If it were up to Derick Aveline, the new Viscount Scarsdale, he would never go back to Derbyshire and all the memories that wait for him there --
But it is not up to him. As an agent for the British government, he is asked to ferret out the informant leaking vital information to the French.
His homecoming isn't one that he had expected: he comes home to find one of the maids missing -- and his childhood friend, Pygmy (Emma), is the one organizing the search.
What Derick doesn't know is that Emma's been acting as magistrate for their county since her brother's unfortunate accident. And she's doing a good job! Gifted with photographic memory and a sharp mathematical brain, Emma's able to figure out patterns and solve the crimes and concerns of their area.
What Derick also doesn't know is how much Emma has loved him ever since they were kids -- and his return has turned Emma's world (and heart) upside down.
The discovery of the missing maid's dead body is the tip of the iceberg -- Derick realizes there have been other unsolved murders in the area and that his own mother's suicide might not have been the full story.
It seems that, for Derick and Emma, the further they dig, the more questions they discover -- and nothing is ever what it seems.
The highlight of this book are the two characters: Derick has an amazing ability to read people and he's used it to track down traitors to the crown.
"W-want you?" Emma sputtered, drawing herself away from him. He couldn't possibly know that, could he? She'd been trying so hard to hide her inconvenient feelings.
"Yes. want me. Shall I tell you how I know?"
"Well, the first tantalizing cue is your shoulders," he said, dropping his lips closer to her ear so she might hear him better. She tried to focus on his words, but his warm breath dancing across her skin proved a mighty distraction.
"See how they are angled just so, open to me, facing me squarely so that all you have to do is open your arms to welcome me to your bosom?"
"Next is how you tilt your head toward me when we speak," he said, "as if placing your delectable lips as close as you can to mine, hoping I'll bridge the gap and touch my own to yours."
"But what really gives you away," Derick murmured, "is the way you stroke your neck after you've tilted your head. It's as if your body is begging me to do the same."
- pp. 85-86
The paradox of Derick Aveline is that, while he is very certain about other people and their agenda, he's not as certain about his own. Derick's mixed parentage (English and French) puts him in limbo -- both sides want to use him for the war but neither side trusts him completely. He hides his true self behind a mask of indifference and insouciance.
But the real Derick loves England and would lay down his life for her and he's tired of living in limbo -- dreaming of moving to America where neither part of his heritage would mean anything.
Emma views the world in forensic terms and she goes as far as developing a mathematical equation that sums up her relationship with Derick:
S (A + B + C) = D squared
(Where S = seduction. For the explanation of the rest of the equation, see page 149)
In Heather Snow's story, it seems that everyone is involved in double-dealing and deception abounds but Emma stands alone as the one character who remains pure and untainted -- I think it's her innocence that allows her to see the world around her with clear eyes and allows her to see and love Derick Aveline for who he is.
In Sweet Deception, Heather Snow takes her story-telling to a new level: the mix of conspiracy and intrigue with clever characters (and their amazing ability to solve the mysteries) makes this book an excellent read. It's a very strong follow-up to her debut, Sweet Enemy.
(To read my review of Sweet Enemy, click here.)
Sweet Deception is the second book in Heather Snow's Veiled Seduction series. The third book, Sweet Madness, will be released in early 2013. To find out more about Heather Snow and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.