Still entangled within his embrace, surrounded by the peaceful cadence of the park, Liz watched how every word the caller spoke brought forth the Iceman. Darcy’s lips grew taut; his body went rigid in her arms. When he finally clicked off without even having voiced a word into the phone, the affectionate man, who moments before was about to seduce her beside the riverbank, was gone.
(from Without a Conscience)
Cat Gardiner has done it again! She knocks it out of the park with her latest release, Without a Conscience, which is book two in the Conscience series that began with Denial of Conscience. Elements of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice emerge again in this newest installment, as Fitzwilliam and Liz Darcy — six months into their marriage and living peacefully at their Virginia estate, Pemberley, training horses and riding their Harleys — seem destined to misunderstand one another. But in Gardiner’s world of drug lords out for revenge, CIA corruption, and contract killers, these misunderstandings can be deadly.
Darcy has retired as the stone-cold assassin Iceman, settling into a quiet and blissful existence with his new wife. Or so thinks, until he receives a call that forces him back into Obsidian to extract his cousin from the jungles of Peru. He has no choice but to go and see Operation Macarena through to the end or the people he loves the most will be in danger. Meanwhile, back at Pemberley, Liz and her sister Jane are being taught self-defense skills — Liz because Darcy deems it necessary and thinks she has some serious skills that need only be teased out, while Jane dreams of being a Bond girl and joining Obsidian alongside her lover, Charlie Bingley.
Liz’s world is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Caroline Bingley to teach the sisters some of her ninja skills. Caroline is jealous of Liz and determined to steal back Darcy, and when Liz overhears a conversation that sends Caroline off to Paris and into her husband’s arms, Liz isn’t just going to sit idle. Already worried that Darcy has grown bored in the new life they have created, Liz is determined to fight for him — and leaves on what she doesn’t realize is a dangerous adventure.
Like Denial of Conscience, Without a Conscience is sexy (definitely for mature audiences only) and exciting from the very first page. Gardiner is a fantastic storyteller who weaves clever plots and navigates Darcy and Liz through the twists and turns while further evolving their relationship. In the midst of the danger and excitement, Gardiner provides plenty of humor, and the obvious rivalry between Liz and Caroline had me laughing out loud several times. The novel is perfectly paced, and there’s just something about Gardiner’s writing style that has me hanging on every word.
Cat Gardiner has quickly become one of my favorite authors, not just among Austen-inspired fiction. I’ve read several of her novels this year — Undercover, A Moment Forever, and Denial of Conscience — and all were 5-star reads for me. I’m sure one or more of these books will make my Best of 2016 list!
Disclosure: I received Without a Conscience from the author for review.