The Saint Who Stole My Heart by Stefanie Sloane is book 4 in her Regency Rogues series. It's also very clearly the "setting up" story for the next two books, at least, in this series. There are definitely unresolved suspense elements hanging over the end of the story.
The prologue starts out with a bang. Let's say it cuts to the chase. Childhood friends Dash Matthews, Nicholas and Langdon Bourne, and Sophia Southwell make the journey from carefree youth to painful responsibility in one sharp moment when they come in from playing outside to find Sophia's mother, Lady Afton, murdered. None of their lives are ever the same.
As men, Langdon Bourne and Dash Matthews both join the Young Corinthians, a spy network based in England. They've both been warned off Lady Afton's case. All they know is that she was the victim of a man code-named "The Bishop" and that she was murdered because Lord Afton was also a member of the Corinthians. The Bishop targets his enemies' loved ones.
Dash Matthews is the Corinthians code-breaker. He is gifted with puzzles, locks and ciphers. Unfortunately for the spy, he has also got the looks of an Adonis. Spies should be able to blend into a crowd, and Dash, he just can't. Everyone notices him, especially the women.
Since he can't hide himself, he hides his intelligence. He pretends to be pretty, but well, empty-headed. Everyone except his closest friends thinks he's an idiot.
Then Elena Barnes steps into his life. And his library. His late father's library, to be precise.
When his father died, Dash inherited the title of Viscount Carrington, along with the estate. But his father's prized library of rare books was left to Henry Barnes, Baron Harcourt, a noted expert in such things. And Baron Harcourt sent his bluestocking and equally expert daughter, Elena, to catalog and pack up the books.
Elena found Dash to be incredibly handsome, and completely vapid. The problem she had was that her physical reaction to his handsomeness overwhelmed her mental reaction to his vapidness. Which just seemed wrong to her.
Dash, on the other hand, found Elena fascinating. Which was equally problematic for him. Because when he was fascinated, he had an unfortunate tendency to drop his idiot act.
And Elena was no idiot. She noticed.
This is a Regency, if you will recall. Elena, as an unmarried woman, could not be living in Dash' bachelor household unchaperoned. Lady Mowbray, Dash' aunt, was temporarily in residence to serve that role. Bessie Mowbray wanted nothing more than to see her nephew happily married, and spent time, effort and Dash' money to make it so.
Lady Mowbray knew perfectly well that Dash was no idiot. And she noticed everything.
The more Dash revealed of his true self, the closer he and Elena became. This wasn't a courtship, it was a falling into the inevitable.
But as soon as Elena seemed important to Dash, she became a target of the Bishop, and the suspenseful part of the story really began.
Escape Rating B-/C+: The second half of this story is a real page-turner. Once the hunt for Lady Afton's killer goes into full-swing, it's really hard to put down. On the other hand, setup for the next books was a little too obvious. It's not that there isn't a happy ending, but there is so much unresolved that I was frustrated by a lot of the way the story ended.
Also, based on the prologue, I was expecting it to be Sophie's story, and it's not. She's the main character in the prologue, and then disappears for the rest of the book.
Originally published at Reading Reality.