Everyone always seems to underestimate Jess Whitby. She gives the impression of being a well brought up daughter of a respectable merchant and while she is the daughter of a respectable merchant, this was not always the case. Jess has many facets to her personality. She is pretty, smart and appears to be fearless. At 8, she killed a man. Shortly after, she trained to be an excellent thief. When her father reappears after being gone for several years, she becomes educated and travels around the world with her father. By 12, she is helping her father in his shipping concerns and sets up his books. Now, her beloved father has been arrested and will probably hang for treason unless someone finds something to prove him innocent. Jess will try starting with Sebastian Kennett whom she is sure is the real traitor.
Sebastian Kennett is a sea captain. He is also the bastard son of a peer of the realm. He was cast to the streets when his mother dies and struggles to survive there until his father's sister finds him. While his father does not recognize him, his aunt loves him and gives him a start in the world. Sebastian has been gathering evidence against a traitor after his best friend is killed when the French blows up his ship. All evidence leads to Jess's father. After meeting Jess though, Sebastian is having a hard time keeping his feeling towards father and daughter apart.
The characters in this story are great. First, I found it very refreshing that neither of the main characters were members of the ton. They were everyday people with everyday problems and while they knew a lot of people, they're main focus was not balls and other social entertainment. The descriptions of life in the slums and Jess's training to be a thief were wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about everyday people. The characters were also very fleshed out. I felt as though I knew these people and their motives and actions were in tune with what you knew about them. Sebastian's wanting to know Jess more and keep her safe warring with his hate and dislike towards her father was apparent and his realization that Jess blamed him for her father's imprisonment.
Historically, I thought this book was very accurate. The descriptions of the slums were little light made it's way to the street due to the closeness of the buildings and all the wash being hung between buildings was great. The working of the parish and soup kitchens providing nourishment to the extremely poor was terrific. The knowledge that anything could be bought for a price in certain parts of town was evident. This was the London few authors share with their readers.
The story line was excellent. The fact that Jess was sure that her father was innocent and Sebastian being positive that he is guilty made for the question, if he isn't who is. Everyone agrees that the initial evidence points to Jess's father's guilt but what if you dig beneath the surface? Also, what happens when it still looks as if he is guilty? Who else can it be and how do you find them? And given that Sebastian has put Jess's father into custody, can she forgive him and can they have the relationship that they are trying to avoid?
After her father is wrongly accused of selling secrets to Napoleon, lovely Jess Whitby infiltrates the London underworld for the real traitor-only to end up naked in the bed of a rude merchant captain. Not only is she falling in love with him, but he may be the scoundrel she's looking for.