, Portia Cynster's younger sister, has grown up with every advantage—wealth, position, and beauty. Yet Penelope is anything but a pretty face in a satin gown—forceful, willful, and blunt to a fault, she has for years devoted her considerable energy and intelligence to caring for the forgotten orphans of London's sooty and seamier streets. But now her charges are mysteriously disappearing. Desperate, Penelope turns to the one man she knows who might help her—Barnaby Adair. Handsome scion of a noble house, Adair has made a name for himself in certain circles where his powers of observation and deduction have seen him solve several serious and unsavory crimes within the ton. His pedigree, relentless intelligence, and discretion make him a deadly avenger in an elegant guise. Despite his skills—or perhaps because of them—he makes Penelope distinctly uncomfortable, but the stakes are too grave. Throwing caution to the wind, defying every rule for unmarried ladies, she appears on his doorstep late one night determined to recruit his talents. Barnaby is intrigued—both by her problem and her. Her bold beauty and undeniable brains make a striking contrast to the usual insipid ton misses. And as he's in dire need of an excuse to avoid said insipid misses, he accepts her challenge, never dreaming she and it will consume his every waking hour. Enlisting the aid of Inspector Basil Stokes of the fledgling Scotland Yard, they infiltrate the streets of London's notorious East End. But as they unravel the mystery of the missing orphans, they uncover a trail leading to the upper echelons of society and a ruthless and clever criminal adept at pulling strings who, becoming aware of them and their efforts, is only too ready to destroy all they hold dear, including their newfound understanding of the intrigues of the human heart.