As if a head for business and a nose for trouble aren’t enough to distinguish fiercely independent Lavinia Lake from the other women of London’s fashionable Claremont Lane, there is one more feature to set her apart. Lavinia is also well versed in the practice of mesmerism, an extraordinary gift that far surpasses mere charm and physical appeal. Nobody knows this better than the usually coolheaded Tobias March, who seems to have fallen hopelessly under her spell. Fortunately for all, however, Lavinia uses her powers for good. And ever since a tragedy involving one of her subjects, she has even retired them in favor of her work with Lake and March, a joint venture providing “discreet private inquiries for individuals of quality.”
Mrs. Lake and Mr. March have a rocky first encounter: he is systematically rampaging through the tiny shop Mrs. Lake and her niece operate, all in an attempt to force them to leave and thus remove them from impending danger. Nevertheless, they find reasons to continue their relationship, despite the friction of their equally strong personalities. As these are romance novels, their relationship also continues to be fraught with unresolved passion.
Part of that passion and that friction is due to the fact that Mrs. Lake is a talented mesmerist, although Mr. March is quite hesitant to allow himself to be placed under her magnetic influence for medicinal purposes, even though he is quickly falling under her captivating spell as much as she is falling under his. However, in her new occupation performing private inquiries, Mrs. Lake finds his company and her mesmeric powers advantageous, and not always in the expected manner.
Mrs. Lake does not want to return to her mesmerism practice upon returning to London after her encounter with Mr. March, after a tragedy involving a former patient and the repercussions from the patient’s husband. Instead, she is drawn into Mr. March’s inquiry into the existence and location of a diary that relates the doings of one of the principal leaders of an international criminal organization, a part of the impending danger that threatened Mrs. Lake earlier. That leads to a complicated investigation also involving a death threat against a prominent lady of society, missing prostitutes and murder. Only upon the final confrontation with the murderer does she resort to her talent for mesmerism, using her pendant as a focus to entrance the murderer to induce them to gloat about their past crimes, as well as distract them from killing Mrs. Lake.
Mrs. Lake encounters Doctor Howard Hudson, an old friend of her parents, both of whom were experienced mesmerists, himself a professional mesmerist as well. He is in London to further his research into mesmerism, specifically, in search of the fabled Blue Medusa, an amulet legendarily reputed to give the wearer powerful mesmeric abilities. With him is his new wife Celeste, who has her own interests and her own plans involving the Blue Medusa. However, when Celeste is found murdered and the Blue Medusa is discovered missing, Mrs. Lake and Mr. March are charged with investigating both crimes, only to find a web of murder and mesmerism behind the theft and the crimes that follow. Complicating matters is the presence of Lord Pelling, the man whose wife committed suicide under Mrs. Lake’s care, in London unexpectedly.
Mesmerism is a central element of the novel here. Without giving too much away, it appears throughout the novel in a multitude of circumstances and by a number of individuals including Mrs Hudson, including, as it does in all of these novels, with Mrs. Lake using her mesmeric talents in confronting the murder.
Mrs. Lake investigates a mesmerist undercover by complaining of “feminine discomforts”. The device the mesmerist tries to employ in relief while she is ostensibly mesmerized is essentially a mechanical dildo: whether this device as described was authentic is not known but it certainly would be typical of the period.
Mrs. Lake and Mr. March are by now well known by certain very prominent individuals and are significantly an item such that they are invited to a weekend outing at a noble’s estate. However, the appearance of the wife of an old friend turned enemy seeking the aid of Mr. March and an “accident” at the outing involve them both in a murder mystery involving the infamous Memento-Mori Man, a famous killer for hire thought retired long ago, or, possibly, someone emulating his work. As in the first novel of the series, the story underplays Mrs. Lake’s mesmeric talents until the very end where she employs them to distract the murder until aid arrives.
- Amanda Quick is the pseudonym of Jayne Ann Krentz, a popular New York Times bestselling author of period, paranormal and period paranormal romances.