Sweet Revenge: A Lady Hadley Regency Mystery
In 1812, Lady Arianna Hadley, the daughter of a disgraced earl, returns to England from exile in the West Indies to take revenge on the men responsible for her father’s murder. Arianna, an expert on chocolate, disguises herself as a male French chef in the household of Lady Spencer, the prince regent’s latest mistress. When the prince falls ill after eating Arianna’s chocolate dessert, Arianna is immediately suspected of trying to poison him. Lord Grentham, a senior government minister, sends the earl of Saybrook, a wounded, opium-addicted veteran of the Peninsular War, to investigate the prince’s poisoning. As soon as Saybrook begins to question Arianna, he realizes she is a woman, and then someone tries to kill both of them. Although each distrusts the other, Arianna and Saybrook decide they must join forces to solve the crime if they both wish to stay alive.
Sweet Revenge is an absolute delight for lovers of mysteries, Regency romances, and chocolate. Arianna is not a typical heroine; at first she is cynical and motivated by revenge, and is not afraid to use violence. But she gains the reader’s sympathy as the book goes on and the story of her father’s exile and murder is gradually revealed. The morose, brooding Saybrook makes an excellent counterpart to the fiery Arianna. As the two are drawn to each other, each becomes more sympathetic.
Each chapter begins with a fact about chocolate and a recipe, supposedly from the notebooks of Saybrook’s Spanish grandmother. The recipes look mouth-wateringly delicious, and even though I’m no cook, I would love to try them. The history is fascinating as well, and you learn that solid chocolate, although quite a rarity in Regency England, was not unheard-of at the time. I am looking forward to more adventures of Arianna and Saybrook.