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Suitors and Sabotage #2

Carols and Chaos

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A lady's maid and a valet become entangled in a yuletide counterfeiting scheme in this romantic Christmas YA adventure.

1817. The happy chaos of the Yuletide season has descended upon the country estate of Shackleford Park in full force, but lady's maid Kate Darby barely has the time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her ailing mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are quite full. Matt Harlow is also rather busy. He's performing double-duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, two of the estate's holiday guests.

Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But staving off their feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when a devious counterfeiting scheme reaches the gates of Shackleford Park, and Kate and Matt are unwittingly swept up in the intrigue.

A companion book to Suitors and Sabotage.

328 pages, Paperback

First published October 9, 2018

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About the author

Cindy Anstey

7 books641 followers
Cindy fought a courageous (and stubborn) battle with cancer for 10 years. She took delight in proving several doctors’ prognostications wrong, until, finally, the disease won out. Cindy will be greatly missed.

She lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals and enjoyed the jazz of Beale St.

Cindy loves history, mystery and... a chocolate Labrador called Chester. The Hummingbird Dagger, her first YA mystery, was released April 2019; her second, Deadly Curious, was released in 2020.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 284 reviews
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,092 reviews6,579 followers
December 24, 2018
DNF at 50%

Honestly, I just couldn't care less for these characters and I was super bored (even through listening to the audiobook), so byeeeeeeee!
Profile Image for Justine from Novels and Panda.
506 reviews225 followers
January 13, 2019
I have read Love, Lies, and Spies. I know it was a completely different book, but that was such a hooking story and narration. The amount of love going there was something that gets me to this day. That was why I was hoping for huge improvements over Carols and Chaos.

Carols and Chaos tells the story of a lady’s maid and a valet getting tangled to a coin counterfeiting. It sounds seriously engaging. And swoon worthy!


I can’t help but cringe a lot and feel mortified for the events that just happened here. The beginning seemingly was not that engaging at all. The narration was tolerable. And as it goes it diminished but halfway through it became staggered.

The dialogue was what made me feel embarrassed. I read through and between the lines, I see that there is a strong chemistry that isn’t forced upon. But whenever they open their mouth and goes on banter with each other I couldn’t brush off the feeling of forcing it way too much.

Especially when they were getting close in their hunt for the culprit and when they are interacting with the culprit. I can only take much. I wanted to abandon it. And pick up another romance read. The interacting among these gentlemen and lady was horrid. It was unnatural and contrived.

The setting was exceptional; I love that is set out in the past, in an older time. I get to see and feel these places of how it was then. And that it gives a romantic touch. I like that aspect of it. There is an undeniable chemistry between the two lovebirds and I love the ending and the ending alone. It was worth swooning over, however, the thing I mentioned above happened, I hope that there were changes that had gone through with the finished copy.

I received a complimentary copy through NetGalley. All views and opinions are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the author, the author’s work, the publisher, nor any other group of people, nor receive any monetary compensation for doing this review.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,709 reviews703 followers
October 21, 2018
I’ve been a fan of all of Cindy’s books, so I was eager to get to this one.

I liked Kate and Matt. They’re both good and loyal people. I loved the pride in their jobs and ambition for more. There are a lot a lot a lot of other characters in this story and it took me a minute to realize it was a sort of continuation of the previous book.

Plot wise, it was sort of a mess. For me there were too many moving parts, too many repetitive scenes, and not nearly enough dialogue. When Kate are Matt are together and talking, the story came alive. Sadly, those scenes were short and a lot of the time was spent in their heads as each day dreamed about the other.

Overall, it was a cute story, but it dragged more than the other books. And while I was curious to see how it played out, sadly I was bored as well.

**Huge thanks to Swoon Reads for providing the arc free of charge**
Profile Image for Amanda Hupe.
953 reviews58 followers
December 24, 2020
Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey is a YA holiday audiobook narrated by Fiona Hardingham. I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book– holiday festivities and a counterfeit scheme? Sounds like fun! It is 1817, A lady’s maid, Kate, and valet, Matt are devoted servants working hard during the holiday preparations at Shackleford Park estate. They are both so busy but romance doesn’t care about busy. However, when a footman goes missing, they are both drawn into a dangerous counterfeiting scheme!

Sigh… I loved the synopsis. But I didn’t care for the characters. This book tried to be a Jane Austen novel meets Downton Abbey. For young teens, I see this being a fun read. But the flirting. SO. MUCH. FLIRTING. I can’t tell you how many times it is mentioned!! And here is the kicker…THEY WEREN’T GOOD AT IT! Most flirtatious moments were cringeworthy. However, there were some moments that were awkward but they definitely made me laugh. Yes, I was laughing at the characters. I am horrible.

