The fifth book in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series, published January 2012.
Lady Celia Sharpe has always been wary of marriage … but now her future depends on it.
With two months left to find a husband and fulfil her grandmother’s ultimatum, Celia sets her sights on three eligible bachelors. Becoming betrothed to one of these wealthy, high-ranking men will surely prove her capable of getting married, so hopefully the wedding itself won’t be necessary for Celia to receive her inheritance. Step Two of her audacious plan is hiring the dark and dangerously compelling Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter to investigate the three men she’s chosen.
With Lady Celia bedevilling Jackson’s days and nights, the last thing he wants is to help her find a husband. And when she recalls shadowed memories that lead his investigation into her parent’s mysterious deaths in a new direction, putting her in danger, Jackson realizes the only man he wants Celia to marry is himself!
I was a little sad to start this series, as it means the end of it, and I enjoyed it so very much. But I was also very eager to start it, as I had to know the answers to the murder investigation in their parents’ deaths, and how Pinter would ever manage to make Celia his wife.
I did not get to know Celia very well in the previous books, other than that she had numerous run ins with Pinter, and loves to shoot guns, both pistols and rifles and that she is quite good at it.
Lady Celia Sharpe is the last of her family unmarried, and according to the ultimatum made by their grandmother Hetty Plumtree, all 5 of them need to marry within the year, or she will disinherit them all, and give her fortune to her other relatives. And if even one of them won’t marry, neither of them will get a penny. And she will cut their allowances as well. So far, both her sister and her three brothers have found someone to fall in love with and marry, and they are happy. Celia has not yet fallen in love, but she has found three eligible bachelors, she is considering. She is not in love with them, but perhaps when she can collect some offers of marriage, her grandmother will give her some more time to find her own love.
Her three suitors are the Earl of Devonmont, the Duke of Lyons and the Visconde de Basto, a Portuguese nobleman. But when she asks the Bow Street Runner who is working for their family to find out the truth about their parents deaths 19 years ago, Jackson Pinter is appalled!
The earl of Devonmont is Pierce, the cousin of her newest sister in law, and a rakehell! The Duke of Lyons had a mad father, and rumors are, the madness runs in their family, which is why he is still unmarried, and the Visconde is way too old for her! Celia doesn’t believe him, why Pinter sounds almost jealous! And if he won’t help her find out the truth about those three men, she will find out for her self! She will ask her grandmother to invite them to the houseparty for her brothers’ birthday, so she will have a chance to get to know them better. And Pinter has to be there too, to ask questions to their servants and perhaps search their rooms. And so Pinter has no choice but to agree. At least staying over will give him the chance to protect her from unwanted advances.
Jackson Pinter is one of the best Bow Street Runners in London, and is in line for a big promotion. Being married to a lady of rank and distinction would sure be good for his career. But he thinks a low born bastard has no chance at all to win Celia. No matter how much he desires her. What he doesn’t know is that Celia has a very low self esteem. Next to her gorgeous and voluptuous sister, she always went unnoticed. She is tall and slender, and has her fathers’ Italian colouring. Especially after the incident with her cousin when she was 14. She has had a crush on her handsome cousin since she was 9, and when he finally noticed her, she was so happy. But he tried to rape her, and he got very mad when she defended him with a brick, and got away. After that, she got her brother to teach her to shoot, so she never would be helpless again. But her ego never did recover. This makes her doubt her ability to find a suitable husband herself. She is not good at flirting, or believing in compliments. She loves talking about guns and shooting, and is certainly knowledgeable about that. Her brothers’ friends sure like talking with her, but marriage is something else.
Jackson and Celia are attracted to each other, and grandma Hetty sure notices that. But she won’t have Celia marry beneath her station, so she tries to warn Jackson off. She will disinherit Celia if she marries him against her wishes! And Jackson does not want Celia to have to live on his salary, and have to make do. So he tries to keep his distance, even after that passionate kiss they shared the other night.
But when Jackson goes of to question her old Nanny, Celia insist on coming with him. They stay much longer than he would have liked, after all, she is unchaperoned alone with an unmarried man, and both their reputations are at stake. He has to have her back home before they will be missed. On their way home, someone is shooting at them, and they have to hide in the forest. Spending the night together, they both know it is inevitable they will have to marry, and so they give in to their desires. But in the morning, Pinter is getting second doubts. How can he ask Celia to give up her wealth and her way of living for him? She is worthy of so much more. So when they finally arrive back home, and the family has kept her disappearance quiet, there is no need to marry, and his cold demeanour certainly keeps her from speaking out. Did he lie to her after all, about wanting her?
But Jackson needs to get back to work, he has to find their horses, and search for any possible witnesses. And he needs to speak with some other old servants, to find out what they do remember of the time of the murder. After all, Celia will be safe, surrounded by her family, or will she?
The truth comes out at last, and it managed to surprise me a little. Not the murderer, which I did figure out, but something else. The ending is great, both of the mystery and of this romance.
I liked Celia. She is unsure about her own attractiveness, and finds it hard to believe a man could really want her for herself. She is a sharpshooter, and could never love a man who cannot equal her. Lucky for her, Jackson can beat her in that. Even though she was only 4 years old at the time, she has some memories of her parents of that day, and perhaps she can contribute the missing link.
Jackson is very protective of Celia, and he genuinely loves her, even if he thinks he is not good enough. I liked meeting his aunt, and the truth about his own parents was a big surprise, and a bit daunting to read. I really felt for him. He is a proud man, and worked hard to get where he is in life after the rough start he had.
Together, they really are like water and fire. He tries to be so cool, distant and proper, but around Celia, his true self surfaces. And that is just what she needs. Celia can be herself around him too, she doesn’t have to pretend to be someone she is not, like she wants to do with her other suitors. But to be true, I did not learn very much about Celia herself, although she did stay cool when in danger, but I so hoped she would free herself.
All in all, I liked the story. It was a nice mix of the romance developing, and figuring out the mystery. I was not blown away with this book, as with some of the others in the series, but it was good. A good plot and characters, both main and secondary, the story is fast paced. There is the usual humor, and some hot lovescenes. And my wish about Hetty from the previous book came true as well, so all is well that ends well . The book ends with a preview of the next story, which will be out for Christmas, and will be featuring the last rogue of them all, Pierce. Looking forward to his story and especially his history.