Kristin Vayden returns to her Cambridge Brotherhood series with In the Eyes of the Earl, which pairs a scholarly heroine with an aristocrat who moonlights as a spy.
Collin Morgan, Earl of Penderdale, has been suspended from his sensitive position at the War Office because someone has assumed his identity and is using it to commit crimes. However, Collin subscribes to the notion that if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. He embarks on his own investigation, following the trail to Cambridge and reuniting with an old friend who is now a professor. What he doesn’t expect is to immediately clash with his friend’s tenacious daughter.
Like many women who dreamed of academic pursuits during the Regency, Elizabeth Essex is limited by her gender. Her father’s status means she’s tolerated in academic spaces, but her studies are rarely taken seriously. Elizabeth secretly teaches a small, close-knit group of women, and Collin’s presence jeopardizes what she’s worked so hard to protect. She offers to help Collin, despite their clashing personalities, as it will allow her to keep tabs on him and prevent him from uncovering her scandalous activities.
Collin and Elizabeth are a well-matched couple who clearly appreciate each other’s independence, wit and intelligence, and Collin’s spycraft experience pairs perfectly with Elizabeth’s love of analysis and research. As they banter their way through the investigation, they share thrilling deductions as a form of foreplay, lending a sprightly quality to the romance that balances the serious nature of Collin’s predicament.
In the Eyes of the Earl is an exemplary entry point to the Cambridge Brotherhood series and may be the best installment thus far. Vayden sets a rollicking pace as she combines an engaging romance with a perplexing whodunit, resulting in a love story that’s fresh, fun and full of secrets.