The pace is staggering. Despite it being a short book, the beginning moved pretty slow. The “suspenseful” parts weren’t all that suspenseful for me. But like I said, I just don’t think it was a good fit for me…maybe if I were fifteen, it would be perfect! I would also suggest listening to the audiobook version because Fiona Hardingham does a splendid job at all the different accents! I rate this audiobook 3 out of 5 stars!
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
512 reviews298 followers
October 30, 2018
Mini review:

Minor spoilers!


Trigger Warning: None till the point I read.

I have read the author's debut and enjoyed it! I was excited to dive into another book by this author. Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it.

The beginning really confused me. For some reason I thought she ran into an employee and not an actual bull. The humor wasn't funny either. I simply lost interest.

I do recommend. This was a personal thing and I have a feeling other's will enjoy it more.
Profile Image for Jenni Sauer.
Author 10 books64 followers
February 8, 2022

I adored Suitors and Sabotage, all the characters have my heart. But Matt and Kate??? MY HEART I CAN'T I ADORE THEM. They were even more fun than I imagined, the way they sparkled on the page, it was pure magic. I love these two. I'm so sad this book is over and I don't have more of them

This has MUCH higher stakes than the previous book, it was very intense, I didn't expect them to almost die multiple times 😅 It was such a good plot though

And seeing little glimpses of Imogen happy made my heart happy. I also appreciated that the author did a great job giving tiny cameos of the previous characters, but didn't try too hard fo tell another story about them in this book. She let Matt and Kate shine, which was what we needed

I'm so glad I already ordered this book (I did before I realized the library had the ebook available) because I want to hug it and reread the bantery bits. It was so good
Profile Image for Kay Weston.
332 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2018
Reading this book immediately took me back to all of those hours binge-watching Downton Abbey (gah, I loved that show), I love the upstairs/downstairs drama. At the same time, it reminded me of Pride and Prejudice, specifically the Austen-era, which I also love and so I quickly became engrossed in this sweet story.

The characters are varied and fantastic. Kate is strong-willed, determined and unperturbed by most of the things thrown her way and Matt is the epitome of a true English gentleman.

Their fast-paced romance is full of fun and flirtation but entangled with elements of drama and danger that keep the plot intriguing and moving forward.

Carols and Chaos is a sweet, lighthearted Christmas read that is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and Austen novels.

​As an aside: After reading this book I noticed that it's a spin-off from one of the author's other books, Suitors and Sabotage, but I didn't at any point feel as though I'd missed anything by not reading it, so I'm happy to say that this can be read as a standalone.
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
2,998 reviews1,480 followers
December 27, 2019
Kate Darby is looking forward to Christmas of 1817. Shackleford Park is hosting visitors both upstairs and down and they are also hosting a dinner for the staff and their families. Kate has much to do and falling in love is not on the agenda but Mr. Ernest and Ben Steeple bring along their footman, Johnny and handsome valet, Matt Harlow. Matt really liked Kate when they met before and is eager to renew their acquaintance. A romance is frowned upon in Shackleford Park and Matt also has plans for the future. Matt's friend Johnny is eager to impress Camille LaPierre, a ladies' maid but he lacks money to buy her little sisters a gift. When he sells his worthless ring and receives only counterfeit coins in return, Johnny is furious. He's determined to find the man who cheated him and get his ring back. The villagers don't take kindly to strangers asking questions but Johnny insists. When he fails to return home, Matt is worried. Everyone else assumes Johnny is sleeping off a hangover somewhere but Matt thinks his formerly wayward friend has reformed. The longer Johnny is gone, the more Matt worries. Only Kate believes him and together they set out to find the missing footman.

The first third of this book is really slow and failed to capture my attention. I didn't know the characters from Suitors and Sabotage and I really didn't buy into the romance. Why does Matt like Kate so much before they even meet again and why does she fall in love with him so quickly? I don't really know aside from physical attraction. The romance aspect was just boring.

When the mystery is finally set up, the book gets more interesting. I did figure out where Johnny was but not the rest of it. The plot moved along at a quick pace after that and I enjoyed the mystery more than the romance.

Historically speaking, the story should have or could have been set in Victorian times or Edwardian times and been the same. I didn't get much Regency history in this story. It is set at Christmas and includes some of the Christmas traditions of the period but the Christmas celebrations were secondary to the plot. I would have liked more time spent on the historical details and period correct language. The writing style is just too simplistic for me.

The characters are pretty flat. I liked Kate well enough. She's determined to make a better future for herself and her mother but not single-minded. She's kind and sympathetic to her mother's loneliness issues. Kate is also a good listener and trusts Matt's instincts about his friend. Kate seems well-known and liked in the village. Matt is a nice person and has the same goal as Kate but romance seems impossible given their situations. I don't really like the way Matt flirts and teases Kate but she accepts it and responds in kind. If you like flirty banter, you'll love Matt. If the characters had been better developed I may have liked them both better. Johnny is a stereotypical young footman. He was into gambling and other bad things when he was younger but Matt believes Johnny has reformed. It's sad that Johnny's reputation meant no one believed he was in danger. Johnny is brash and stupid at times. He rushes in without thinking. I don't believe he loves Camille but just wants her attention because she's beautiful and has a good job.

