This series was recommended ever so thoroughly to me, as it seems to be absolutely my thing (England, lady mystery-solver, historical setting), and IThis series was recommended ever so thoroughly to me, as it seems to be absolutely my thing (England, lady mystery-solver, historical setting), and I think it simultaneously a) was oversold to me and 2) has elements I just don't like. It's terribly competent in doing its thing; I just don't like the thing.
I was expecting, I don't know, something more serious. I was not expecting to be introduced to a forcibly whimsical cast of characters. I was not expecting a romance-novel-style asshole hero. I was not expecting the heroine to make quite so many boneheaded moves.
I think it's that this is written like a certain kind of romance novel that does not work for me (some do, and I enjoy them thoroughly, but my tastes are very specific), except there's not a romantic resolution at the end of the first book, plus there's some dead people and some mystery solvin'. This again should be right up my alley, but the execution fell down for me.
Mostly I just cannot make myself be allured by a hero who says, "If you do X, I will not be responsible for my actions." No, jackass. You're always responsible. To place the blame for your actions - presumably harmful ones - on the heroine, in order to control her? Yeah. I'm checked out and could care less whether your emotionally stunted wooing over corpses is successful. This is a certain brand of romance hero who has little more personality than "hot" and "brooding" by which I remain utterly unentranced. Also, I will admit my bias for a clever heroine, and so far Lady Julia isn't cutting it.
All that, and I still give it three stars. It was competent, yes, and I will read at least a couple of sequels. It almost scratches the itch, and it remains to be seen if the other books magnify the problems or resolve them. ...more
Rarely have I been so enthused to read about wretched people being awful to each other. Shipstead does a remarkable job making me want to know more abRarely have I been so enthused to read about wretched people being awful to each other. Shipstead does a remarkable job making me want to know more about characters , to the point that I found myself thinking about them when not reading and was genuinely eager to pick up the book again whenever I put it down. She has a delightful turn of phrase, and while certain characters were awful enough that I never quite felt sympathy for them, Shipstead made me understand how they came to be who they were and why their awful decisions made complete sense for them. And I mean awful in the "you are a terrible parent who is emotionally stunting your children in the same way your parents did to you" way, not the mass murdering/wolf of wall street/physically abusive sort of way.
This book is like the drawing room comedy of manners upper class wedding shenanigans of a Regency romance, only modern and, for lack of a better word, "realer." The prejudices, crappy parenting, insecurities, and lack of neatly tied up spit polished happy ending is out in full force. Also there's a dead whale. Like you do. ...more
Thoroughly enjoyable little academia-set mystery, but it turns out my ability to give a shit about Cricket Games In Posh-Set Mystery Novels Between ThThoroughly enjoyable little academia-set mystery, but it turns out my ability to give a shit about Cricket Games In Posh-Set Mystery Novels Between The Wars is limited to one, and that vacancy has already been filled. Thankfully, flipping through those pages rapidly had little to no bearing on the rest of plot. But still, yergh. No faster way to kill the action than to put a detailed description of a sporting event that has zero effect on the plot in the first quarter of your book....more
The crossdressing genderqueerish rake hero with painful secrets and an army of dandies and the awkward butchish heroine with painful secrets and occasThe crossdressing genderqueerish rake hero with painful secrets and an army of dandies and the awkward butchish heroine with painful secrets and occasional bouts of crossdressing find emo, love together. Utter catnip. It's emotional hurt/comfort cranked to eleven; the final "battle" is between two women who respect each other and recognize that they would probably be friends under other circumstances; the heroine gets the action words during sex scenes; did I mention the army of dandies? This has all the external trappings of historical romance novels I enjoy, but it's the squishy non-romance-typical gender dynamics in the center that make me want to clutch this (e)book to my heaving bosom while simultaneously shoving it at everyone I know who digs romance novels but not always their gender politics even a little. ...more