The third in a trilogy featuring the Endicott family, Queen of Diamonds brings us finally to the person the family has been searching for since the first book: Lady Charlotte Endicott, the half sister of Alex (Ace) and Jack Endicott. The two brothers were featured in the two previous novels, Ace of Hearts and Jack of Clubs. The running theme in all three books is the search for the missing sister whose mother (the brothers’ stepmother) was killed while traveling in a carriage en route to their home Carde Hall.
The opening chapter details the actual event (the year is 1800) that took the life of Lottie's mother as well as her nanny, but Charlotte miraculously survived. She is taken in by Molly, who now calls herself Molly Dennis, and while Charlotte has recurring nightmares of that day long ago, she has no clue as to what really happened to her all those years ago and why she has those dreams. Charlotte thinks her name is Queenie Dennis, daughter of Molly and an unknown father. She eventually learns about the ill-gotten money and that behind it all is an evil man named Ize, a man she fears with her life. Before Molly dies, Queenie learns that Molly is not her mother after all. With Molly’s death, Lottie (Queenie) is truly orphaned. She also knows she is not safe in London and eventually finds her way to Paris, where she learns the skills to become a fashion designer and seamstress. She then disguises herself as a French woman, Madame Denise Lescartes (in honor of the family whose money her family had stolen) complete with a new set of locks (black), and finds her way back to England.
It is now 1816. Harry Harkness is searching for his brother-in-law, Sir John Martin, who has stolen the family heirlooms. If nothing else, he wants to retrieve the diamonds and be rid of his brother-in-law for good, so the man might never hurt Harry’s sister Olivia ever again. Harry happens to be a friend of Jack Endicott, and thinking his brother-in-law may have frequented Jack's The Red and the Black gambling house in London, he heads over there, hoping to get some help in finding Martin. Unfortunately, he learns that Jack and his new bride, Allison, are away. Instead he encounters the lovely Denise Lescartes, her cousin Hellen, and a black poodle. Harry is quite smitten by this French woman, not realizing she is in disguise. Queenie is at the gambling house to make amends for what her family did to the Endicotts, not knowing that the Endicotts are in search of Queenie, a woman who they think may be their missing half-sister.
Eventually, Queenie sets up her business to design dresses. With Harry's help, they attend a ball where Harry thinks he may be able to find John Martin and Queenie may find some customers. One thing leads to another, and Harry, who is just a quiet countryman who does not care for life in London, suddenly finds himself the latest gossip all around town. People think that Queenie is a lady of the evening or something close to that, and his association with her does not do any good for his own reputation. Hellen, in the meantime, has hooked up with Mr. Browne, who works for Jack Endicott and is quite smitten with her.
What Queenie doesn't anticipate is that she does find clients at the ball, and soon her business is booming. But now she is under the scrutiny of another man who suspects she may be connected to the Lady Charlotte Endicott, and Ize is also on the prowl. The appearance of a young pickpocket, whom Queenie names Charlie, is a welcome addition to her entourage of friends, and her adventures in London are nothing like what she had expected. The big problem, however, is that she has fallen in love with Harry, a viscount and a man off-limits to the likes of her. For the safety of a number of people including herself, she can never tell him the truth of who she is (or who she thinks she is).
I enjoyed Queen of Diamonds, although I felt that the book could have been edited down a bit. There was too much introspection, but still enough action to keep me interested. This final book in the series is not as good as Jack of Clubs, but it does help resolve the mystery of the missing Lady Charlotte. The poodle, Parfait, is an endearing character on his own, despite being just a dog, and Charlie is a lovable, loyal friend to Queenie whom I found very likable. Hellen, Queenie's best friend, is very funny - a little ditsy but always well meaning. Last but not least, Ize makes a formidable and despicable bad guy. If one has read either the first or the second book, Queen of Diamonds is a must-read. But don't read this one first. While it does work as a standalone, reading this one first will make the initial two books anti-climatic.