Just hours before her wedding to the notorious Calder Hart,
Francesca Cahill receives a blackmail note that could
destroy her family. Calder commissioned a portrait in which
she posed nude. The portrait is missing. As an amateur
sleuth, Francesca has been successful in numerous
investigations. Brimming with confidence, she believes she
can stop the blackmailer and be back in time for her
wedding. She badly underestimates her blackmailer, who
locks her in a gallery. Francesca misses her wedding,
leaving Calder jilted. When she escapes, Francesca
confronts Calder, but he will not listen to her reasons.
Calder had offered his heart to her despite his misgivings
about a successful marriage. He will recover, but Calder
refuses to marry Francesca.
Calder's half-brother, Rick Bragg, agrees to help find the
painting. He is New York Police Commissioner and a former
admirer of Francesca. Rick's marriage is on the rocks and
he can use the distraction. Francesca and Rick pursue the
obvious leads the blackmailer has left. He has an agenda
and they need to uncover his plot and recover the painting.
Francesca's investigation leaves little time for her to win
Calder back, while Rick is determined to thwart any
The Deadly series continues with high-drama relationships
and a well-plotted mystery. Ms. Joyce pens a tale filled
with the absorbing families of the Cahill and complicated
Hart/Bragg. She embroils them in the mystery and ratchet s
up the tension. This reader is thrilled that the madcap
heiress Francesca is back solving mysteries and taking
charge of her love life!
On the morning of her wedding to Calder Hart, amateur
sleuth Francesca Cahill is lured away to a private viewing
of a protrait that could destroy her entire family: the
nude Hart commissioned of her. Her desperate quest to
recover the scandalous portrait leads her into a dangerous
trap with no way to escape - until it's too late. And when
Francesca finally arrives at the church, it's vacant. She
has unintentionally jilted Hart at the alter.
When Hart tells her their estrangement is for the best,
Francesca is devastated. With a blackmailer intent on
destroying her reputation, Francesca turns to Rick Brag,
the city's powerful police commissioner. Together they
scour the sordid streets of lower Manhattan, following a
deliberately laid trail of clues in a race against the
clock. And once it becomes clear that Bragg's marriage is
failing, Francesca must war with her feelings for him,
battle Hart's jealousy and escape a killer - all as she
fights to win Hart back. But sometimes, passion just cannot
Francesca stared at her flushed reflection in the mirror.
Hart was notorious, and his reputation had been established
long before his mistress was found murdered. He openly
flaunted the accepted conventions and mores of the day. His
behavior was self-indulgent and often scandalous, his
propensity for divorcees and married women was well-known
and his art collection was so avant-garde it was shocking to
most. He delighted in saying and doing as he damn well
pleased; he was so wealthy, he could get away with it.
But that had been three weeks ago, and Hart hadn't fallen.
Instead, the city's elites would attend their wedding this
afternoon. Soon, they would lift their flutes to toast Hart
The hypocrisy hardly surprised her. After all, she had been
whispered about her entire life. While her older sister,
Connie, was properly married to Lord Neil Montrose,
Francesca was an eccentric, a highly educated and outspoken
bluestocking, an actively radical reformerâ€”and recently, a
professional sleuth. In fact, she had helped the police
investigate eight shocking crimes since the beginning of the
year, and her efforts had been so significant that the
police commissioner had admitted that the crimes would not
have been solved without her. The press had even begun to
cover her activities on a daily basis. She had become one of
the city's leading, if infamous, celebrities.
Francesca hardly cared about fame. What she did care
aboutâ€”and had since she was a small childâ€”was helping those
far less fortunate than she was. Reform remained as
important to her as breathing. Since discovering her innate
abilities as a sleuth, she had dedicated herself to helping
the innocent victims of dastardly crimes.
Francesca had to pinch herself. She was deeply in love; no
woman could resist Hart's dark allure and neither could she.
He was the most difficult, unpredictable man she knew. She
would gladly help him battle the ghosts of his pastâ€”she
couldn't wait to marry Hartâ€”but she was also afraid.
