Piatkus, £7.99, ISBN 978-0-7499-3892-5
Historical Romance, 2007
The River Knows came out before the author entered the Arcane Society phase, so it is actually a refreshing change for once to read something that isn’t punctuated with “psychical”, “aura”, and other gobbledygook every other page.
That Guy here is Anthony Stalbridge. He’s dangerous, doesn’t mingle with society much, dark and broody, takes one look at the heroine and somehow finds her unconventional but attractive – oh, you know the drill, I’m sure. Likewise, the drill is the same with That Girl – Louisa Bryce who thinks she’s sensible although she’s not quite as smart as she thinks she is, practical, keeps a secret (in this case she’s on the run from her past), gets a thrill from how dangerous she senses the hero to be, et cetera.
I have to say, though, when the author is on the roll, the formula works wonderfully, and she’s definitely on the roll here. If you have read enough of the author’s books, these characters aren’t anything new. But here, Anthony and Louisa are so adorable together. They have a chemistry that reminds me of those of the more memorable couples from the author’s previous books, such as Mistress, Dangerous, and Rendezvous.
Here, they first meet when they are clearly trying to steal something in the same room they happen to “stumble” into at the same time, only they try so hard to pretend otherwise, heh. They are interrupted by a minion of the man they are trying to steal from, so Anthony quickly pretends that they are looking for a place for some private time. Louisa decides that Anthony must be a burglar who does what he does due to unfortunate circumstances, and she is thrilled because she is looking for someone just like him to help her with her plans. She’d like to hire him, but Anthony is not something she can easily corral, heh. She is looking for evidence of a nobleman’s financial misdeeds, while he is looking for evidence to nail the same man as the murderer of his fiancée. The villain is a professional wife-killer (he takes out one whenever he needs a new one for whatever reason, usually for money) however, with ties to mob bosses, so he’s not exactly a sitting duck.
The mystery is actually pretty interesting for a change, or maybe it’s because the main characters have such a fun chemistry that it’s enjoyable to see them work together while exchanging lip and retorts. The secondary characters, while breaking no new grounds, only bring out the funny side of the main characters, especially Louisa, so The River Knows is as close as old-school Amanda Quick as I can get these days.
Close, but not entirely there, though, as the romance is actually tepid. I find myself more interested in the mystery for once, because the romance may as well be bullet points from an IKEA assembly manual. Kiss, grope, sex – that’s it, ma’am, come back another day. There is no build up to the sex scene at all, and the way the characters behave after the scene, you’d think they have just had an agreeable lunch and nothing more. Louisa and Anthony seem to be better friends than lovers. They have a nice partners-in-crime thing going on, so the abrupt and forced jump-into-intimacy scenes actually sabotage their chemistry considerably. I’d have been perfectly happy if these two end the story being friends and accomplices rather than lovers, or maybe with the two of them deciding to have a go at proper courtship once the mystery is solved. That would have given the relationship a more realistic tinge.
At any rate, The River Knows is an entertaining read. Still, I hesitate to suggest that anyone gets a copy of this book new, unless it is on deep discount like this copy of mine. After all, this book is like a second taste of a familiar and beloved meal, only somehow the chef didn’t get the ingredients completely right this time around. But hey. don’t let me stop you if you want a brand new copy. At least it’s this one and not one of the many watered down and very average books she also has out there.