DEADLY ILLUSIONS by Brenda Joyce

PUBLISHING INFO: Mira, 2/2005
GENRE: Historical Romantic Suspense
SETTING: New York, USA
SERIES: Francesca Cahill, book 7
MY GRADE: A

FROM PUBLISHER: Manhattan, 1902.

Irrepressible heiress and intrepid sleuth Francesca Cahill moves from her own elegant world of Fifth Avenue to the teeming underbelly of society, a place of pride, passions…and sometimes deadly perversions.

Despite the misgivings of her fiance, Calder Hart, Francesca cannot turn away from a threat that is terrorizing the tenement neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. A madman has attacked three women, but while the first two victims survived, the third is dead, raising the stakes. All the victims are impoverished but beautiful Irishwomen — and Francesca fears that Maggie Kennedy and Gwen O’Neil, two friends who live nearby, could be next.

Soon she is working with her former love, police commissioner Rick Bragg — Calder’s half brother and worst rival. But even as Calder’s jealous passions leave his relationship with Francesca teetering on the brink, Francesca is frantically on the killer’s trail, certain The Slasher will strike again — afraid she will be too late….

SPOILER SUMMARY: Francesca is twenty years old, has blond hair and blue eyes. She comes from a wealthy family. The hero is Rick Bragg. He is the oldest son of Rathe Bragg, who has his own story in the novel Violet Fire. Rick is twenty-seven or eight. He has dark golden hair and golden eyes and is a little over six feet tall. He is part Apache and gets his coloring from his father, Rathe, who’s father Derek is half Apache.

It’s April 1902 in New York. This story, like all the others in this series, revolve around Francesca Cahill helping police commissoner Rick Bragg solve some murders that are being committed by the Slasher. I won’t get into any of that or tell who the Slasher is. I’ll just say it’s not someone you’d really suspect. This review will focus mainly on the relationships between the main and secondary characters and what has transpired since the previous novel.

In this installment, Rick’s estranged wife, Leigh Anne, is recovering from a bad carriage accident which has left her paralized from the waist down. She really regrets showing back up after being estranged from Rick for a few years. She was jealous and came back into his life.

Fran’s bother Evan’s mistress, red-haired Bartolla Benevente, tells him that she’s pregnant. Evan is really unhappy about it but plans to elope with her anyway. He’s addicted to gambling and has been disowned by his father for being in debt heavily.

In the previous book, Calder Hart, twenty-six, with dark hair and blue eyes, Francesca’s fiance and half brother to Rick Bragg, got Fran to pose nude for a painting. The painter was Fran’s friend Sarah Channing, cousin to Bartolla. In this book Francesca is there when Sarah reveals the painting to Calder. He loves it and plans to display it privately in their home after they’re married.

Francesca’s father has never liked Calder. He senses some tention between them at a party and notices that Calder is talking with another woman. He calls off their engagement. There’s drama but Calder and Fran discuss it and plan to stay engaged.

Calder Harts ex-mistress Daisy is causing problems between them. She’s very hurt and jealous that he’s left her for Francesca and is having trouble dealing with it. She shows up at the funeral of one of the Slashers murder victims just to start trouble with Francesca. Calder can see that Fran is upset and she tells him Daisy was there causing trouble. Calder threatens take care of Daisy. Coincidentally in the next book in the seires, Deadly Kisses, Daisy gets murdered. Did Calder do it?

Right near the end of the story, Fran’s nude portrait gets stolen. That’s my favorite part of the novel. We don’t find out in the next book who stole it but I’m hoping that mystery is solved in the newest book, Deadly Vows, book nine, which is to be released soon. When Rick finds out that Calder was behind Fran posing nude, he tells Calder that he taints everything he touches and that he’ll never be good enough for her. I felt bad for Calder because that’s exactly how he feels.

MY THOUGHTS: What I like best about this series is that Rick Bragg is the son of one of heroes from a previous series of hers. This series started with a love triangle between Francesca, Rick and his half brother Calder but that gets resolved a few book into the series.

Rick and Calder have the same father, Rathe. Calder came to live with them when his own mother died. Calder has always been jealous of Rick for no reason. He’s always felt left out and inferrior.

I really like Fran’s sidekick, Joel. He’s only eleven years old. His mother, Maggie, is featured throughout the entire series, as is Joel and his siblings. In this book, Maggie and her kids stay at Calder’s house because she lives near where the women were murdered and she’s scared. I really like that family and hope Joel gets his own series in the future. If he did, it would have to be set ahead ten or more years, as Joel is so young now.

This is the reading order of this series. And yes, they should be read in order because only a few weeks go by between each novel.

1 Deadly Love 2001-01
2 Deadly Pleasure 2002-03
3 Deadly Affairs 2002-04
4 Deadly Desire 2002-05
5 Deadly Caress 2003-04
6 Deadly Promise 2003-11
7 Deadly Illusions 2005-02
8 Deadly Kisses 2006-02
9 Deadly Vows 2011-03

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