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Harley Street, is the latest in a series of fascinating novels set in the mid-eighteenth century and featuring the same protagonists. Known as the Richard and Rose stories, these books defy genre restrictions because of the outstanding honesty of the storytelling. Rather than going along with the conventions of the romance or the mystery or the adventure story, these books, like those of Diana Gabaldon, give you engaging characters plunged into intriguing situations--and then you willingly go along for the ride as events unfold in unexpected and exciting ways. Earlier books in the series--Yorkshire, Devonshire, and Venice--show the unconventional Richard/Rose relationship as it begins and develops, but you need not read them first in order to enjoy this one. I believe though, that once you become engrossed in the world presented in Harley Street, you will want to pick up the previous books simply so you can enjoy them.
These stories are told in first person, from the viewpoint of Rose, the wife in the Richard and Rose marriage. Richard, the wealthy and powerful Lord Strang, has married Rose despite the fact that she comes from a rather obscure family. Richard and Rose, who love each other desperately, have been through some trying times together, including being the targets of an assassination attempt. Now they seem to be the chosen victims of unknown persons who are trying to destroy their marriage by playing on Rose’s insecurities and Richard’s reputation as a practiced rake. When an employee of Rose’s aunt is murdered and then turns out to be a former lover of Richard’s, the plot becomes even more complex--and the villainies become even darker. Although the book is like a romance in some ways, the author lets characters make choices that you probably wouldn’t find in a standard romance novel.
I always find myself drawn into these books. At first, life seems reasonably normal for the couple, and then something strange happens--and then something else strange--and the next thing you know, you realize that you simply must find out what’s going on and who is doing it! At the same time, you hope that the love that Lord Strang and his wife share will stand up under vicious attack. Not only that, you meet a few actual people who were living in 1753, such as the brothers John and Henry Fielding, well-known in their own right.
I definitely do not want to give away the plot of this carefully constructed novel. Lynne Connolly describes it as “the book in which Richard's past rises up to threaten his future.” Suffice it to say that you will feel that you’ve had a worthwhile experience after you finish the book. You will also notice that the author has left a thread or two a bit loose, so that you can envision another book coming. Not only do you envision it, but you want to read it! If an adventurous, mysterious, romantic, historical, intelligent novel is your cup of tea, you can’t do better than Harley Street.