When Diego Montalvo - Master of Mystery - leases the estate next door to Mrs Harris', former pupil turned temporary teacher, Lucy Seton, is certain he's up to no good. So when newspaper reports claim he intends to build a pleasure garden right next to the school, she's determined to thwart him.
Diego is not just Master of Mysteries, but of plans and secrets too, and he's keen to spend time with Lucy in particular. As Lucy becomes ever more attracted to the mysterious magician it's all too easy to answer his probing questions. For a man who claims no intentions of marrying her, though, he's ever so interested. Perhaps the consummate showman has been caught in a trick of his own? Or maybe he has plans for something different altogether.
The latest `Heiresses' book (Never Seduce A Scoundrel
,Only a Duke Will Do
,The School for Heiresses
(novella),Beware a Scot's Revenge
,Let Sleeping Rogues Lie
,Snowy Night with a Stranger
(novella)) returns to Mrs Harris' school to find the institution in danger. Lucy, reeling from a recent rejection, is eager to prove she's no irresponsible hoyden, and the first half of this book romps along in true Jeffries style, with the intriguing addition of Diego's tricks to further enrich this historical world. The main characters strike sparks off each other, and all is developing nicely.
Until Lucy becomes suspicious and Diego turns desperate. That's fine, except that from then on Diego becomes rather annoying. I found him self-pitying, irritatingly haughty and a touch whiney. And he started so promisingly too. True, he does redeem himself (this is a romance, after all), but the hundred or so pages of Me! Me! Me! Spoiled things for me. Also Lucy's inconsistency - suspicious, naïve, taken in, suspicious, then not. Argh! Do neither of them learn?
Admittedly, it does all make for a fine moment when Lucy loses her temper with everyone and everything.
And finally, I also found the unravelling of Lucy's past needlessly complicated. One twist too many, I thought, seemingly added to explain a plot bump and add a bit more drama.
Which was a shame, because otherwise this was just as enjoyable as the rest of the series, and the motivations Jeffries provides from Diego are entirely understandable. It should have made him very sympathetic, but his methods and attitudes grated a little. The rest of the tale is enriched by Jeffries' glorious blend of history and romance. Not to mention the ongoing correspondence between Mrs Harris and Cousin Michael - soon to be resolved in Wed Him Before You Bed Him
.(Can't wait to see if my guess about him is correct!)
A fair addition to the series, if not as polished as usual. Bring on Charlotte's reckoning!