Cherry St. Croix barely survived her crazed father’s plan to resurrect his deceased wife in Tarnished, the first book of the St. Croix Chronicles series. Now Cherry finds herself indebted to Hawke, the shadowy figure who saved her life, attempting to maintain the appearance of a proper young socialite amongst the London elite while hunting killers as a Collector. Although Cherry believes opium is responsible for her being alive, she is justifiably concerned at a growing addiction as it begins taking over her life. Despite growing pressure from her chaperone Fanny, Cherry claims not to be interested in a marriage that would control her fortune and freedom, a sentiment that changes when Lord Compton returns from an unexplained absence determined to win her hand. Lord Compton’s mother and a ring of her cronies have labored tirelessly to publicly humiliate Cherry and the possibility of marriage fans that into open hatred. Meanwhile, Cherry is engaged in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with none other then Jack the Ripper, a killer with a sweet tooth and Hawke. For all her travels between London’s levels, nothing prepared Cherry for a dreadful betrayal from a most unexpected source that will change the course of her life.
Fast paced and darker then Tarnished, this tale expands upon London’s divided levels that clearly define class differences. While questions continue to arise about Cherry’s father and his work, Cooper fills in several gaps left in the first book. Memory lapses and breaks with reality show how deep Cherry’s addiction runs and will likely continue to play an important role in her ongoing adventures. Part Steampunk, part Victorian gothic, this entertaining series continues to deliver surprises with just enough romance to keep things interesting.
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