4 stars. (Historical Romance)
Deadly Affairs was another great installment in Brenda Joyce’s Deadly series. The same characters are back as in the first two with a few new additions here and there to make the story work. As always I loved some of the characters and was annoyed at various points by others – mainly the heroine Francesca Cahill. Heiress, reformer, amateur sleuth, this woman is vastly different from the other young women of wealth in her social circle – which is why I suppose, Miss Cahill has attracted the attention of two very powerful and gorgeous men.
Francesca though, for all her supposed book smarts and unmatched intelligence is a very naive character. Now, I like innocence in a heroine, nothing wrong with that. But, there is a huge difference between innocence and naiveté and it’s a fine line between endearing and annoying. Unfortunately, one of the only complaints I consistently have with this series is the blindness, naiveté and ultimate immaturity of the heroine. She’s compelling, sure, beautiful, yes, but she gets on my nerves for most of the book with her die-hard declarations of everlasting love for Rick Bragg, the married, slightly pretentious, morally bound (although his morals take a hike whenever Francesca bates her eyes at him – he’s helpless to her charms apparently) and oh so handsome and “good” police commissioner. I don’t dislike Bragg, but I can’t say I love him either. Honestly, I guess Francesca and Bragg do make the perfect couple, they are both reformers and want to help the less fortunate and all that stuff, but it comes across so fake and phony most of the time that I want to gag. It may seem like I’m beating up on the characters and the book, but in all honesty this series is really good and kind of addictive so I’d read it nonetheless. I’d be totally fine accepting Bragg and Francesca as a couple if this book didn’t also feature the devastating Calder Hart. Man, this guy is so delicious and sinister and caustic and cynical and “bad” – but in all the right ways that make you just want to hug the guy and declare your everlasting love! Why Francesca hasn’t done this yet continues to amaze me. She must have an iron will or a really good veil to pull over her eyes – let’s her ignore all the unsightly things she just can’t handle.
I love that unlike Bragg, Calder – Bragg’s half brother and nemesis continually calls Francesca out on her crap. She’s being a brat, he calls her one, she’s being naive and close minded, and he tells her so. Like I said, this guy is no holds barred and I love it. He is the character who forces everyone to see the things they would much rather deny are right in front of their faces. Calder is not his half brother’s favourite person and they do not get along under any circumstances, at first Calder was mainly fascinated by the relationship between Fran and Bragg, but now it seems he’s beginning to really care about Francesca and is therefore becoming her champion, which I love. He’s the “bad” brother, the dark horse and all that comes along with it, but what you really start to see in this book, the third in the series, is that Calder has a real tenderness and kindness about him. Of course he’d never admit it. It actually gets frustrating to see how Bragg and sometimes Francesca see Calder – they paint him as the bad guy with no morals or virtue, but really? Take a look at yourselves is all I got to say! But like his brother, Calder really likes Francesca, and she does have some good qualities aside from her perpetual stupidity. She’s kind, loyal, always wants to help others, sweet natured and good tempered. She’s at once docile and yet she hides a fiery temperament which I love. I want her to show her fiery side more, which I think will only come out when she’s with Calder. Another reason I love him. He brings out the real Francesca Cahill, not simply the young pretty miss she wishes to be with Bragg.
Anyway, you can tell I’m rooting for Calder and Francesca. We’ll see how it goes because if Francesca is suddenly going to change her tune and fall hard for Calder, 1) I better believe she truly and completely loves him and isn’t just taking him as second pick because her future with Bragg is impossible. 2) Her choice better not come out of either anger or disappointment from Bragg. If it does initially, I want to then later see Fran really fall had for the guy she never thought she’d love. You can tell by book 4, which I am currently reading, that there is an intense connection between these two characters and I really want to see how their relationship unfolds.
On another note, the only other thing that could have been better about this installment was the ultimate identity of the murderer. There is such a good setup the whole book through, and although this book and the next one – probably all the books from here on in, focus more on the relationships of every character rather than the mystery plot, I wanted more satisfaction from the climax of the story. The murders are bloody and mark the culprit as a serial killer and I enjoyed that this mystery involved Maggie Kennedy, a widowed seamstress with four children who is slowly becoming a friend of Francesca’s. Her eldest son Joel Kennedy is Fran’s assistant in all her cases and I love this kid. He’s funny, obnoxious and very entertaining. He’s also very sweet and really loves his mother and siblings. Anyway, the addition of other characters and the way Joyce weaves the new with the old was great. I really liked seeing the tentative connections between Maggie and Francesca’s brother, Evan, and can’t wait to see if that will develop more as the books proceed. I needed more from the ending though. You have this build-up, like I said and then all of a sudden you know who the culprit is and bam, Francesca saves the day and it’s all over. I wanted more of a lead up and less of a smack down once the climax was headed towards a denouement. It wouldn’t have taken much; even an extra page would have helped.
Ultimately this series is really great. Yes, annoying at times, but the characters are real and very well developed and I enjoy meeting them again and again as each book is read. It’s fun to read a continuing story like this and to see all the characters and storylines come together and change as needed. Big changes are on the horizon I can tell, and not just for the main characters, but for the minor ones I’ve come to love as well. I want to see Sarah Channing and Maggie Kennedy more and I want them both to get their happy endings. I also want Bartolla Benevante to get hers! This b*tch needs to go down.
That is all.