Despite his reputation, Calder Hart was wealthy, and that
meant he was a catch. Society's reigning matrons had tried
their very best to interest Calder in their perfectly
groomed, perfectly mannered debutante daughters. He had
scoffed openly at their efforts. Then she had begun to
investigate the murder of Paul Randallâ€”Hart's biological
father. From the moment their paths had crossed, his
complicated, dangerously dark natureâ€”coupled with his
seductive charismaâ€”had been impossible to resist. He had
become a powerful ally, a protector and defender, and even a
friend. And while he had never tried to seduce her, very
swiftly their friendship had become charged with desire.
Somehow, Calder Hart had come to the conclusion that he
wished to marry her, the most eccentric and independent of
women. How could she not be afraid that he would eventually
change his mind about her?
Calder had been involved with the most beautiful women in
the world. She was hardly the kind of sultry seductress he
was renowned to associate with. She was romantic, naive and
somewhat inexperienced still. Mostly, she was far too
clever, far too outspoken and opinionated, and far too
ambitious for her gender. Women were not supposed to have
high intellect, professional aspirations and vociferous
opinions. Nor were they supposed to covet independence, as
Donning a blue skirt and shirtwaist, Francesca turned away
from the mirror, shoving all fear aside. The past two weeks
had been a frenzy of activity, frantically preparing for a
society wedding. Her mother, Julia Van Wyck Cahillâ€”who was
not a relation to the crooked former city mayorâ€”would not
have it any other way. Julia had railroaded her husband into
agreeing to the marriageâ€”Francesca had witnessed moments of
the powerful persuasionâ€”and she and Connie had immediately
set about the task of organizing the wedding. The ceremony
would take place at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and
then they would go downtown to the Waldorf Astoria hotel for
the reception. Francesca had been shown guest lists, floral
arrangements, color schemes, seating plans, dress designs
and fabrics. She had simply agreed to whatever her mother
and sister thought best. There had been a whirlwind of
evening engagements, too, which she had reluctantly
attended. Hart had gone to Chicago to take care of as many
of his affairs as possible, as he had no wish to attend to
business while they were on their honeymoon in Paris, and
had only returned a few days ago.
Francesca was pinning up her hair when a knock sounded on
her door. She was expecting her sister, who intended to
spend the day with her and later help her dress, but it was
one of the housemaids. "Who is it, Bette?"
"It is the police commissioner, miss. He says he is
sorry to bother you, but he was hoping for a word." The
pretty French maid smiled at her.
She was not expecting callers on her wedding day, not even
Bragg. Her heart leaped. What had happened?
She hesitated. She had worked closely with Rick Bragg these
past months. They had become a formidable team, indeed. He
was her dear friend. In fact, before she met Hartâ€”before she
had learned that Rick was married, although separatedâ€”she
had had very strong romantic feelings for him. He had been
the first man she had ever kissed.
And he was Calder Hart's half brother.
She refused to think about that ancient romantic attachment now.
Instead, she thought about the fact that a holiday weekend
loomed. Many in high society were already gone for the
summer, but the city was hardly deserted. While Coney Island
and its beaches were a popular destination for merchants and
their families, most of New York City would remain occupied
over the Fourth. The city's slums were teeming and crime
never took a holiday.
Bragg must need her help on another investigation, she
thought. But she could hardly help him now!
Francesca stuck another pin into her hair and hurried down
the wide, winding carpeted staircase of the Cahill mansion.
Bragg was standing in a smaller salon off the large
marble-floored reception hall, staring out a window. Bright
June sunlight poured into the salon. Outside, beautifully
manicured lawns surrounded the house. Francesca could
glimpse several hansoms and a small gig on Fifth Avenue,
while a few ladies with their parasols strolled on the
sidewalk. Across the avenue, dotted with black iron gas
lamps, Central Park was clearly visible, the trees behind
its dark stone outer walls shady, lush and green. It was a
beautiful summer dayâ€”the perfect day for a wedding.