**spoiler alert** Susanne Whitestone is no Harriet Vane. That could really be the sum and whole of a rather disgruntled review. (Even as I fairly well...more**spoiler alert** Susanne Whitestone is no Harriet Vane. That could really be the sum and whole of a rather disgruntled review. (Even as I fairly well enjoyed tearing through this in one sitting.)
Lackey trudges into some weird class territory here, and Susanne spends all but the last THREE PAGES mooning after some dude who will never see past the class barrier, even though she's gentry but not the right kind and I don't even, and at least she has some spine and grows a bit, but ugh. Again with Lackey doing better with the World War One stuff than she does with much of the socio-political commentary, but seriously? Seriously? You're going to write off your WIMSEY HOMAGE with someone he doesn't quite see as an equal for most of the book, someone who only slightly agrees that he's not terrible to have around by the end of the book. At least there wasn't a total romantic turnaround by the end.
Well. I just goes to show that even the homage falls apart. Wimsey wouldn't uproot his life for someone he didn't respect enough to make her own decisions, and Harriet never would have put up with most of this bullshit, much less got into a passive-aggressive catfight over someone else's fiance.
(Though props to Lackey for making characters eager to see the backside of the heroine (not like that). Just because she's the heroine doesn't mean she didn't deeply, deeply inconvenience the family who took her in briefly, as well as almost get their son killed, and Lackey made their response to that entirely reasonable, if a titch narrowsighted.)
Also the Donkeyskin fairy tale is creepy as fuck. I'm not sure I ever quite realized that before. (less)
I'm giving this four stars because of how much I like the idea of this book, how all the parts of it are things that I adore and have sought so much i...moreI'm giving this four stars because of how much I like the idea of this book, how all the parts of it are things that I adore and have sought so much in other books like this. I just wish I'd, I don't know, enjoyed the book more? It was three stars' worth of enjoyment, not four. For as much as I really like the heroine, I wasn't particularly engaged by her.
I mean, so much is right. This is a slight AU of Regency England (the king goes mad a bit earlier, the queen is made regent, etc etc fallout etc etc), and it's about a woman of gentle birth who runs away with a swordmaster, lives In Sin with him for many years, and when he dies, she returns to live with her equally fallen aunt, who is a classy madame. Our Heroine, though, establishes herself instead as, well. A consulting detective. Private eye. What have you.
And, oh, there is detecting and politics and lots and lots of thoughts and feelings about women in this society (I don't think there's a single Respectable Woman onscreen for the entire book, a remarkable change), and nothing ever feels guaranteed, and so many of the practical little details that are often skimmed over in novels like this are taken care of, not necessarily made a big deal of, but there. And all the little things that will often make me pause or feel uncomfortable or have to be brushed aside to enjoy the fluffy mystery aren't here, and the mystery is pleasingly involved, and the heroine does not twist herself around and suddenly become someone else just for the sake of romance, and there are so many things I can point to and go, "yes! that thing! I love that thing!"
And it's just. I'm left cold, a little bit. There's very little levity here, and I'm beginning to realize how very much I value laughing, or at least snickering a little bit, or being amused at some point during the course of a story. There are a couple of lighter characters, but their lightness doesn't seem to touch the heart of the story, especially when one of them ends up dead. I just. For as much as this book gave me, I wanted more.
Still, I'm more than willing to pick up the next one. What it did give me was very, very good. Just a little dour. (less)
Always enjoyable, always walking the line between "more complex than expected" and "not complex enough." A bit disappointed that the two really intere...moreAlways enjoyable, always walking the line between "more complex than expected" and "not complex enough." A bit disappointed that the two really interesting non-A-plot threads from the last two books - Emily's thoughts and feelings about childbearing and motherhood, as well as the back-and-forth between Emily and Colin about her independence and what his role as a husband is with regards to her safety - are completely dropped in this book. Sure, those were sticky and uncomfortable, but they were what drove me to keep reading as much as the A plot mystery. (less)
A nice check-in with the previous heroines, but the hero in this book is way too Rapey McIIgnoreYourSillyLadyWords for my taste. She says no! She shov...moreA nice check-in with the previous heroines, but the hero in this book is way too Rapey McIIgnoreYourSillyLadyWords for my taste. She says no! She shoves him away! He states time and time again it doesn't matter what she says she wants because he's going to kiss her until she admits all she wants is his manliness. And then does it.
