Laurel Sutherland promised a young Victoria that when Victoria became queen, Laurel and her sisters would do whatever they could to help her. Laurel never thought that the Queen would remember that promise from long ago or her secret friendship with the Sutherland girls. She was quite shocked when Queen Victoria appeared in their small bookstore and asked for Laurel’s help. Queen Victoria needed Laurel to pose as a wealthy widow in order to investigate her illegitimate cousin, George Fitzclarence, and to assess his threat to the throne. Was George a real threat or merely a loud and outspoken man?
Aidan Phillips has never recovered from the trauma of his mother’s death and then his father’s suicide. The only good thing in his life is his work with the Home Office. He was given the task of befriending George Fitzclarence and keeping tabs on his activities to determine whether or not the activities were traitorous. Aiden also helps out with his immense ability to see patterns especially in financial matters. Aiden finds himself in Bath investigating one such financial scheme when he runs into Laurel. Not only is he attracted to her, but he is drawn towards the secrets he feels sure that she hides.
This is the first book in Ms. Chase’s newest series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants. It does a wonderful job of setting up the series by introducing us to the Sutherland sisters and explaining how they came to be friends and secret servants of Queen Victoria. The first book focuses on Laurel since she is the eldest sister.
I think the most compelling thing about this book is the fact that it is the women who take on the role of spy and investigator. During the Victorian era, women were not seen as being capable of such tasks and merely did what they were told. Having the Sutherland sisters take such a strong leadership role is a refreshing change. Laurel doesn’t flinch from the task that Queen Victoria gives her, but rather embraces it despite the confines of society. She must maintain the accepted role of a woman, but pretending to be a widow affords her some independence.
The story not only brings the historical era to life, but also shows us the lengths to which people will go when they believe in something. The elixir that is being sold in Bath and the reason that all the aristocrats have journeyed there is suspected by Aiden as being nothing more than a sham. He will do what he can to expose the fraud. It is interesting to read about how he does this since we would just take it to a lab which he was unable to do. Ms. Chase does an amazing job of keeping the historical details accurate and of not giving her characters more knowledge than they would have legitimately had at that time.
I loved the romance between Laurel and Aiden. They both fight the attraction so much that when they finally succumb, it feels right. Ms. Chase builds the romance from the first moment these two people meet. Aiden’s struggles with his own preconceptions of relationships and love are apparent and he needs time to realize how much Laurel means to him. Laurel knows that the deception that she is perpetrating will challenge Aiden’s feelings when he finds out.
This book was a delight from cover to cover! I can’t wait to see what happens with the rest of the Sutherland sisters and the adventures they will have as this series continues.