OK y’all. I had 3 blogs saved but something happened.  That’s why #2 posted before #1 so here’s SWEET ENEMY for those who may be interested.  SWEET MADNESS will follow later this month. It’s next on my list after I finish HUNTED.

Liliana Claremont has no intention of marrying.  All she desires is to make people’s lives better with chemistry, be the first woman to breach the male enclave of the Royal Society, and find her father’s murderer thus bringing about justice.  When her cottage is broken into the ensuing clean up leads Liliana to a new clue in her father’s death.  That clue leads her straight to Geoffrey Wentworth, the Earl of Stratford.

Geoffrey Wentworth, the Earl of Stratford, has been outmaneuvered by his mother, the countess.  There’s no love lost between Geoffrey and the countess.  She made no secret of the fact that she favored his older brother and he remembers too vividly his father’s misery at her hands.  Geoffrey never wanted the earldom but the death of his brother, Henry, left him no choice but to take the reins and attempt to clean up the mess Henry left of the estate and finances.  There’s also the little matter of the blackmail threat he’s recently received.  Just what had Henry been up to while he was off fighting the French for twelve long years?

There’s no conceivable way he can wrangle his way out of the frivolous house party his mother has initiated, using his name and seal, to introduce him to appropriately eligible young ladies suitable to be the future Countess of Stratford.  At least not without the real possibly of offending important men whose votes he’ll need if he hopes to get his Poor Employment Act passed.  After returning home Geoffrey encountered a soldier he knew.  The poor man was homeless and starving, unable to find employment.  Geoffrey, appalled at the situation facing many men returning home from the war is determined to find a way to help them earn gainful employment.  No man who fought for his country should be allowed to return to said country only to be ignored by it; to live on the streets and starve to death.  He’s painfully aware of his responsibilities and obligation to produce an heir; he just doesn’t like being forced.  The whole idea of marriage holds little appeal for Geoffrey in light of the memories of his parent’s marriage.  He will not marry any of the title chasers being pushed on him by his mother.  She may have won the battle but he intends to win the war.  However, the highly unsuitable and unconventional Liliana Claremont definitely piques his interest, especially after she not only challenges, but bests him.

Amusing, delightful and charming are three words that spring immediately to mind regarding SWEET ENEMY.  The characters are well-developed and the writing is highly engaging.  I was vested in the characters and their goals from the start and sincerely enjoyed the journey.

Liliana is my kinda heroine.  While there have been other heroine’s intent on breaking down male bastions of learning and power, I don’t recall one whose goal was to help people via chemistry with medicaments, safe water and air, etc.  She is true to herself and her goals, even when it means she stands to lose what she’s come to hold dearest.

Likewise Geoffrey; his determination to help soldiers who’ve basically been abandoned by the country they fought for and his willingness to put his money where his mouth is makes him an admirable hero.  He’s a man of his word, doesn’t balk at admitting he was wrong, and has confidence in Liliana’s chemical abilities and sharp intelligence.

I adored both Gregory and Liliana.  Their progression from slightly antagonistic and adversarial, to a true friendship based on mutual respect and admiration was a joy to read.   I loved the morning rides and was delighted by Geoffrey’s decision to assist Liliana in her scientific explorations.

Geoffrey and Liliana both have their secrets but their feelings for each other are based on who they are as individuals, not as society sees or labels them.

All the while each is pursuing the truth; Liliana about her father’s murder and Geoffrey the blackmailer of his family.   The mysteries are gratifyingly difficult and I didn’t guess the villain.

The library scene near the end was one I dreaded and loved.  Highly charged and emotional, I could hear the hearts breaking.

That being said there was part of a scene at the end that truly surprised me.  I didn’t expect that and am still undecided how I feel about it.  In fact I read it several times to be certain I hadn’t misread it.  I think each reader’s reaction to it will be based on their personal experiences with this particular phenomenon.

All in all a wonderful debut and I look forward to reading Ms. Snow’s next book.

4 stars