Amanda Quick's bestselling trademark is a combination of suspense and passion in historical tales alight with sparkling wit and brimming with dangerous intrigue. Now she serves up the most tantalizing novel of her career as an enterprising woman allies herself with a mysterious spy, only to be caught in a seething brew of treachery -- and temptation....
From the moment he burst into her antiquities shop in Rome, Lavinia Lake knew the stranger was nothing but trouble. He said he was in pursuit of a killer. He swore he was only trying to save her. Yet no matter what he claimed, Lavinia was convinced that Mr. Tobias March was bent instead on destroying her. And when the self-described spy hustled her and her niece out of the shop and back to England, Lavinia could only hope that one day she would would find a way to repay Mr. March in full.
But Lavinia never imagined the shocking circumstances under which they would meet again ... or that soon he would become more deadly -- and more compelling -- with each passing day.
In the business of making private inquiries, Tobias March had been hired to trade down a powerful villain who even now was intent on assuming control of a vast criminal organization. Yet in his search he had found nothing but one dead end -- and one dead body -- after another.
And then, just as his investigation was heating up once more, he found his mission and his life complicated by the most ungovernable, unpredictable, exasperating woman he had ever met.
Faced with a tangled web of deceit and danger, Tobias had no choice but to form a partnership with Lavinia, a lady whose past could only be described as slightly shady. Yet when he persuaded her to become his associate, neither Tobias nor Lavinia realized that their heated disputes would spark a sizzling desire -- or that the deeper they kept digging for the truth, the deeper they were digging their own graves....
Spirited heroines and sardonic heroes populate this sexy Regency-era thriller by the ever reliable Quick, alter ego of Jayne Ann Krentz. This time out, Quick offers the parry and thrust of danger and romance, as embodied in resourceful Lavinia Lake and roguish Tobias March. Lavinia first encounters Tobias when he bursts into her antiques shop in Rome, trashing her wares, all the while claiming to be on the trail of a murderer and warning Lavinia that she is in danger. There's also talk of treason, a criminal organization known as the Blue Chamber and an evil mastermind named Azure. Despite her skepticism, Lavinia returns with her niece, Emeline, to London, where she is caught up in more intrigue. She sets herself up as a private detective and even though stubbornness on both sides leads to an oil-and-water pairing, she soon finds herself in business with Tobias, attempting to foil a blackmail scheme, locate the culprit in a series of murders and identify the surviving member of Azure's organization. Arch humor and the expert removal of bodices are Quick's stock in trade, and the old formula still works splendidly. As usual, the novel's outcome is visible a mile off, but familiarity, after all, is golden in literary franchise land. Major ad/promo. (Apr. 10)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 25, 2002
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Excerpt from Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick
The intruder's eyes blazed with a cold fire. He raised a powerful hand and swept another row of vases off the shelf. The fragile objects crashed to the floor and shattered into a hundred shards. He moved on to a display of small statues.
"I advise you to make haste with your packing, Mrs. Lake," he said as he turned his violent attention to a host of fragile clay Pans, Aphrodites, and satyrs. "The carriage will leave in fifteen minutes, and I promise you that you and your niece will be aboard, with or without your luggage."
Lavinia watched him from the foot of the stairs, helpless to stop the destruction of her wares. "You have no right to do this. You are ruining me."
"On the contrary, madam. I am saving your neck." He used a booted foot to topple a large urn decorated in the Etruscan manner. "Not that I expect any thanks, mind you."
Lavinia winced as the urn exploded on impact with the floor. She knew now that it was pointless to berate the lunatic. He was intent on destroying the shop and she lacked the means to stop him. She had been taught early in life to recognize the signs that indicated it was time to stage a tactical retreat. But she had never learned to tolerate such annoying reversals of fortune with equanimity.
"If we were in England, I would have you arrested, Mr. March."
"Ah, but we are not in England, are we, Mrs. Lake?" Tobias March seized a life-size stone centurion by the shield and shoved it forward. The Roman fell on his sword. "We are in Italy and you have no choice but to do as I command."
It was useless to stand her ground. Every moment spent down here attempting to reason with Tobias March was time lost that should be spent packing. But the unfortunate tendency toward stubbornness that was so much a part of her nature could not abide the notion of surrendering the field of battle without a struggle.
"Bastard," she said through her teeth.
"Not in the legal sense." He slammed another row of red clay vases to the floor. "But I believe I comprehend what you wish to imply."
"It is obvious that you are no gentleman, Tobias March."
"I will not quarrel with you on that point." He kicked over a waist-high statue of a naked Venus. "But then, you are no lady, are you?"
She cringed when the statue crumbled. The naked Venuses had proved quite popular with her clientele.
"How dare you? Just because my niece and I got stranded here in Rome and were obliged to go into trade for a few months in order to support ourselves is no reason to insult us."
"Enough." He whirled around to face her. In the lantern light, his forbidding face was colder than the features of any stone statue. "Be grateful that I have concluded that you were merely an unwitting dupe of the criminal I am pursuing and not a member of his gang of thieves and murderers."
"I have only your word that the villains were using my shop as a place to exchange their messages. Frankly, Mr. March, given your rude behavior, I am not inclined to believe a single thing you say."
He pulled a folded sheet of paper from his pocket. "Do you deny that this note was hidden in one of your vases?"
She glanced at the damning note. Only moments ago she had watched in stunned amazement while he shattered a lovely Greek vase. A message that looked remarkably like a villain's report to his criminal employer had been tucked inside. Something about a bargain with pirates having been successfully struck.
Lavinia raised her chin. "It is certainly not my fault that one of my patrons dropped a personal note into that vase."
"Not just one patron, Mrs. Lake. The villains have been using your shop for some weeks now."
"And just how would you know that, sir?"
"I have watched these premises and your personal movements for nearly a month."
She widened her eyes, genuinely shocked by the infuriatingly casual admission.
"You have spent the past month spying on me?"
"At the start of my observations, I assumed that you were an active participant in Carlisle's ring here in Rome. It was only after much study that I have concluded you probably did not know what some of your so-called customers were about."
"That is outrageous."
He gave her a look of mocking inquiry. "Are you saying you did know what they were up to when they came and went in such a regular fashion?"
"I am saying no such thing." She could hear her voice climbing but there was little she could do about it. She had never been so angry or so frightened in her life. "I believed them to be honest patrons of antiquities."
"Did you indeed?" Tobias glanced at a collection of cloudy green glass jars that stood in a neat row on a high shelf. His smile was devoid of all warmth. "And how honest are you, Mrs. Lake?"
She stiffened. "What are you implying, sir?"
"I'm not implying anything. I am merely noting that most of the items in this shop are cheap replicas of ancient artifacts. There is very little here that is truly antique."