Decent mystery, lots of intriguing things going on with the heroine's relationship with her new husband, independence, pregnancy, societal expectation...moreDecent mystery, lots of intriguing things going on with the heroine's relationship with her new husband, independence, pregnancy, societal expectations, and desire (or lack thereof) for children, and some of the Turkish women were interesting. However. There's not enough chops here to tackle "rescuing a Christian woman from a Muslim harem" without running into all sorts of weirdness and uncomfortableness. If we were supposed to look askance at the heroine's motives and assumptions in staging the sort-of-ish rescue (which we've been asked to do in other situations, to varying degrees of effectiveness), we were not asked hard enough or clearly enough. Better than some, still way not good enough. (less)
Snappy and charming enough, a slapstick cousin to Austen-style Regencies. I had much sympathy for the bookish, retiring heroine who comes into her own...moreSnappy and charming enough, a slapstick cousin to Austen-style Regencies. I had much sympathy for the bookish, retiring heroine who comes into her own, an innocent who's not afraid to say clever things. Not sure why the author had to be the "but she's not a feminist!" drum, as that seemed a bit slapped on. The hero vacillated between genuinely charming and insufferable/controlling, at least enough that you could get an inkling why the heroine put up with his nonsense. You might question her choice in doing so, but you could see why he appealed to her.
And then there were the comic supporting characters - the overbearing cousin (in no small comparison to Mr. Collins), the unsuitable suitors, etc. Their over-the-topness pulled the book up into deftly-handled froth, instead of just empathizing with the heroine when she shuts the hero down for being awful and/or awfully ridiculous. (less)
A solid three and a half on enjoyment level, but I'm registering it as a three for its insubstantiality and really, really heavy Austenian overtones....moreA solid three and a half on enjoyment level, but I'm registering it as a three for its insubstantiality and really, really heavy Austenian overtones. I'm all for homage, but it really feels like the set-ups and the relationships among the characters are just serials-filed-off versions of Jane Austen characters. It's Pride and Sensibility, with the Dashwood sisters being parented by Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, and there's Wickham and Edward Ferrars and Vincent wanders in from a different romance novel, and ladies have magic!
Quibbles aside, I devoured this in two swift gulps. Delightful, if a wee bit gauzy and light. (less)
Competently executed and reasonably engaging, but the nods to people in life situations different from the authors are just that - nods. Well. I say "...moreCompetently executed and reasonably engaging, but the nods to people in life situations different from the authors are just that - nods. Well. I say "nod." I probably mean "slightly uncomfortable head jerks when you see your boss in the mall with a much younger girlfriend who's not his wife." If you're not (straight and) married, with kids, (probably Christian), and middle/upper middle class, well, good luck with that, 'cause you're pretty much on your own with that.
The basic concepts: spend a week diligently tracking how much time you actually spend on things, figure out things you actually want to be doing with life, and adjust accordingly to prioritize things that get you further towards doing what you actually want. Pretty straightforward. (less)
We were doing so well right up until the chapter about how activity and fitness level is more important than thinness, that thinness can't actually te...moreWe were doing so well right up until the chapter about how activity and fitness level is more important than thinness, that thinness can't actually tell you anything about a person's activity level or health, but being fat is still bad, so you should probably stop that, even though exercise probably won't make you thin, either. Sigh.
Ignore the food and body size commentary (and the handful of "funny" asides about women being one way and men the other, isn't it funny how they're sooooo different and men being like women in any way is degrading and hilarious?!); read the sciency bits. Pretty interesting, with a few dollops of "you've got to be shitting me." (less)