** spoiler alert **
The second book in the Mary Russell series is a good read, if not quite as good as the first book. The writing continues to be lively, with vivid descriptions and witty banter. I found the feminist religious organization at the center of the plot to be fascinating. Mary Russell is badass. All that is great, though overall I found the whole a bit less compelling than the first novel.
However, I'm not terribly fond of the notion of Holmes and Russell getting married. There are a number of reasons. First, I find some squick factor in the huge age difference, which is made worse by the fact that when they met Russell was only 15. She's 21 in this book and clearly making her own decisions, but Sherlock falling for her when he first knew her as his TEENAGE PUPIL remains a bit uncomfortable. Second, I often like romantic plotlines, but I think there is a shortage of stories where male and female leads have a close friendship that ISN'T romantic. The fact that they care intensely about each other doesn't have to equal in love. Thirdly, when reading A Monstrous Regiment of Women, I found myself wanting Russell to become romantically involved with Margery Childe, the charismatic leader of a church/charity/rabble rousing ladies' group. They had fabulous chemistry, and I could easily believe Russell as a lesbian. Alas, it is not to be.
Still, my misgivings about the romance did not keep me from enjoying this book quite a lot, nor do they deter me from planning to read more in this series.