Release date: June 23, 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.
But leading a double life isn’t easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London’s slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city’s criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.
Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?
Before you start thinking it’s an 18th century Pretty Little Liars-inspired-storyline, let me tell you that the ‘A’ similarity starts and ends at the blackmailing. Arista, or Lady A, as she is known among the aristrocracy, walks around masked, collecting secrets, and generally feared. What no one knows is that she is actually a child slave of a nefarious criminal, Bones, who forces children into begging and prostitution. Since she has no means of escaping her predicament, she goes through the drudgery, not really enjoying the power she has over people, and forever wishing for freedom and a better future. So, the crux of the storyline is her desire to be free, to make her own choices, to be able to protect the people she loves – she is basically a white knight, in shining black silk.
Since Arista is the protagonist and the central plotline of the story, let’s recount how awesome she is. Despite her condition, she is kind. She cares for her friend Becky, even though she doesn’t need to – keeping her safe is the reason she rejoins the blackmailing business. Next, she is a POC character – good for representation, although she is called a ‘gypsy’ most of the time (18th century wasn’t good to POC, eh?). She isn’t selfish, though she very well can be. She carries a knife strapped to her thigh – 10 badass points! Her hardships are heart-breaking, but she never loses hope of a brighter tomorrow.
The romance, well, one word for it is ‘intense’. There wasn’t any chemisty, though, in my opinion. It was all heated glances, and I almost thought there would be swooning. Historical fiction – so dramatic. I found her chemistry with Nic to be more natural – even though they were platonic mostly. The writing was superfluous, at times, which kinda distracted from the story. The climax was fast-paced, and I almost thought it would be a cliffhanger. It ended well, though, and overall, the story was carried pretty well.
Received a free ARC from Disney Hyperion via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.