City of Secrets
Counterfeit Lady Book #2
By Victoria Thompson
Author’s website: Victoriathompson.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Con artist Elizabeth Miles has determined that Society is the biggest con of all. So far, Elizabeth’s only real social success has been with Priscilla Knight. Priscilla is a dedicated suffragist who was recently widowed for the second time in her young life. Her beloved first husband, DeForrest Jenks, died in a tragic accident and left her with two young daughters and a comfortable fortune. Soon after his death, her pastor convinced her she needed a man to look after her. Before she knew it, he had engineered a whirlwind courtship and hasty marriage to fellow parishioner Endicott Knight. Less than nine months later, Endicott is also dead in a somewhat less tragic and even more suspicious accident.
Priscilla confides to Elizabeth that she had understood Endicott was wealthy in his own right, and she had brought a sizeable fortune to the marriage as well. Now her banker is telling her she has hardly any money left and that her house has been mortgaged. The banker has hinted at a scandal that could damage the family’s reputation and her daughters’ future prospects. Fearing destructive gossip, Priscilla doesn’t know whom to trust.
Elizabeth discovers some unsavory evidence that seems to point to the possibility that Endicott’s death may have been connected to blackmail. To save her new friend’s future, Elizabeth must use her special set of skills to find the truth. (Goodreads)
City of Secrets, the second book in the Counterfeit Lady Series, is smarter historical fiction than a murder mystery, but it is an enjoyable book with gratifying, complex characters. It can be read alone or as part of the series.
“Reformed” grifter Elizabeth Miles is trying to find her way in polite society, a feat sometimes harder than others. After the events of the first book, City of Lies, Elizabeth is secretly engaged (almost) to straight-laced lawyer Gideon Bates. When she learns that her friend Priscilla has been left almost destitute by her now deceased husband, Emily sets out to find out what happened to all the money. This leads her down a dark path of blackmail, accidents that might really be murder, and people who are not what they appear to be. Should she follow Gideon’s letter of the law or pull a con to beat the blackmailers at their own game?
Thompson has created characters that are quite appealing within these pages. I think Elizabeth’s morally ambiguous upbringing makes her look at the world and solve problems differently than the average lady of the era would. She is gutsy and not afraid to express her opinions so it is no surprise that she finds a “home” with suffragists. Gideon makes a perfect counterpart for Elizabeth; it is no wonder that these opposites are attracted to each other. I also particularly like Elizabeth’s father and think he could charm anyone into doing just about anything.
I am a little disappointed that City of Secrets is not more of a mystery. Readers learn who the villains are almost from the beginning, but it is fun to watch their unraveling play out. The story starts out a bit slow, but it soon picks up the pace, and the last third or so of the book is very good.