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A Gift for Guile

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Gift for Guile (2016) Alissa Johnson

Set in England in 1872

The second book in the Gentleman Thief-takers series tells Esther’s story–that of a girl who was used by her scoundrel father as dainty and surprising henchman, and who kept her secrets from everyone–including her sister.

Now she is looking for her father–her true father rather than the man who raised her. The man whom her mother ran off with for several months prior to Esther’s birth.

Samuel Brass was labeled the Thief-Taker Almighty by the press in the case that made his name and led to the death of the man everyone thought of as Esther’s father–and cause Ester and the rest of her siblings to change their names and hide in the country.

For all his many, many unfavorable qualities, he remained a clever, well-connected gentleman accustomed to working in secrecy. And he was a man she could trust. Not unequivocally— she didn’t trust any man unequivocally— but she was fairly confident that he was, in a general sense, a reasonably decent human being. It was more than could be said of most people.

They also get on each others nerves, as Esther thinks Samuel disapproves of her past and wants to control her, and Samuel feels an overwhelming need to protect a woman who refuses to listen to his advice.

“I’ll not take orders from you.” She didn’t take orders from anyone. “You may give orders, if you like, but I’ll not promise to follow them.”

“Orders that don’t have to be followed are called suggestions,” he replied in a bland tone.

“Then I shall agree to take your suggestions under advisement.”

“I don’t see why this should be a point of contention,” she said, reaching for her wine. “You walk about London openly every day. There must be dozens of men who would like your head on a platter. Why is it you are allowed to thumb your nose at danger, but I am not?”

“It’s different.”

She took a long sip of her drink and set the goblet down slowly. “Is that a euphemism for ‘because you are a woman’?”

“No.” Possibly. He might give it some thought later.

Samuel is not good at words. No, that is an understatement. He is laconic because he quite frequently manages to say the wrong thing. Like noting to Esther that he hadn’t realize she hadn’t kissed before, and failing to understand why that upset her. I love this bit.

“Honestly, there isn’t a right or wrong way to kiss.” He reconsidered this. “Apart from a few obviously ill-advised techniques, but—”

“Such as?”

Bloody hell, he should have known she would ask. “I don’t know,” he muttered and wracked his brain for an example. Any example. “Don’t recite the alphabet. Don’t hop on one foot. Don’t spit.”

“Don’t hop on one foot and spit?” Gone was the blush of embarrassment, the averted gaze. She goggled at him, all astonished amusement. “You’ve found this to be a common mistake amongst the kissing population, have you?”

“Of course not—”

“Because if that is the sort of kissing you’ve been experiencing, you really ought to have given me a standing ovation.”

“It is not—”

“All the way back to the hotel.”

“I haven’t—”

“Three curtain calls worth at least.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose.

“And tossed roses at my feet,” she continued.

I really like Esther.

But I also like that they’re open about their foibles and willing to talk about things.

“Have I been clumsy again?” he asked.

She was beginning to wonder. “Maybe.”

“Ah.” He scratched his jaw and eyed her cautiously. “Are you perhaps taking offense where none was intended?”

“Possibly.” That was always a possibility.

“Right. And do you suppose you could tell me what I might have done wrong so we can decide together if I need to fix it?”

Not without humiliating herself. But she couldn’t see any way around it.

But what I like best about Esther is that she recognizes her weaknesses but doesn’t allow that to stop her when she is threatened–she fights back and does her best to get herself out of her situation rather than waiting for Samuel to come rescue her.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Categories: 8/10, British, Historical, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read, Romance     Comments (0)    



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