The Masterful Mr. Montague - Stephanie Laurens

Series: Casebook of Barnaby Adair (Book 2)

Montague has devoted his life to managing the wealth of London’s elite, but at a huge cost: a family of his own. Then the enticing Miss Violet Matcham seeks his help, and in the puzzle she presents him, he finds an intriguing new challenge professionally . . . and personally.

 

Violet, devoted lady-companion to the aging Lady Halstead, turns to Montague to reassure her ladyship that her affairs are in order. But the famous Montague is not at all what she’d expected -- this man is compelling, decisive, supportive, and strong -- everything Violet needs in a champion, a position to which Montague rapidly lays claim.

 

But then Lady Halstead is murdered and Violet and Montague, aided by Barnaby Adair, Inspector Stokes, Penelope, and Griselda, race to expose a cunning and cold-blooded killer who stalks closer and closer. Will Montague and Violet learn the shocking truth too late to seize their chance at enduring love?

 

Good book. This was somewhat different than most of Laurens's previous books. The main characters are those from the working world, not the aristocracy, so there is an entirely different way of looking at things. Montague is a financial adviser, a man who works for a living. Violet is a companion, a woman is well born, but has to make her own way in the world. 

 

I was happy when this book came out, as I was looking forward to Montague having his own story. He has been an important secondary character in previous stories, and I've grown more interested in him with each appearance. At the beginning of this story, he is shown as a bit of a workaholic, as he has no family of his own. He realizes that he's missing something in his life, but hasn't found what it is. Enter Violet, who has come to request his help on behalf of her employer. There's something about her that makes him want to know more.

 

Violet is surprised that Montague is younger than she expected. His decisive actions upon learning of her employer's concerns impress her, as does his sensitivity to the old lady's fears. And when Lady Halstead is found murdered one morning, Montague is the first person she calls.

 

Here is where the book begins to veer more towards mystery than romance. Montague sends for Inspector Stokes, also a well known character from previous books. Stokes arrives, accompanied by Barnaby Adair. All agree that it must have something to do with the problems Lady Halstead noticed, and the goal is to find out who and why. Much time is spent on Montague's efforts to trace the financial irregularities. Suspicion falls on her ladyship's children, but they have to be careful how they go about their investigations.

 

In previous books, Adair's and Stoke's ladies have been involved in the investigations. Even though both are now married and new mothers, they still wish to be involved. It was very interesting to see the way that each of them made their cases to their husbands, and how those husbands were wise enough to see the truth. As is often the case in a SL book, the women play a very important role, by uncovering information that would have never occurred to the men. I really enjoyed the scene where Penelope and Griselda called on the Cynster ladies. It was great to see the support they received from those women, and the seriousness of how they treated the inquiries. It was very satisfying to have the men admit that the women's information was just as important as that discovered by the men. The example of the Adair and Stokes relationships gave Montague a good idea of how to treat Violet.

 

I loved seeing the relationship that built between Montague and Violet. Montague was very protective of Violet, especially as the danger intensified. I also liked the solid core of respect they had for each other. I loved seeing that Montague believed in Violet's intelligence and integrity enough to keep her informed from the very beginning, and how that helped to save her life. I also enjoyed seeing the confidence that Violet had in his ability to track down who was responsible for the murders. The attraction between them built throughout the story, and both admitted to feeling it. It was a bit disconcerting to have them decide they weren't going to pursue it until after they solved the mystery, as that put the romance definitely on the back burner. However, there was enough to keep my interest in them through the end of the book. I loved seeing them get together at the end and share their hopes and dreams with each other. For being such a numbers guy, I thought Montague turned out to be a pretty sweet and romantic man. I also liked the fact that Violet was a pretty strong person in her own right. She did an excellent job of making sure her own wants and needs were considered.

 

The mystery was quite good with plenty to keep my mind engaged. I enjoyed seeing the way that Montague and his people worked to follow the money. The murdered woman's family were quite interesting with their attitudes, and were obviously the best suspects for her murder. There were multiple leads and figuring out who it was did not come easily. There was an interesting twist about two-thirds of the way through the book that added another layer to work through. The ending was pretty intense, as Violet managed to walk right into danger. I loved seeing a different side of Montague as he hurried to save her. I enjoyed the "after action" get together with the three couples, and the deepening of the relationship among them.