The second son of a earl, Grant Amesbury served his country as a soldier turned assassin in the Napoleonic wars. His time there still haunts him, but nothing more acutely than the bitter betrayal of a woman he loved. Now back at home, he's a cynical shell of his former self and has little use for the niceties of high society. Instead he works as a consultant with the Bow Street Runners. His latest case has led him to believe that there is a plot to assassinate the current Prime Minister and a recently arrested criminal has pointed a finger at the man who wants the seat. Grant is left with no choice but to resume his despised position among the ton to get himself invited to social functions at the man's house, so that he'll have ample opportunity to investigate undercover. He just didn't count on a very persistent and beguiling young woman distracting him from his mission and upsetting his preconceived notion that all women are nothing but manipulative schemers.
Jocelyn Fairley has given up her season to play hostess to her beloved father who is seeking the position of Prime Minister. She believes that he would be a great asset to the country and wants to do whatever it takes to help him win the seat. When Grant discreetly brings her inebriated younger brother home one evening, Jocelyn is immediately taken with the handsome man. To express their gratitude, she and her father invite him to a country house party they're throwing. While there, Jocelyn catches Grant snooping around and is shocked to learn that he's investigating her father's possible connection to an assassination plot. Believing with all her heart that her father has nothing to do with it, she teams up with Grant to help him investigate, every bit as eager to prove her father's innocence as Grant is to prove his guilt. Working so closely with Grant, Jocelyn soon finds herself falling for the gruff former soldier, but he seems to want nothing to do with her. Jocelyn isn't easily deterred, though, and sets about doing whatever it takes to get him to open up to her about what happened in the past and give her a chance to prove she has far more depth than he believes most women do.
Since I tend to prefer a little steam in my romances, I don't usually read a lot of sweet, PG-rated ones. However, I can definitely enjoy a romance sans love scenes as long as the writer is talented enough to make me feel something. The most important thing for me when reading any romance is the desire to sense an emotional connection between the characters within the story as well as having them connect with me as the reader. I know I'm always going to get that when I read one of Donna Hatch's stories, which is why she's become my current favorite go-to author for sweet mainstream romance. The Suspect's Daughter, her latest release and the newest book in her Rogue Hearts series fits the bill perfectly. I didn't end up liking it quite as well as the previous two books in the series, but it was still a really good read.
Oddly enough, my main reason for marking this book down a half star is probably the exact same reason most other readers are giving it the highest rating of any book in the series thus far. And that's its hero, Grant. Grant is a very cold, cynical man, a little too much so for my taste. However, this didn't really surprise me based on his appearances in the previous books of the series. He's essentially an honorary Bow Street Runner. As the son of a earl, he doesn't really have to work, but he's not the type of man to sit around indolently the way he feels many aristocratic men do. He's good friends with the magistrate who saved his life during the Napoleonic War and feels he owes the man a debt of gratitude. In part, to pay him back, Grant works with Bow Street on a number of cases as a sort of independent consultant. His latest case investigating a possible assassination plot against the Prime Minister places him in close proximity with the two types of people he dislikes the most, aristocrats and women. He has little use for either one and isn't particularly fond of going undercover among them.
I could live with Grant's internal commentary on the ton, but his thoughts about women did tend to grate on occasion. Early on, he's pretty difficult to like and I couldn't quite understand what Jocelyn saw in him. Luckily, though, the author does hint at some vulnerability in his past and perhaps a woman who did him wrong. I suppose everyone deals with things in their own way, and I'll admit that some pretty terrible things happened to Grant, but there were times when his methods of dealing seemed a little extreme. He doesn't want to have anything to do with women at all, ever again, and thinks they're all manipulative, conniving witches who always have an ulterior motive. Given that he had a mother he seemed to adore and two sisters, as well as three sisters-in-law whom he likes well enough, it was a little hard to grasp his extreme views. Thankfully, this begins to improve about halfway into the story. We see some selfless actions on his part, become privy to compassion that he's shown others, and his past starts to be revealed in bits and pieces. Because of these things I can honestly say that I gradually started liking him much better, but when he was still questioning Jocelyn's motives over ¾ of the way into the book, when she'd been nothing but sweet and kind to him, I wanted to slap him silly. Grant did grow on me and I did sympathize with him after all that he'd been though, but he was just a little too distrustful and jaded for me to wholeheartedly fall in love with him like I did with his brothers, Christian and Jared. I guess I simply like my heroes to be a little softer and more personable.
Jocelyn was the perfect foil for Grant's hard-edged, misanthropic personality. She's a sweet girl who's given up her season to act as her father's hostess to further his political career. She's upbeat and always has a genuine sunny smile for everyone. Jocelyn adores her father and when she finds out that he's the prime suspect in Grant's investigation, she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn't do something like that. She's no delicate shrinking violet like Grant expects her to be. In fact, she insists on helping with his investigation so that she can prove her point. She also does a lot of things, such as acting as a healer and midwife, that are completely unexpected to Grant and that don't fit his preconceived notions of what a woman of her station is like. Jocelyn is a deeply caring and compassionate person, always willing to lend a helping hand. I love how she genuinely wanted to do something when faced with the extreme poverty of her maid's sister and her children. Best of all, she exhibits the patience of Job and is extremely bold and determined in her dealings with Grant. I don't think I could have dealt with a man like him the way she did, but I admire her for it. Without her genuine sweetness and dauntless pursuit of him, he would have easily written her off as just another spoiled society miss.
Other than wishing Grant would have softened up a bit more and a bit sooner, the only other thing that bothered me were the typos. If there are only a few, I try to overlook them, but in this case there were enough to be a bit distracting. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed reading The Suspect's Daughter. The mystery was well-done, and according to the author's note at the end, it's based on factual historical events. I also enjoyed visiting with Grant's three brothers and their wives from the previous books, and his two sisters put in an appearance too. I think that Ms. Hatch has plans to write their stories as well. I really like Rachel's geekiness, and it appears that Margaret is trapped in a horrible marriage and needs an HEA of her own. I'll certainly be on the look-out for their books and hope that Ms. Hatch will be writing and releasing them soon.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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