In the red light district of London, India Black is in the business of selling passion her clientele will never forget. But when it comes to selling secrets, India's price cannot be paid by any man...
In the winter of 1876, the beautiful young madam India Black is occupied with her usual tasks - keeping her tarts in line, avoiding the police, and tolerating the clergyman bent on converting her girls. But when Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, India is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.
French, the handsome British spy, discovers India disposing of Latham's body and blackmails her into recovering the missing documents. Their quest takes them from the Russian embassy to Claridge's Hotel, from London to the English coast, all the while dodging Russians intent to do them harm.But it is their own tempestuous relationship they will have to weather as India and French attempt to resist the mutual attraction between them - an attraction that can prove as deadly as the conspiracy entangling them...
What is it about the Victorian era that gives us such smart, sassy, witty and readable women with a knack for amateur sleuthing? Move over Lady Julia Grey. Shove along Amelia Peabody and dance off towards the sunset Emily Ashton, because there is a new girl in town - India Black.
I thought from seeing the cover that this looked like a book that I might like. Right from the start of the prologue, I knew I was going to enjoy it mainly because of the voice. Here are the opening two sentences:
My name is India Black. I am a whore.
If those words made you blush, if your hand fluttered to your cheek or your harrumphed disapprovingly into your beard, then you should return this volume to the shelf, cast a cold glance at the proprietor as you leave, and hasten home feeling proper and virtuous.
The main question was whether the voice could be maintained through the novel without becoming annoying, and I am glad to say that it was.
So what is the book about? India Black is the madam at the Lotus House. As she says herself "I'm out of the game myself these days, but can set you up with a nice girl, any night after seven". One of the clients taking advantage of this deal is the man India calls Bowser, otherwise known as Sir Archibald Latham, important figure in the Disraeli government. When he dies in her establishment, India knows that it is bad new all round. With the assistance of the very enterprising urchin Vincent, India comes up with a plan to dispose of the body, but as she is disposing of the body she is approached by the spy only known as Mr French. A quick bit of banter and blackmail later and suddenly India finds herself involved in the spy game.
It seems that Bowser had bought some important government papers with him to her house of ill repute, but now they are missing and it is a matter of vital national importance that they are recovered. The government wants them, the opposition wants them, and the enemy (in this case the Russians) definitely want them. And so India suddenly finds herself in all kinds of unlikely situations.
It would be remiss of me to go much further without mentioning French. Strong, intelligent, handsome, relatively quiet, gets things done type of guy - be still my beating heart! I am so glad that this is the first of a series because I can't wait to find out more about French. At this stage he is so mysterious that neither the reader or India even know his first name. We are assured that it is not a run of the mill name like John or William and not totally outlandish. Perhaps we will find out in future books.
I did notice in the back cover blurb (above) that it talks about a relationship between French and India but I didn't really feel the mutual attraction all that much. It was definitely there, and it is a good foundation to build the tension in future reads, but I didn't think it was as strong an influence on the storyline as it could have been or that it is inferred to be in the blurb.
When a book has you laughing out loud on the train, you know that it is a good one, and it would be a perfect pick me up book! I will definitely be putting a request in for the next book as soon as I can, and the cover for the next book is gorgeous too!
I was prompted to read this book in order to participate in the blog tour being run by Premier Virtual Author Book Tours, although I got my copy of the book from the library. To visit other stops on the tour, click on the link above. Thanks for the push. I really enjoyed the book!