This was my first introduction to Kate Ross' Regency-era Julian Kestrel -- a charming dandy hiding a mysterious past and a complex personality. Ross has created a character with a number of extraordinary attributes which she reveals slowly, layer by layer, drawing the reader into a red herring-laced plot.
Kestrel is a typical Regency-type (think Georgette Heyer) figure, but with more intuition, brains and depth of character. He receives an invitation to be best man at the wedding of the future Sir Hugh Fontclair and commoner Maud Craddock. This is odd since he only met Fontclair once previously, when he helped him out of trouble at a gambling house. He has no idea why a virtual stranger would ask him to stand as best man, but welcoming any excuse to escape boredom, he accepts the invitation.
The tension between the soon-to-be in-laws is impossible to miss. It's no secret that Mr. Craddock, Maud's father and a former Fontclair employee, is holding something over the Fontclairs' head, but no one is talking. Loathe to get involved in others' personal affairs, Kestrel is happy to just be a guest until he discovers the body of a young woman neatly tucked into his bed.
When Dipper, his pickpocket-turned-valet sidekick is arrested for the murder, Kestrel turns his brain to detection, relying on a craggy country doctor to act as his sounding board for conjectures.
Cut to the Quick has everything historical fans crave: a period setting; a character-driven, intricate plot; and a cast you can't wait to meet again.