Dangerous Charade by Elizabeth Means
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Aloe
To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home and becomes an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency. Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.
Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor. After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era. Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death. But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations. Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea...until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.
Gabrielle was not going to let her uncle marry her to a despicable man just so they could share her fortune and use it to pay his debt. She was not!
This is a historical novel set in the era of English Regency. Women had no power; they were considered chattel. Any money or property they owned became the husband’s after marriage. The correct demeanor for a woman was quiet and shy, with a bit of simpering. She was to look pretty, dress nicely, and bear his children. No talking back, no opinions of her own, and all her activities had to be approved by the husband.
The author immediately shows you that Gabrielle was not cast from that mold. She’s feisty, opinionated, has studied various subjects, and will take guff from no man. If that doesn’t get her in enough trouble, she escapes the man who wishes to marry her and moves to the city where she joins a women’s detective agency where she will work “undercover” as nanny in a big house and her uncle and unwanted suitor won’t be able to find her. Ms. Means makes Gabrielle strong, smart and daring.
Julian is her hero and he has hired Gabrielle as a governess. He doesn’t realize she’s also a detective and is here to investigate his wife’s death. He’s an attractive strong man who finds himself drawn to Gabrielle. Her problem is that she can’t have a relationship with him and do her job.
One of my favorite parts of this story is the banter between the two. They are both determined people with strong personalities. Each time they start to get close to each other, they find the other person has lied or told a partial truth in answer to a question and they draw away.
The author turns the action fast and furious when someone tries to kill Gabrielle. By that point, you’re already on her side and anxious to find the killer yourself. I was very impressed when the killer was revealed and it was someone I had never suspected. It’s not often an author can fool me because I read a lot of murder mysteries, but Ms. Means did that. Kudos to her for a story well written!