The villains are truly villainous! I was shocked at the level of violence in this young adult novel. One villain in particular can not be right in the head. They are truly sadistic and enjoy hurting people. One is more level-headed and practical and the other is greedy.

I really didn't like Kate's mother, "Dame" Darby. She's manipulative and doesn't appreciate all the help her sons give her. I found her unrealistic for the time period. For a lower class woman she should let her daughter do her job and be proud of her sons' accomplishments instead of bugging Kate to come help her all the time. The housekeeper is unrealistically sympathetic.

Kate's friend Marie is constantly cranky without good reason. She just got promoted to ladies' maid what does she have to complain about? She is a good friend to Kate though, in her own way. The butler is properly rude and snooty. He isn't a likable character but he may be the most realistic of all the servants.

This story is unusual as it focuses only on the points-of-view of downstairs characters but we do get to meet the upstairs family. None of them seemed realistic. The young ladies and gentlemen would have been raised to accept their stations and their preordained roles. A young man of aristocratic birth would NOT be an architect. A younger son would join the navy, the army, the law or the church. A young lady giving art lessons would be beyond the pale. No young lady wanted to work for a living! They're all so kind and nice to the servants, even when the footman runs off. I think it's a bit of a stretch that they would have a search party out, except that there's a second crime that may have led to Johnny's disappearance and the Home Office wants to catch who is responsible. Find Johnny, find the villains.

All in all, it's a nice, pleasant, forgettable story. I believe this author's books are not for me or for the true Regency aficionados. However, if you enjoyed Downton Abbey and the unrealistic idealized world that story is set in, you will probably enjoy this novel.
Profile Image for Krysti.
357 reviews126 followers
November 30, 2018
For my fellow Downton Abbey and Jane Austen enthusiasts, I could not think of a more perfect book to get you into the holiday spirit. CAROLS AND CHAOS is an absolutely charming story with characters you’ll fall madly in love with and a delicious sprinkling of mystery and adventure.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews400 followers
Shelved as 'not-going-to-finish'
February 18, 2022
I want to like this one because sometimes Cindy Anstey really hits it out of the park but I'm a good 40% in and am tired of forcing myself to pick it up.
Profile Image for Sophia.
Author 5 books334 followers
November 16, 2018
When I was looking for a holiday listen, I was tickled to see this offered and jumped at the chance for a suspenseful dip into the Regency world below stairs during Yuletide. The gentry are about their revels and so are the servants until a footman goes missing and a fake coin turns up in the nearby market town.

Carols and Chaos turned out to be a follow-up companion novel to Suitors and Sabotage though now the story heads below stairs for a valet and lady's maid to get their own romantic adventure. It probably would have had more meaning if I'd listened to the first book, but this one was still an engaging standalone.

It is December 1817 and Shackleford Park is hosting a houseparty involving Miss Imogene's fiance and his family. Imogene's lady's maid, Kate Darby is excited to welcome along with her mistress' guests, Matt Harlow, Ben Steeples' valet. Before they can barely get up a flirtation, Matt's friend Johnny gets swindled with a fake coin when a red-headed stranger bought his ring and then when he goes looking for the man, Johnny disappears. In between taking care of her mother, her duties to her lady, the estate Yuletide festivities, and thoughts of Matt, Kate is bustling about. Matt and Kate do their best around their duties to find Johnny and start fearing the worst.

The lavish historical backdrop and attention to authenticity was fabulous. It was an engaging look of life below stairs during the holiday season and how life in the serving class was conducted. The mystery wasn't that difficult though there were some good surprises and suspenseful moments.

The set up of introducing the situation at Shackleford, Kate's life as a local girl with family complications, and then the addition of the guests at the estate all made this one start slow and keep to that slower pace until near the end when things leaped into danger.

Kate and Matt were adorable and I was cheering for them to find a way to be together though they were in service at two different houses and, as servants, had to be careful about their reputations and keep their growing feelings hidden. They bantered and flirted, but also made a good team. There was a charm to their sweet Christmas romance.

Fiona Hardingham did a bang up job as a narrator for a cast of characters that included men and women and different classes. She even did varying degrees in the servant's class to reflect their class structure, too. Some of her male voices were somewhat pinched, but I did enjoy her storytelling voice and her sense of tone and pacing. I would definitely listen to more of her work.

All in all, this first time with a new to me author was a big success. I enjoyed dipping into her Regency world and want to experience more. This is marked as YA, but I think adult historical romance fans would appreciate this one, too.

