A Gift for Guile
Set in Victorian London, the second installment in Alissa Johnson’s Thief Taker series is a delightful historical romance that won me over from the first page, when Sir Samuel Brass greets Esther Walker-Bales with the word hello, an innocuous word unless it happens to “be uttered in the wrong place, at the wrong time, by the wrong man—in which case that one simple word spelled disaster.” With a light, witty touch, Johnson manages to build suspense, slowly develop the growing intimacy between Esther and Samuel, and create a cast of characters that add color and depth to the tale. It’s not often I read a whole book with a smile on my face.
The story begins when Esther appears in London on a quest to make amends for her past only to find Samuel hovering over her. Even though their complicated histories are closely intertwined, Esther, the daughter of a notorious criminal and a brilliant thief herself, doesn’t believe she needs a former Scotland Yard detective to protect her. She’s perfectly capable of looking after herself. But what she’s not capable of is ignoring her growing attraction to Samuel or acknowledging the fact that his talents as a private detective may help her achieve her goals. For his part, Samuel is both frustrated and fascinated by the strong-willed young woman, and he’s not about to let her do something that will put her life in danger. Especially not after he’s decided he can’t live without her. A Gift for Guile is an engaging romance that makes for a quick and enjoyable read.