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A Dangerous Deceit

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Dangerous Deceit (2017) Alissa Johnson (The Thief-Takers)

Dangerous DeceitSet in England in the mid 1870s.

Miss Jane Ballenger is a recluse.

She’s tried going out in society, but it went very badly, so she remains at home, hiding her problems from the world.

Sir Gabriel Arkwright is a famous thief-taker who now works as a private investigator with his best from Samuel Brass, and Samuel’s wife. Gabriel’s current assignment–to retrieve some papers the sister of a man who died unexpectedly while working for the government, doesn’t seem too difficult, but everything goes wrong almost from the start–including his fascination with Miss Ballenger.

“This is unexpected,” he said.

Jane lifted her overlong skirts to nudge a small stool aside with her toe. “My brother’s possessions were delivered here after his passing. His home was larger than my own.”

He closed the door carefully. “No apology necessary.”

“I didn’t apologize.” Why should she? It was her home.

Jane’s problems are based on the author’s family members disorder, and the author’s desire to allow this young woman to see herself in a story.

Gabriel wants to get Jane out of the house, so he can search for the papers. But Jane has no interest in leaving, and because of her past and her disorder, can’t explain to Gabriel why she doesn’t want to leave.

“This house, in its current condition, is a danger to you and your staff.” It would be a danger regardless, for a number of reasons, but some of them could be mitigated with a little organization.

“It isn’t. It just needs to be tidied up, that’s all.”

He pointed to an open trunk near the window. “There is a saber sticking out of that trunk. Blade up.”

“Well, don’t grab it and it won’t cut you.”

One of the things I generally dislike in a story, is characters hiding information from each other that leads to a big misunderstanding. Mostly because the hiding is often childish or foolish. But here, it’s completely understandable why Jane tries to hard to hide her issues–being locked in an asylum for two years as a child would do that to almost anyone. And she has absolutely no reason to trust Gabriel, whose ability to lie is second nature.

One of the things I love about Alissa Johnson’s stories are the secondary characters. Even though they are happily married, the Harmons are distinct individuals and lovely in their own ways.

It was Mrs. Harmon’s habit to wiggle in her seat at the start of a story. Jane had never been able to ascertain if it was excitement that made her do it, or if she was merely getting comfortable in anticipation of a long sit.

It’s a small paragraph that tells you so much about this woman who is so important to Jane.

And I like that although Gabriel isn’t a rake per se, he has developed his ability to lie not just for his profession, but because to survive his past. But unlike many liars, isn’t not a skill he especially enjoys.

There was nothing amiss with his appearance. He made sure of it. Always. Mostly because he still remembered what it had been like to feel filthy, but also because a fine appearance served as a mask and shield. People rarely bothered to look deeper when they were satisfied with what they found on the surface.

This isn’t quite as bantery as the previous books, mostly because of Jane’s difficulties. But it still has some delightful bits.

“Would you begrudge a traveler taking shelter from the storm in Twillins tonight?”

“No, I suppose not,” she conceded. “Provided they were respectful about it.”

“Why assume the owners of this house are less generous and compassionate than yourself? You’re insulting them, really.” He tsked and shook his head. “And in their own home.”

It’s a lovely story, and now I’m out of Alissa Johnson books.

Rating: 8/10

Categories: 8/10, British, Female, Historical, Re-Read, Romance, Sexual Content     Comments (0)    



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