Genre: paranormal historical romance.
Evangeline Ames has rented a country cottage far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal Gardens, she finds pleasure in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety. Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There are rumors enough already, about treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle - who died of mysterious causes. With Evangeline's skill for detection, and Lucas's sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they have a common enemy. And as the energy emanating from Crystal Gardens intensifies, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long...
Evangeline is lying in her bed in the little cottage she rented for a month, to write on her novel, unable to sleep. She has felt restless all evening, and with reason it appears. Someone is breaking into the house! And coming straight to the bedroom, not an ordinary thief then! Without hesitation she slips on her shoes and a wrap and escapes out of the window, running as fast as she can to the only possible place of rescue. Her attacker is not able to follow through the window, gaining her a little time. As she has been living here for a few weeks now, she had ample opportunity to learn her surroundings, and there is no way she can reach a neighbour in time. But she can get into the dangerous Crystal Gardens, as there is a hidden opening in the wall. She has used it before the explore the Gardens, lured by the paranormal energy sweeping the place.
If only she can lure her attacker in, she knows she can get rid of him there. Her own psychic powers will keep her safe, as she can see well enough in the dark thanks to that same energy and the strange luminescence. Then she suddenly runs into another man’s arms. It appears that the owner of the Crystal Gardens was strolling through, when he heard trespassers. and he takes offence at the man trying to kill Evangeline. He uses his own psychic power to scare him deeper into the garden, where the strange and often lethal plants his uncle experimented on, quickly take care of the problem.
He takes Evangeline back into the house with him, intrigued by her calm and logical demeanour, and sets forth to get the whole story out of her. Evangeline has no idea why someone would have hired a London thug to kill her, but Lucas Sebastian thinks it might have something to do with her previous employment and the strange death connected to that case. Evangeline tells him she is not just a hired ladies companion, working for a private investigation firm, named Flint & Marsh. She was hired to find out the truth about the man courting the ladies granddaughter and she found him to be the worst kind of fortune hunter. She exposed him, and his suit was rejected. When he found out it was Evangeline, he set out to kill her, but ended up death himself. But who is after her now?
The next day, Evangeline’s two friends and housemates, and fellow investigators for Flint and Marsh, arrive from London, horrified by the tale. Lucas in the mean time, has been thinking about how to keep Evangeline safe, and has decided she is to move in with him immediately. And he has already contacted his aunt Florence to come over to act as a chaperone for Evangeline. When her friends go back to London to investigate the case and report to their bosses, Evangeline really has no choice but to comply. She might not be so lucky the next time, and the reputation of the Crystal Gardens is perhaps enough to keep her safe. And well, she also really really likes Lucas, and is thinking of having an adventure with him. After all, as an author, she needs real life experience about passion to be able to write about it. And if her heart gets broken in the process, it will heal; she reassures herself and her two friends.
But still, she finds it very difficult to stay behind, when her friends set out to find out the truth. Lucas tries to divert her by taking her on a tour of the Day Gardens. And that night, she watches him disappear in the Night Garden. And to her horror, she then watches two strange man enter the gardens, and follow him into the maze. Where is Stone? He was supposed to keep watch! Evangeline doesn’t hesitate at all, and sets out in her nightgown and slippers to find Stone, to send him after Lucas. But instead, she finds his unconscious body, and that sleep is in no way normal! She cannot wake him, which leaves only one option open: she has to go into the dangerous Night Gardens herself, to warn Lucas. But he is already aware of the intruders, and wonders how she has found him. When he fights the intruders, they employ some kind of psychic weapon, setting out a paranormal energy storm in the maze. Lucas is hit by it, and barely manages to get himself and Evangeline to the heart of the maze and the Roman bathhouse. There are three different bathing pools inside, and those are the source of the paranormal energy permeating the Gardens. And there he collapses in a high fever, after telling Evangeline to wait till dawn, as the Night Gardens are a bit less dangerous in daylight. But Evangeline does not hesitate, and uses her own psychic power to battle the paranormal fever that is almost killing him. When Lucas regains conscience, he is very grateful for her help, and very aroused at the sight of her, with her bare legs in the pool.
Are those two intruders the ones who killed his uncle? And perhaps the missing housekeeper? They certainly know their way around the gardens. At Evangeline’s advice he employs his younger sister and brother in the search through his uncle’s journals and papers to find out who were visiting him lately. His stepmother and his aunt are a nuisance, but he truly loves his younger siblings. As Evangeline is totally alone on the world, she envies him that, and does her best to make the relation between him and his stepmother a bit better. The woman has been afraid of him for 20 years now, believing him quite mad and still not believing in the paranormal or psychic powers.
With every clue they find, the mystery gets darker, will they find out the truth in time?
I am always happy with a new Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz or Jayne Castle novel (yes, one and the same author). But lately, all the books feel alike. Like this one, there is no mention of the Arcane Society or the Jones family in this book at all, but still both the hero and heroine (and ofcourse all the bad guys) have psychic powers. They fall for each other immediately, and work together to solve a mystery or a crime. In this instance, someone is trying to kill our heroine, and the hero wants to keep her safe. He doesn’t even know her, but he knows she is the one for him. He knows he will marry her, and doesn’t even bother to propose, just announces them as engaged.
Still, Amanda Quick makes the journey an exciting one, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book and all its paranormal aspects. But I fell in love with her books over 20 years ago, and really wish she would go back to her historical roots, and write something without anything psychic in it. I so loved, and still love, those earlier books.
If you have never read one of her books before, you can easily start with this one. Amanda Quick has a great writing style, my sense of humor in especially the heroine, and it is filled with action, some suspense, paranormal things, but also with great and vivid characters, both the main and the secondary. And you cannot help but like them and feel like you are alongside them on their journey to find out the truth of everything that happened. There are some nice lovescenes as well. I am looking forward to reading more in this series, and I guess those books will be about Evangeline’s friends.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian