Though their horse-racing family is as troubled as it is talented, all of the Chandler siblings have found love…except eldest brother Jonah. Married four years ago and abandoned after his wedding night, single-minded Jonah now spends his days training Thoroughbreds—while his lost bride is a family mystery no one dares discuss.
And that’s just the way Jonah and his wife, Irene, want it.
The biracial daughter of a seamstress and a con artist, Irene has built a secret career as a spy and pickpocket who helps troubled women. By day she works as a teacher at Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies; in spare moments she takes on missions that carry her everywhere from London’s elite heart to its most dangerous corners.
Jonah agreed to this arrangement for four years, until Irene’s family fortunes were made. After surviving on passionate secret meetings and stolen days together, now it’s time to begin the marriage so long delayed. But as these two independent souls begin to build a life together, family obligations and old scandals threaten to tear them apart…
I enjoyed the first three books in Theresa Romain’s Romance of the Turf series, which focuses on a family of successful horse-breeders and trainers based in Newmarket. One of the attractions of the series has been that there’s nary a duke or earl in sight – historical romance about non-aristocratic characters is relatively rare, so the author is to be applauded for writing about the gentry instead of the nobs. It’s been a while since the last title in the series (Scandalous Ever After) was released, but I did remember that the eldest of the Chandler siblings, Jonah, had appeared and/or been mentioned in the earlier books, and that he was married… but that his wife, for some unexplained reason, wasn’t around.
As it turns out, Irene Chandler – née Baird – is a teacher at Mrs. Brodie’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies (as featured in the novella duo by Ms. Romain and Shana Galen), an exclusive boarding school in Marylebone that teaches classes in self-defence and pick-pocketing alongside the more traditional subjects. Irene has been a teacher of geography and history there for six years, and loves it; but like some of her fellow teachers, she also carries out certain extra-curricular activities at the behest of Mrs. Brodie. Irene is, in fact:
… a sort of spy. A thief. A secret agent. The headmistress of her academy had ties to prominent people across England, and she pulled strings to make sure their power was used for good. Irene was, when needed, the physical hand who did the pulling.
As a biracial woman – her mother is a black Englishwoman, her father a white American – Irene knows only too well the feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in the face of injustice. She loves the life she has built for herself and is fulfilled by it, even as she recognises that her work is of the sort that will never, ever be done when there are people who need the sort of help Mrs. Brodie can provide. But she made a bargain four years earlier, one that is going to change the course of her life, and payment is now due.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.