I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
“The ton is more bloodthirsty than I ever knew as a youth. Fancy betting on one’s survival at the expense of others.”
Fourth in the Royal Rewards series, we have a not quite official Bow Street Runner and a marquess. Cass works with her twin brother Charles at Bow Street but basically shoulders most of the work while George is experimenting with his camera obscura and basically just passing time until he inherits the dukedom. George loves his gambling father, though, and when members of the tontine, a bet his father entered into where the last surviving member gets all the money, start dying in auspicious ways, he hires Cass and her brother to help him uncover who is behind it.
This was a murder mystery and friends-to-lovers, that moved very slowly in both regards. The investigation regarding the tontine was a bit chaotic and confusing to understand in the beginning. I did not read the previous book in this series and I have a feeling our characters were introduced there and provided a foundation for them that was lacking here. Once I got further in the story and began to know Cass and George more, the story began to click better. However, the investigation seemed to stall out here and there as actual investigating seemed to be missing from the pages. We don't get to really know all the characters involved in the tontine, or even if there is anything nefarious going on. The murder mystery began to feeling glaring obvious as a mechanism to get our hero and heroine together and with a pretty quick boom ending with an info dump about the culprit, there wasn't much about it that I found griping.
“I’m always joking a little bit but serious underneath. Once you know that, you can see to my very soul and understand me utterly. It’s a great curse.” He said this, of course, as if he were joking, but his blue eyes were deep and worried. She had smiled then, almost.
I liked George's kind of shy, vulnerable personality. His father is bent on gambling away his inheritance and his mother spends her days laying in bed drunk on laudanum, he seemed very lonely. He does have a sister that he seemed close with but we don't get any in depth scenes with them. His hobby of trying to create pictures was interesting but like the murder mystery, it just seemed there, something listed for the character, given the same weight as his blue eyes. Overall, he seemed a little hapless and I would have liked to have seen his character given more range through conversations with his sister or friends.
Cass was splendid, with her pockets and her weapons and her matter-of-fact ways.
I liked the heroine and her matter of fact ways, she was a cut and dry character. Her twin brother is a little lazy and a little bit of a scapegrace, so it is up to her to be responsible with the money. I was a little thrown when she declares she wants to sleep with the hero. There was definitely ground laid for the reader seeing and feeling George's attraction to her but I didn't completely buy into from her. Even halfway through the book they felt like friends from her side; some appreciating of looks. These two seemed like great friends but their romantic chemistry was a bit dull.
“You really matter to me,” he said, then kissed her neck, bared by her pinned-up hair.
There was a secondary romance involving the heroine's brother but that to felt dropped in out of nowhere, I wasn't connected to the characters to become involved in their romance. The depth and character background was missing for me here, being dropped into their investigation right away didn't give me time or material to really care for them. The romantic chemistry was also off, these two were more believable as friends. I appreciated the shy vulnerability from the hero and practical heroine but I just felt the story and characters were missing some magic, which made the story somewhat dry and a wade to get through.