India Black (Madam of Espionage - Book 1) by Carol K. Carr
Publication Date: January 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Mystery
(Received for review from Premier Virtual Author Tours)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Carol K. Carr on the WEB: Website, Blog, Facebook
Synopsis (Book Blurb):
In the red-light district of London, India Black is in the business of selling passion her clientele will never forget. But when it comes to selling secrets, India's price cannot be paid by any man...
In the winter of 1876, the beautiful young madam India Black is occupied with her usual tasks - keeping her tarts in line, avoiding the police, and tolerating the clergyman bent on converting her girls. But when Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, India is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.
French, the handsome British spy, discovers India disposing of Latham's body and blackmails her into recovering the missing documents. Their quest takes them from the Russian embassy to Claridge's Hotel, from London to the English coast, all while dodging Russians intent to do them harm.
But is is their own tempestuous relationship they will have to weather as India and French attempt to resist the mutual attraction between them - an attraction that can prove as deadly as the conspiracy entangling them...
Carol K. Carr's debut novel, India Black takes the reader back in time to Victorian England in the late 1800's. Carr introduces readers to heroine, India Black, who is anything but typical. The author's affinity for romantic suspense will have readers on the edge of their seats, with this one. On a whirlwind quest from the red-light district of London to the Russian embassy and the English coast, India Black will enchant readers and leave them wanting more.
India Black is madame. Coming up through the ranks to own her own brothel, India has become a shrewd business woman but all of her carefully laid plans could go up in smoke, when a high ranking British official dies while visiting one of her girls. India must dispose of the body and the briefcase carrying Sir Archibald Latham's papers before anyone finds out he was visiting Lotus House. She enlists the help of a street urchin named, Vincent to help her, but they are interrupted by French, a British spy who has blackmail in mind. He will get rid of the body if India gives him Latham's briefcase. Unfortunately, the briefcase and the woman Latham was with, a woman named Arabella are both missing. French and India race against time and their growing attraction to each other to rescue the papers depicting troop movements in the Balkan's before the Russian's gain access to Britain's plans in the Ottoman Empire.
I am a huge fan of both historical fiction and mysteries of all kinds. The book is a rare combination of both. In the vein of Deanna Raybourne's "Lady Julia Grey" series, India Black with appeal to many different kinds of readers. Set in Victorian England the author does a wonderful job taking the reader back in time and setting the scene, giving readers a clear idea of daily life during the period. I think being true to the era gives this book a very authentic feel and readers will find the story and the characters believable.
India Black is certainly not what one would expect in a heroine. Carr picks the unusual vocation of a madame to give her novel and main character an air of mystery and edginess. India is street smart, witty and very intelligent. She doesn't come across as the dregs of society, she appears confident, stubborn and determined to set the tone of her own life. She makes no apologies and asks for no favor. I loved her character! I thought he was spunky and had a lot of guts. She lived her life on her own terms and that's a great quality. But, I also think she learned a lot about herself on this quest as well. Her relationship with French is not what she expected and readers will really enjoy the banter between the two. They matched wits a great deal and the tension between them is obvious. I look forward to seeing where the author goes with this character.
The supporting cast was also very well developed from the street urchin, Vincent, to the tart, Arabella and finally to French. French is a great character. He has the cloak of mystery about him that readers expect from a character who is a spy. I would consider him somewhat "shadowy". He doesn't really give you any more information than is absolutely necessary. In the beginning he appears to hesitate in a sense when it comes to India almost as if he isn't quite sure he can trust her but he doesn't have a choice. I liked the way his relationship with her seems to simmer just below the surface, giving the reader just enough romance to keep them hooked.
Carol K. Carr does an excellent job of creating a plot that lends itself to both mystery and historical significance. Her use of historical characters like Disraeli and Gladstone added to the overall feel of the book. She used these characters to enhance the story line but not overpower it. The real story in the book is keeping the documents out of Russian hands, but Carr is able to make it about much more than that. A young woman's struggle for independence. A man's loyalty to his country and even how a person's choices in life, ultimately affect who they become. I recommend this one to readers of both historical fiction and mysteries. This was an excellent debut and I look forward to more Madam of espionage novels in the future.
India Black is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
After a career as an attorney and a corporate executive, Carol K. Carr turned to writing. India Black is her first book.