The River Knows, by Amanda Quick

>> Monday, September 24, 2007

TITLE: The River Knows
AUTHOR: Amanda Quick

PAGES: 368

SETTING: Victorian London
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: None, stands alone

REASON FOR READING: JAK in all her incarnations is my consumate comfort read, so I turned to her when worried about my missing suitcase ;-)

The first kiss occurred in a dimly lit hallway on the upper floor of Elwin Hastings's grand house. Louisa never saw it coming....

Of course, Anthony Stalbridge couldn't possibly have had romantic intentions. The kiss was an act of desperation meant to distract the armed guard from catching the pair in a place they did not belong. After all, Louisa Bryce, in her dull maroon gown and gold-rimmed spectacles, was no man's idea of an alluring female. The only thing the two interlopers have in common is a passionate interest in the private affairs of Mr. Hastings-a prominent member of Society whom they both suspect of hiding terrible secrets. Now, brought together by their ruse, Anthony and Louisa are united in their efforts to find the truth.

Each has a reason for the quest. Anthony's fiancée was said to have thrown herself into the Thames-but Anthony has his own suspicions. Louisa-whose own identity is shrouded in layers of mystery-is convinced that Hastings has a connection to a notorious brothel. When Anthony successfully cracks Hastings's hidden safe-and discovers incriminating evidence-it appears that both their instincts were correct.

Yet Hastings is hiding far more than jewels and ledger books. Bringing him to justice will be more perilous than they anticipate-and their partnership will be more heated than either one expects. For it is not only Anthony's curiosity that Louisa arouses, and the two share something else: a thrilling attraction to danger...
THE PLOT: Louisa Burton faked her own suicide and disappeared when she had to kill a predatory nobleman in self-defense. The young, pretty shopkeeper took inspiration in the recent suicides of two society ladies who'd just thrown themselves into the river, and one of whose bodies had never appeared. Some time later, she's working as a companion to a very forward-thinking lady and writing hard-hitting articles for a journal, trying to get some justice against noblemen who think nothing about ruining and hurting people, as long as they are in a lower position in society.

Louisa and Anthony Stalbridge meet when both are going after the same man, Elwin Hastings. Louisa is investigating his involvement in a notorious brothel, while Anthony suspects him of murdering his fiancée, one of the women whose suicide gave Louisa the idea of faking her own. When they are forced to pretend to be involved so as to get out of a tight spot, an unlikely partnership emerges between them.

MY THOUGHTS: The romance was actually quite good, almost back to the JAK I love, the JAK of the mid 90s. Anthony's complete and utter need for Louisa was well rendered, as was the tenderness he felt for her. Their interactions were very enjoyable, with plenty of banter. Oh, and the love scenes were very nice.

I also really liked Anthony's very unique family and Louisa's free-thinking employer. They were very enjoyable secondary figures.

Too bad the very humdrum suspense subplot wasn't up to par. The undeniable reiterativeness of AQ's stories doesn't usually bother me, but it did here, at least in this aspect. The actual romance was fine and, though both Louisa and Anthony were familiar figures, their relationship felt plenty fresh enough. But the suspense? Oh, man. "Oh, here we're coming to the scene when they go interrogate someone, and when no one answers the door they break in and find him dead." That kind of thing.

MY GRADE: A B. The romance more than compensates for the weaker suspense.


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