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THE DEVIL'S NECKLACE
By Kat Martin
Grace Chastain secretly arranges for Harmon Jeffries, Viscount Forsythe, to escape from Newgate prison the night before he is to be executed for treason. She then boards a packet for Scarborough to visit her great aunt, hoping no one will discover that Jeffries is her real father and connect her with his escape.
On board the packet Grace meets Martin Tully, Earl of Collingwood. Tully displays an interest in her and hints that he would like to visit her in Scarborough. Before that friendship develops further, what appears to be a pirate ship stops them and the captain, Ethan Sharpe, comes on board and takes Grace into custody. He claims to have authority from the government to question her regarding a traitor. In fact he has no authority but is seeking revenge.
Sharpe, who is also the Marquess of Belford, works for the English government gathering intelligence about France's war plans. A few years ago while on such an expedition he was betrayed, resulting in loss of his ship, the death or imprisonment of many of his crew and his own imprisonment and torture. He believes Harmon Jeffries was the man who betrayed him and his crew. Grace, he thinks, was Jeffries's mistress and must know where he has gone.
Despite their animosity, Grace and Sharpe are attracted to each other. Soon she falls under his spell and they make love. She thinks it's love, he thinks it's a seduction in hopes of gaining information. When he realizes Grace was a virgin, his idea that she was Jeffries's mistress is blown out of the water. Shamed by his actions, he puts her ashore at Scarborough.
Grace is welcomed and embraced by her great aunt. True to his word, Martin Tully calls on Grace but she puts him off after realizing she's pregnant. She writes to her best friend, Victoria, for advice and help, unaware that Victoria's husband is Sharpe's best friend. Soon Sharpe's friends are putting pressure on him to marry Grace and reluctantly he complies. She resists at first but ultimately agrees for the sake of the child.
While Grace hopes Sharpe will come to love her he is racked with guilt. He has learned that Jeffries is Grace's father and he cannot bring himself to admit that he cares for someone connected with the man responsible for the deaths of his crewmen.
Returning to London, Grace is contacted by her father, who swears he is innocent and is on the trail of the real traitor. Grace tries to help him but Sharpe intervenes and once again Jeffries is facing the hangman.
THE DEVIL'S NECKLACE is a fast-moving tale in which the war against Napoleon is only the backdrop. The main thrust of the story is how Sharpe reacts to betrayal and the tragic loss of life that followed. He is in real danger of allowing the drive for revenge to overshadow his life and rob him of any chance of happiness. Grace has her own problems dealing with an abusive step-father and the need to honor her real father despite his faults and failings.
The author does an excellent job of plumbing the depths of the emotions that face Grace and Sharpe. She allows the characters to talk to each other in very human ways, causing the reader to identify and care what happens to them.
This is the second book of a trilogy but you can fully enjoy it without reading the first. Still, some interesting secondary characters appear in this one and the idea that their stories may be available in the other books is tantalizing. Do yourself a favor and read them all.
---Reviewed by Elizabeth Waye
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