IT TAKES A THIEF TO CATCH A SUNRISE is the story of of married con artists Jacques Revou and Isabel de Rosier. The two of them are the most successful of their day and have almost accumulated enough of a fortune to live like Barons for the rest of their days. Unfortunately, the pair of them live in a fantasy steampunk version of Regency Europe. The nations of Sasaile (England) and Arkland (France) are in a Cold War which has gotten worse rather than better after a marriage between Sasaile's king with the Arkland king's sister.
While Jacques and Isabel are incredibly talented liars, they are not quite up to the speed of Sasaile's spymaster who confiscates their wealth and dragoons them into a plot against the queen. Neither Jacques or Isabel have any taste for intrigue which goes beyond lining their pockets and do their best to find a way out of their situation: which proves harder than they thought once people start picking up they're more interested in affairs of state than their cover identities should indicate.
The book is a great deal lighter and softer than Rob J. Hayes' other works and could reasonably be rated PG rather than PG-13 let alone R. Both protagonists prefer to use their wits and charm versus weapons while their opponents are only slightly more inclined to violence. When people do die, it's a matter of horror and shock to our antiheroes. I like this immense contrast to so many other fantasy works out presently and was surprised Rob was able to pull it off.
The heart of the book is the relationship between Isabel and Jacques, who both play well off one another. The two protagonists are roughly equal in terms of flaws as well as skills. Jacques is an excellent scientist and gadgeteer while Isabel is a master of disguise as well as the better liar. Neither of them are flawless with Jacques having an overwhelming sense of pride while Isabel is the more softhearted of the two. They both have excellent chemistry and you want to see them retire happily ever after, which other books have often failed at.
The fantasy world which Rob Hayes has created is one which makes use of elementalist magic, steam-based super-science, airships, and alchemy. It all makes sense and there's no sense that, "society wouldn't work like that." The alchemy and magic of the world isn't overpowered either as while sorcery is still stronger than conventional weaponry so far, the latter is implied to be catching up.
The supporting cast is well-written with no one doing what they're doing because they're "evil." In fact, despite being the antagonist, I'm inclined to believe Sasaile's spymaster was the better choice between the factions fighting it out for the continent's future. I also appreciated how the biggest threat to Jacques and Isabel's life isn't the people looking for spies but the fact one of their handlers has developed an unhealthy fixation on Ms. Rosier/Mrs. Revou.
In conclusion, this is an immensely entertaining book and while it might have benefited from being a bit longer as well as darker with higher stakes--it's still a greatly entertaining story. Fans of steampunk storytelling will also find it a great example of the genre. It's a bit more 18th century than 19th century but the steampunk label can be broadly applied.