Garden of Lies
Ursula Kern’s secretarial agency is known for its reliability and quality in both its employees and clients, so when Anne Clifton, one of Kern’s best secretaries, is found dead, Ursula suspects foul play. Her plan to ferret out the truth includes stepping in as Anne’s replacement as stenographer to Lady Fulbrook, an introverted gardener whose husband is a known philanderer. In 19th-century London, however, it’s difficult for a woman to investigate on her own; there are too many cultural and legal barriers. Ursula reluctantly teams up with the roguish adventurer Slater Roxton, another one of her clients, to dig more deeply into the Fulbrooks’ activities and their possible connection to Anne’s death. Danger abounds, not only in the criminals they track, but also in the publicity they unwittingly garner, which threatens to expose both their not-so-perfect pasts.
Jayne Ann Krentz, writing as Amanda Quick, fills this fast-moving story with sex, drugs, and murder, which makes for a lively, if not completely historically accurate, read. Quick’s London is perpetually foggy and gloomy, Slater is constantly steamy and sultry, and Ursula is far from the classic Victorian ingénue. Readers seeking a quick intriguing romance, however, will be well satisfied.