Captain Gabriel Lacey, veteran of the Peninsular War in Regency era England, injured, prey to melancholia, retired on half pay, lives a hand-to-mouth existence in rooms over a bakery in Covent Garden. Until one day a girl goes missing, possibly kidnapped, possibly by a member of Parliament. In the brutal rough-and-tumble that is Regency England’s underworld, no one cares what happened to her. Except Gabriel.
Which is pretty much the plot of all of these novels. In this, the seventh in the series, Gabriel goes home to Norfolk with his affianced bride to check out his ancestral home, abandoned after his father died and in great need of repair before they move in. He also carries with him a missive from Denis to one of Denis’ many minions, which causes the minion to decamp forthwith and mayhem to ensue.
Gabriel is such a good, decent guy, who wants the world to be better than it is and so determined to make the occasional corner of it so, you can’t help but like and admire him and cheer him on. The cast of characters includes Grenville, heir to Brummel whose acquaintance with Gabriel moves from fashion to friendship, Marianne, the annoying actress-slash-courtesan who lives upstairs from Gabriel, Pomeroy, Gabriel’s ex-sergeant and a Bow Street Runner bent on profit, James Denis, the cold-eyed king of London’s criminal class, Lady Breckenridge, Gabriel’s acid-tongued, billiard-playing, cigarillo-smoking love interest, friend Louisa Brandon, her husband and foe Aloysius Brandon, and more.
This isn’t Jane Austen’s England, it isn’t even Georgette Heyer’s, it’s grimy and smelly and terrifying and tragic. Justice, try as Gabriel might, is not always done. Also, Gabriel never wins a fight, he is always getting the crap kicked out of him by somebody, which leads me to wonder how he made such a successful soldier. But that’s all the criticism I got. Fun.