I am participating in a blog tour today, so I wanted to start by saying thank you so much to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for sending me a physical copy along with a copy via NetGalley. Be sure to check out the other tour participants for their reviews and spotlights.
This book was charming in every way! From the penny dreadful tales interspersed throughout the book to the colorful characters who captured my attention from beginning to end, there was never a point while reading where I wanted to put it down in favor of something else. Of course, I did have to sleep, so that required me to take a break for a few hours, but after that I was up and ready to read again. Having full confidence in the Proper Romance division of this publisher, I knew I was in for a treat with this book. It may be closed door romance, but you don't feel the lack of it at all while reading. I was a little apprehensive with it being the third in a series, but it is comfortably read as a standalone, with little hints at the previous books that make me want to go back and read them.
It's quite an interesting dilemma, running a print shop and bookstore while simultaneously disliking the entire writer community, but Vera Sorokina and her father manage to do so with relative ease. Having fled Russia as a child due to a run-in with a community of writers who caused political turmoil, she has no love for them whatsoever, but she can't help but enjoy the penny dreadfuls that she stocks in the story, against her father's wishes. When a man walks in looking for work, with a talent for flirting and a shock of Irish red hair, she is immediately intrigued, especially at how he works with the street children who frequent the shop. He seems kind and generous, so it's a surprise when she learns that he is not who he says he is. Brogan Donnelly may be a penny dreadful writer as his main occupation but he also moonlights as a member of a society that helps ferret out trouble for the government and the community. A strange game is afoot with the Russian ambassador who has recently come to town, and all signs point to Vera's shop being involved. Providing her a fake name doesn't sit well with him, but he is determined to do what he must to help. As things get more heated, and Vera's community begins to be threatened by an unknown danger, Brogan and Vera become closer. But secrets abound, which may mean an end to their budding romance forever.
I loved Brogan and Vera so much, for all that they were different from each other. Brogan was on the quieter side, never seeking to be a leader or be loud in a room full of quiet. He'd rather be a foot soldier in his community, helping but not directing. So when he's given an assignment to work alone, he feels so out of his element. When he meets Vera, who is completely his opposite in nature, he is in awe. Vera is a strong woman who takes the lead in many things involving her family's shop, when her father is not around or is too busy. She shows remarkable courage but also isn't used to having anyone to lean on. Brogan is a breath of fresh air for her. I loved watching their relationship develop from friends to something more. As a closed door romance, we don't see much steam whatsoever, but their affection for each other is so sweet and sensual. Brogan was adorable, not just with Vera but with the children, capturing my heart from the start. Vera reminded me of myself, appearing strong to others but also desperately wishing for someone to lean on. That can be a tough spot to be in, and I really empathized with her.
In addition to the main story, there are two penny dreadful tales mixed in, which I adored! I had never read a penny dreadful before, not really knowing what they were, and I find myself as drawn in as the children in the book were. No wonder they were so popular!
I am eager to read the previous books in the series, and I hope there will be more in the future. This was a really fun, enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**