cover image BRIDAL FAVORS


Connie Brockway, . . Dell, $6.99 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-440-23674-0

Set in Chelsea, England, during the late Victorian era, this brisk and refreshingly droll tale sets cheeky Evelyn Cummings Whyte on a collision course with the scruffy but invariably handsome Justin Powell. When 15-year-old Evelyn interrupts what she takes to be a tryst between Justin and a prominent diplomat's wife, she exacts a note of debt from the ruffled 23-year-old in return for her silence. Ten years later, Evie, who is filling in for her aunt as a society wedding planner, comes calling with her note. She needs Justin's familial estate for the wedding of the season. He agrees reluctantly, complaining it will interfere with his bird-watching—he's an ornithologist on the tail of the elusive Bubo Formosa Plorimus (Most Beautiful Owl)—but in truth, the nuptials will provide an excellent cover for his espionage activities. Far from the frivolous ladies' man Evie thinks he is, Justin is really a spy, but his latest mission—to hide a "diabolical machine" being shipped to him by his handler—may put them both in danger. Readers are left to wonder what the machine is for much of the tale, and in the end, it's not what we're led to believe. A handful of other surprises keep the narrative lively, and Brockway's buoyant characters and lilting writing style sweep the reader along to a heady and hilarious denouement. (Sept. 3)