Tess Alcott has lived an eccentric life. Sold as a child to grifters, Tess grew up stealing and playing con games. Since her teen years, Bert Clifton has been her mentor in crime. Under his tutelage Tess became a skilled jewel and art thief. After they parted ways years ago, Tess cut a deal with the World Enforcement Bureau, WEB, which never actually caught her. Tess now occasionally assists WEB. When Bert reappears with a wild scheme, Tess is put back into the game. You can't cross Bert and survive.

Over 20 years ago, little Elizabeth Cushman was kidnapped and never recovered. Her grandmother Jane Cushman is the sole surviving member of the Cushman Auction House family. Bert thinks Tess' skills and her appendix scar can get them into the house and to the famous Farleigh Emeralds.

After convincing an astute Jane, Tess has to outwit Luke Mansfield, family lawyer and friend. Once she arrives, it's an intricate game using both emotion and wit. To both their horror, Tess and Luke attract one another. She fears exposure and hurting either Jane or Luke, while Luke has been burned before by a woman's lies. Everyone has an agenda and all are playing dangerous games. Who will triumph in the end?

Regency author Michelle Martin makes a winning contemporary debut with this exhilarating tale of greed, betrayal, love and loss. Here's hoping Ms. Martin pens many more contemporary treasures! (Feb., 288 pp., $5.50)

Reviewed by: 
Jill M. Smith