cover image His Wicked Reputation

His Wicked Reputation

Madeline Hunter. Jove, $7.99 mass market (432p) ISBN 978-0-515-15516-7

Hunter (The Accidental Duchess) spins the intrigues of an enterprising bastard son and a resourceful artist to delightful effect in this excellent launch of the Wicked series of Regency romances. Gareth Fitzallen, illegitimate son of the Duke of Aylesbury, has two skills: brokering art deals and pleasing women in bed. When his poisonous half-brother dies, Gareth takes possession of his disputed inheritance, a near-ruined manor house. He is also tasked with solving the mystery of a missing art cache, an invaluable collection hidden in case of Napoleon’s invasion that has vanished without trace. Impoverished spinster Eva Russell supports herself and her sister, Rebecca, by painting and selling copies of the Gainsboroughs she’s found in the attic of Gareth’s house. After an inauspicious first encounter, Gareth and Eva become unlikely friends and lovers, but Gareth’s pursuit of the stolen masterpieces may endanger Eva and destroy their chance at happiness. The period detail educates without being onerous. Characters, such as the eccentric sisters who befriend Eva and Rebecca, round out an entertaining cast, and the romance and suspense are balanced perfectly. Agent: Pam Hopkins, Hopkins Literary Associates. (Mar.)