One of the reasons Nicola Cornick writes some of the most entertaining historical romances set in the regency period is that you can't always predict what her characters are going to do next, and that is true in spades of this charming little story set at the time of the last "Frost Fair" in 1814 when for the final time the River Thames froze over solidly enough and for long enough to permit the citizens of london to set up booths, tents and entertainments on the ice.
This was a real historical event as the author describes in one of the notes in the back of the book: she has also done her homework on the social history of the period, including how the cult of celebrity operated in Regency times (it is not just a modern phenomenen) and the laws, customs and practice affecting public executions, grave robbers, and duelling.
The decade when this novel is set was towards the very end of the period when, although duelling was illegal, social pressure could still force the most powerful men in the land (including cabinet ministers such as the Duke of Wellington) who strongly disapproved of the whole idea of duelling to appear on the "Field of Honour" and give someone the chance to kill them. So much so that there was actually a word for the practice of firing into the air instead of at your opponent when forced into a duel against someone you had no intention of trying to kill or injure. It was the verb "to delope" and one of the characters uses it correctly in this book.
The heroine of this story is Catherine Fenton, daughter and grand-daughter of nabobs (e.g. adventurers who had made their fortunes in India) who at the start of the tale has been forced by her father into a betrothal to the detestable Lord Algernon Withers. Her fiance and father combine to insist that she attends the public hanging of Ned Clarencieux, who had been convicted of murdering one of her trustees. It would be extremely unwise and unusual for a respectable lady to appear at such an event, and Catherine soon finds herself in an awkward position, from which she is rescued by Lord Hawksmoor, a scandalous and infamous but handsome and popular fortune-hunter.
Hawksmoor is highly attentive to Catherine, but she realises that any association with him could be lethal to her good name. However, fate conspires to keep throwing her into his path ...
An entertaining story with flawed but mostly believable characters, this novel is set as much in the underbelly of Regency society as the ballrooms of the ton. The characters do sometimes step well outside the normal conventions of society at the time, but the book is reasonably honest about when this is happening, rather than expecting the reader to swallow a modern romance in regency costume, which happens depressingly often with some other writers.