Title: A Most Dangerous Profession (Hurst Amulet #3)
Author: Karen Hawkins
Publisher: Pocket Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback & eBook
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
Karen Hawkins is one of my favorite historical romance authors, and I love to recommend her books, because they’re always funny and appealing. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered an early copy of A Most Dangerous Profession at the Barnes & Noble this weekend. This is the third book in the Hurst Amulet series if you don’t count the prequel, Much Ado About Marriage, and even if you haven’t read any of the other novels in the series, you’ll be able to enjoy this lighthearted romance without difficulty.
Moira MacAllister has a long-standing history with Robert Hurst: she tricked him into marriage more than five years ago when he was investigating her at the behest of the Home Office. She’s joined the search for the three onyx boxes that will lead Robert’s family to the Hurst Amulet, but her interest in the boxes is fueled by desperation rather than avarice. Blackmailer George Aniston is forcing her to recover the boxes by holding captive her five year old daughter, Rowena. What Robert doesn’t realize is that Rowena is his daughter and the reason Moira tricked him into marriage all those years ago. Since Robert’s brother Michael’s safety depends on his recovering the onyx box, Robert can’t allow Moira to abscond with the relic, but he also finds it harder and harder to resist her charms. When the two decide to work together, sparks fly, giving Moira hope that the two can reunite, but as time progresses she begins to wonder if Robert will ever be able to forgive her original deception.
One of the reasons I enjoy Ms. Hawkins’ books so much is that she writes characters who aren’t aristocrats, and A Most Dangerous Profession is no exception. Her female characters are interesting and complex rather than insipid debutantes sipping tea and making social calls. Moira was born into the working class, but was raised by a gypsy, which makes it easy to understand Robert’s fascination with her. He, too, is not from the aristocracy, since he’s a son of a vicar, but he makes a living selling the artifacts that his explorer brother Michael unearths during his travels. Robert’s work as a spy also gives his character a dangerous edge, an aspect that appeals to Moira’s sense of adventure. The sexual tension between them smolders and adds some sizzle to the already fraught situation with their daughter.
While the first half of the book seemed to drag a little, the action and chemistry definitely picked up in the second half. Once they arrive at Balnagown castle to retrieve the third onyx box, Moira and Robert work together, and the book is irresistible from that point. The two work together effortlessly, and you’ll enjoy watching Robert learn to appreciate Moira’s abilities as a spy, while they grow closer together as a couple emotionally and physically.
I do have a few criticisms of the book. My first is that initially the book shares a few similarities with the second book in the series, Scandal in Scotland. Both Moira and Marcail betrayed the Hurst brothers, were quite improper, and are reunited with the brothers because of secrets in their pasts. Once I read farther into the third novel, however, the books differed enough that it didn’t bother me as much as it had at first. Another minor complaint has to do with Rowena, Moira and Robert's daughter. She barely appears in the book, which is fine, but in the epilogue she addresses her mother in a manner that seemed completely unlike a five year old, which had me checking back to see if she was actually older than I originally thought.
My most serious complaint, however, is that I want MORE!!! And I don’t mean more novels (although I definitely want more of those as well); I mean the font is so large that the book seems really, really short. I think Ms. Hawkins could have easily extended the book by including flashbacks to Moira and Robert’s time together, plus the final confrontation with George Aniston went by far too quickly, ending the book abruptly. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that A Most Dangerous Profession is not a complete book, because it is (and it’s completely enchanting), but I’m bothered that publishers seem to be making historical romances shorter by enlarging the font while keeping the page count the same.
That said, Ms. Hawkins is always an auto-buy for me, and this is another keeper. I really enjoy the excerpts from letters and diaries at the beginning of each chapter, since they advance the overarching story of the series. If you enjoy engaging historical romances that focus on characters not from the aristocracy, I definitely recommend A Most Dangerous Profession.