Greydon Quinn needs the help of the Mayfair Jewel Thief and creates a trap to lure him out. Imagine Quinn's surprise when the thief turns out to be a she.
Lady Viola Preston has used her special ability to relieve the Ton of some of its jewelry -- but she has her reasons. Betrayed long ago by her father's thoughtlessness (not providing for them in his will) and by her fiance's indifference and desertion when her money ran out, she alone provides for her mother, her niece and her crazed younger sister.
Caught red-handed and left with no choice, Viola reluctantly agrees to help Quinn to retrieve the red diamond.
Their quest for the diamond takes them from London, to Paris and then to Hanover -- and their simple quest turns complicated when they uncover a plot that involves the Queen of England.
Then there's the sinister power of the red diamond -- and the equally dangerous power of attraction and love.
Things I didn't like about this novel:
Exposition felt overlong and plodding. It took the main characters about 12 chapters to arrive in France and to determine the whereabouts of the red diamond. The novel could have benefited from some pruning to make for a more concentrated and focused story -- but I understand why it is as long as it is -- the story and history of India demands exposition -- and Marlowe really took the time to develop the relationship between Quinn and Viola, which I appreciated.
The addition of the "special abilities" could have been included in the world building more -- initially, it seemed as though Viola was the only one who had the ability and it felt a bit unbelievable -- but Marlowe does a really good job of explaining the ability and utilizing it as something that was not paranormal but as part of the normal.
I also did not like the Dowager, Viola's mother, who seemed so utterly clueless and flighty. Thank goodness she had a very limited role.
Things I liked about this novel:
The idea of psychometry and people having special skills. It reminded me of Amanda Quick and her "talents". I wished Marlowe took more time in building this part of her novel's world and I had hoped to see more characters in the story with their own special skills -- there was mention of 2 other characters -- but their skills were similar to that of the heroine.
There was a seamless mix of historical fact and fiction. I loved the idea of the red diamond and Sanjay's lost kingdom. I thought that the Bagh Kaa Kuhm really existed! ^_^ This is where Marlowe's talent lies: her India is vivid and lush and evocative. (Though I felt the first chapter was a bit gratuitous and did not contribute to the latter action in the story.)
Her characters also have such wonderful conversations! Witty, thoughtful ... and real. I could imagine actors playing out the roles of Quinn and Viola and having the conversations from the book.
I love that Viola is such a strong character. Very capable and fearless. She knows what she wants and goes after it. She's also not afraid to be alone, which is a rare trait in female characters in romance novels.
Overall, a solid story with a classic narrative structure -- I loved the progression of events and really enjoyed the adventure.
The next installment, Touch of a Rogue features Jacob Preston (related to Viola?), also with a unique ability. (Published February 2012)
I just need to get through my stack of TBRs and will get a copy of this one.