Sweet Enemy
by Heather Snow
(Signet, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0451236104
What a fun debut book! Sweet Enemy has it all – inventive plot, two wonderful characters, and a suspense thread that serves a real purpose and is integral to the story. Combined with solid writing and a romance that soars, this is one of the best books of the year so far.

Geoffrey Wentworth is a decorated war hero and his political star is in its ascendancy. He’s also the unwilling Earl of Stratford, having inherited the title after the unfortunate death of his father and brother. Geoffrey is working to bring about reforms that will provide employment and housing for ex-soldiers. This means little to his mother, who wants to see him married and begetting heirs. With the help of her dearest friend, the dowager Countess plans a house party and summons Geoffrey home under the pretense of an emergency.

Geoffrey arrives to find the house overrun with debutantes, and also a few carefully-selected members of Parliament who might help his political ambitions. Geoffrey reluctantly agrees to stay on for two weeks, hoping to garner support for his cause. One debutante catches his eye because she seems to have no more interest in the matchmaking shenanigans than he has: Miss Liliana Claremont, niece of his mother’s dearest friend.

Liliana isn’t there to snare a husband. She is attending this house party because she believes her father’s death was actually a murder, and someone at Geoffrey’s estate was responsible. The invitation to Somerton Park for two weeks was a stroke of luck. Like her late father, Liliana is a chemist with a brilliant, scientific mind and no patience for societal fripperies. She and Geoffrey are drawn to one another almost instantly – he in fascination, she in dread, as she can’t eliminate him as a suspect even though she finds him fascinating.

Their initial meeting leads to a series of secret rendezvous, away from the other guests. Geoffrey falls hard for Liliana, believing she will make him the perfect wife. Liliana needs Geoffrey in order to gain the information she seeks, but knows he will cast her aside when he finds out the truth. As they fall deeper in love and Liliana comes closer to her goal, there is no turning back.

New author Heather Snow has a background in chemistry herself, and doesn’t hesitate to bring it into the plot in a highly inventive manner. Not to mention the sexual chemistry between the two leads, which is explosive in its own right. Liliana and Geoffrey are both wonderful, sympathetic characters. I loved the fact that the two people at the house party who couldn’t care less about snaring a spouse are the two who fall in love. And when faced with a dilemma, both of them try to think their way out of it, rather than just react.

I especially enjoyed Geoffrey, whose character is given quite a bit of depth. His heart lies in helping the soldiers who served the Crown and have been forgotten, a travesty in his eyes. The title and wealth of the Earl of Stratford is nearly a nuisance, except for the power it might give him to help bring about change. His internal struggle is fascinating.

The careful plotting is a standout, and the mystery of who killed Liliana’s father – and why – unravels bit by bit, with Geoffrey and Liliana both contributing to the solution. This is skilled writing, and the mystery helps drive the plot forward rather than just taking up space and giving the author an excuse to throw the leads together. Touches of humor add icing to the cake.

Sweet Enemy is a sweet find, indeed. Heather Snow will end up on many auto-buy lists if her future books are this good!

--Cathy Sova

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