Stephanie Laurens' Where the Heart Leads
is a really enjoyable story with two major threads: a major and a minor romance and a murder/kidnapping mystery with an unusual mix of characters from different social levels in society. More time in the book is actually given to the murder/kidnapping story, where young orphan boys are kidnapped before being taken to a Foundling Home in order to be trained as Burglar's Boys. Penelope Ashford, the administrator of the Foundling Home and the daughter of a Viscount, takes
it upon herself to investigate the disappearance of the boys. She knows she doesn't have the skills herself, although she has plenty of courage and energy, but she knows that Barnaby Adair, third son of an Earl, is known for investigating crimes and having links with the
police. She goes to Barnaby and persuades him to help her to find the boys, and thus starts this enjoyable plot.
Barnaby assumes that he can 'handle' Penelope, but she soon confounds his ideas and expectations and he ends up working alongside her, sometimes following in her wake. Their attraction to each other becomes apparent, but Penelope is dead set against marriage; Barnaby has to use all his guile and his understanding of her nature to try to change her mind. There's a secondary romance between a policeman and his informant which is also sweet and well-written and an interesting insight into life for the middle classes and working classes in Regency London.
All the characters in Where the Heart Leads are well drawn, ranging from the main characters to the dying mother of a young boy, and Laurens' pacing is always excellent. The point of view sometimes changes unexpectedly mid-text, which can be a bit confusing, and the historical detail is suspect in that our heroine seems to be able to gad about all over the place without anyone noticing she's unchaperoned. However, the story wouldn't work well if she were constantly under the surveillance of her parents, so it's an acceptable fudge of historicity to further the plot. All in all, this
is an enjoyable read with the kidnapping plot adding spice to the story.