Captain Lacey is back after his debut in "The Hanover Square Affair" and more embroiled than ever in a new mystery that surrounds who killed an English officer in Portugal during the Peninsular War with Napoleon.On a late night walk, Lacey encounters a beautiful, but tragic looking woman who might be going to commit suicide by throwing herself off a bridge. Lacey follows the woman, trying to prevent her suicide only to find himself fighting off a street thug who accosted the poor woman. Badly frightened and chilled, the woman refuses to tell Lacey her name or where her home is, so he has no choice but to take her to his home, where he offers her his own bed and a fire. Lacey is captured by her beauty and the sorrow he sees in her eyes, and he's sorely tempted when she throws herself at him, but his honor prevails. Lacey has had enough of his ex-friend and mentor Brandon's accusations that Lacey has been having an affair with Brandon's wife, Louisa; Lacey wants the woman in his home, but he wants to know that he has a clear path first.When Brandon crashes into Lacey's home the next morning, Brandon believes his own suspicions confirmed about Lacey, and tells him that this woman is Lydia Westin, recent widow of Colonel Roehampton Westin. Col. Westin conveniently died (by falling down the stairs in his home) just days before he would have been arrested for the murder of Spencer, the English officer killed in the looting and pillaging in Portugal. Spencer's sons say they've found proof that Westin was the one responsible for their father's death - that it wasn't an unfortunate accident, as it was presumed. And the Spencers are bringing a whole lot of scandal and dishonor with their accusations.Lydia Westin begs Lacey to help her clear her husband's name. She's adamant that Westin couldn't possibly have murdered Spencer; she suspects the other 3 officers who were present: Eggleston, Breckenridge, and Cannaught. Lydia also confides to Lacey that her husband didn't fall down the stairs. He was murdered in his bed the night before he was to meet with Spencer's sons. Lydia found him in his bed the next morning - he'd been stabbed in the neck with a stiletto. To preserve the last bit of her husband's dignity and honor, Lydia and 3 of her most trusted servants staged the accident on the stairs.Lacey is more than willing to help Lydia, and so once again, he turns to his friend, Grenville, for assistance. Grenville has the "in" to get Lacey close to Eggleston, Breckenridge, and Cannaught, as well as others who might be able to reveal the truth about the long ago incident in Portugal. Along the way, Lacey is exposed to another raw and rough side of the underbelly of London Society: a card game played over stays at country house parties, where each gentleman is "assigned" a lady attending the house party and is supposed to "attend" her as much as he likes, even if she's not his wife. Lacey also learns that Col. Westin had difficulties with intimacy, even seeking the help of specialists of that time (no Viagra available then), which leads to speculation between Lacey and Grenville about who the father of the Westins' daughter, Chloe, might be.Someone is following Lacey in his investigations... is it Brandon, who is half-mad because Louisa has left home, and Brandon suspects that Lacey not only knows where she is but is responsible for her leaving? Is it one of the 3 remaining subordinate officers that Lacey is interviewing, because Lacey and Grenville are getting too close to the truth? Or is it James Denis, the odious man capable of procuring anything for the very wealthy who fears Lacey and wants to put Lacey in his debt?And what will happen between Lydia and Lacey after they being an affair? Is Lydia using Lacey to cover up her own guilt? Does she truly have feelings for him? Can they ever be together, if Lacey can clear up this whole mystery? And what about Lydia's daughter's fiancee, Allandale? What role does he play in all of this?-----------------As much as I enjoy these books and these characters, the melancholy of them almost makes it unbearable. Lacey is such a tragic hero, that it makes my heart hurt just to read his stories. I want him to go into partnership with Grenville in a way that brings him a steady income. I want him to find some happiness, and perhaps even romance. But I fear that can't happen, or the Lacey stories won't resonate and would stop. And I know that there are several more to go...Louisa Brandon is a remarkable woman. I'm so glad that there is a true friendship between Louisa and Lacey - not based on sexual desire. Yes, there's chemistry between them, but Louisa loves her husband, and Lacey loves Louisa too much to dishonor her. Yet you get the feeling that if Brandon were out of the way... or would they? It's delightful to have someone who knows Lacey and all his secrets and can offer him comfort, advice, and support like Louisa.There's a lot of pain and loss and deception in this book... the unforgiving kind that tears people and lives apart. But there's hope, too. Lacey makes a new set of friends, a wealthy family known for their good hearts and good works; the Derwents aren't involved in the gossip and scandal of the day, they're innocents. And they happen to be related to a widow that Lacey had previously had his eye on. To the Derwents, Lacey is a remarkable man and hero. Perhaps good things will come of this connection.Denis tempts Lacey just like Satan, himself, would. And Lacey gives in to one of those temptations, when Denis offers him information on how to locate Louisa. The price is that Lacey owes Denis a favor, godfather style -- when Denis asks his return favor, Lacey must comply without question. Denis seeks to control Lacey in a way that would prevent Lacey from being truly dangerous to him. In fact, when Lacey is contemplating marriage and trying to clear up his past, Denis offers Lacey information about his ex-wife... or the wife who abandoned him fourteen years earlier in France for a French officer, taking Lacey's daughter with her. But Lacey doesn't want to be in debt to Denis, and he realizes that he can be free of his ex without the information. But for how long?Lacey and Grenville uncover the ugly truths behind the mysteries of both Spencer's and Westin's deaths. Lacey is heartbroken, again, but he also discovers and avenges the true reason for that heartbreak at the very end of the book. But it's never quite a happy ending in these books.... If they weren't so well written and so engaging, I'd not read them simply because they are so dark - so full of ugliness and sorrow and heartbreak. Which must mean they're good reads, because they stick with me even after I've finished them.