Not the real kind. I assume they’re not at all fun. I’m talking fictional thieves. They’re clever, they’re fun, and, most of all, it’s exhilarating to watch them break all the rules.
So when my friend Christine Merrill told me that the hero of her Regency historical, A Wicked Liaison, would be the charming thief who appeared in her previous book, An Unladylike Offer, I was instantly hooked.
Regencies are a great setting for thieves because the rules governing proper behavior are so strict and confining. It’s a ball to watch Anthony Smyth, the hero, pretend to fit in with the right crowd, all the time trying to pull something over on those who use the rules to cloak horrible behavior. Like the villain of the piece, who’s using society’s mores to trick the heroine, Constance, into becoming his mistress.
Constance is far more trapped by the rules than Smyth. Women at the time, of course, had very limited options, especially when they didn’t have control over the purse strings. In this case, Constance is a Duke’s widow who depends on her wastrel stepson to provide her with food and shelter. When the book opens, she’s desperate and willing to work within the system to find a husband. She doesn’t want much from marriage, just someone who doesn’t repel her and would pay the bills.
But it soon becomes clear, in a very funny opening scene, that Constance is at the age where suitable potential husbands view her more as mistress-material, After than, she’s willing to consider other measures.
Including beginning an affair with the very charming thief who climbs through her bedroom window and offers to steal the deed to her house back from her wastrel stepson.
Smyth naturally isn’t a villain through and through. He has a good reason for sneaking into her bedroom, in a search for evidence to implicate the villain in a traitorous scheme to sell government secrets. His employers are concerned Constance could be a willing accomplice.
But once Smyth’s convinced that she’s innocent, he keeps sneaking into her bedroom. She might be innocent of treason but neither of them is innocent from more wanton desires. Heh. The sex scenes are very hot and made more hot by the fact that the consequences of them being caught are dire.
But despite the attraction, there are problems. Smyth has put Constance on a pedestal and has a chip on his shoulder about her rank in society, especially since she doesn’t recognize him as the boy scholar who used to live near her family home. Constance is unwilling to publicly acknowledge a relationship with a thief, especially since his job could get him killed and leave her a widow again.
The resolution is quite satisfying, as the villain gets his comeuppance not only from Tony but from Constance as well. I’d recommend this one highly.
Especially if you like thieves.