My thanks to Listening Library for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for starryeyedjen.
1,640 reviews1,232 followers
December 11, 2018
I've pretty much adored all of Cindy Anstey's previous works, and this book was no exception. I wish I'd realized that this was a companion to Suitors and Sabotage, though, so I could have re-read that book first and refamiliarized myself with the lords and ladies above stairs before setting out to solve this caper with characters from below stairs. This was a sweet romance full of Yuletide cheer, while also maintaining and air of mystery, and while it wasn't the most compelling of Anstey's books thus far, I still found it charming. A lovely read for this time of year!
Profile Image for Raegan.
115 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2020
As usual, Cindy Anstey wrote a delightful regency romance/mystery. As usual, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted a cozy yule filled read in the lodge and this did the trick!

This could easily be read as a stand alone but is an accompaniment novel to Suitors and Sabotage where we follow the story of two minor characters from the first book. The leads were both likable and unproblematic as was their story which is sometimes hard to find in this type of book. The plot was original and well paced.

9/10 Recommended ❄️
Profile Image for TheYALibrarian.
295 reviews133 followers
December 15, 2019
Rating 4 Stars

I expected this book to be a cutesy light read with all the mushy, sappy feels but I did not expect it to have less mush and more thrills and dramatics.

Will review more just need to catch up on some other reviews before returning to this one...
Profile Image for andrea ✨.
82 reviews48 followers
December 26, 2018
“And then, the Fates produced a miracle. Coming toward him, looking hale, hearty, and lithe, was none other than the love of his life.”

I almost feel like this rating is too generous but I don’t feel like rating it any lower and I don’t know why but????? I guess we can call it the Christmas spirit 😂🙌🏻

This book just wasn’t really anything special to me. The beginning, to start with, seemed really slow to me and for some reason was actually difficult for me to read. I’m not sure if it was just because I hadn’t read a book in the third person POV for a little while, or if it was just because the beginning was slow, or what but I was struggling to get into the story.

But once I did get in to the story, I really wasn’t that wowed by it. I didn’t really like any of the characters that much???? They all seemed kind of 2 dimensional and a little boring, and I felt like I knew nothing about them. I really couldn’t even choose my favourite character from this book, because none of them were that great. Like don’t even ask me who my favorite character is, because I would not be able to tell you. Maybe it’s that dog they mentioned like once?? 😂 They are definitely easily forgettable characters in my opinion. I’ve already forgot most of their names tbh.

And the romance. Going into this book I was really hoping for a cute, lovable, fluffy romance. And I think the author was attempting to make the romance cute and lovable and fluffy but it just fell flat for me. I didn’t really even ship the two people tbh. While I was reading their scenes together I was just sitting there kind like “yeah. okay. this is a ship. whatever.” and that it noT a good way for me to be feeling towards a ship. If I’m not squealing and flailing around, that’s a sign that the ship is not a good ship 😂 I just didn’t see the chemistry between the two characters 🤷🏻‍♀️

And now the actually story. This was supposed to be some intriguing, edge of your seat, suspenseful sort of mysteryish book, or at least that’s what I thought it was going to be, but it just didn’t live up to that. I didn’t find the mystery aspect of this book that intriguing or interesting, and I was really reading it more just to get it done rather than because I was actually interested and couldn’t stop reading until I got all the answers. Which, also, is not a good thing. And the ending was kind of, like, really underwhelming to me. I saw the sort of comedical effect (I’m not sure that’s the right way to describe it but whatever) that the author might have been going for with the ending, but I didn’t like it. It almost felt like a cop out ending to me.

The reason I read this book in the first place was because it was a Christmas focused story, and I really wanted to read a few festive books this season. And I wasn’t let down by that aspect, there was definitely the Christmas feel to this story and I did enjoy that. I also really liked the time era it was set in and the way the author wrote about said time era :)

I never really had high expectations for this book though, so I wasn’t necessarily let down. I just wasn’t necessarily... let up, if you will 😂

It’s not like I strongly disliked anything in this book, it’s just that I didn’t strongly like anything either. So maybe a 3 star rating is too generous,,,, but maybe it’s not. I don’t really know though so we’ll just give it the benefit of the doubt and keep it at that.
Profile Image for Michelle .
2,016 reviews230 followers
November 7, 2018
**You can see this full review and more at Book Briefs: https://bookbriefs.net**Carols and Chaos is a standalone young adult historical fiction by Cindy Anstey. Even though Carols and Chaos can be read as a standalone, it is set in the same time period and world as Cindy's previous novel, Suitors and Sabotage. This is the fourth book I have read by Ms. Anstey and I just adore them all! I know they are all going to be fabulous written and pure fun from start to finish. And Carols and Chaos was no exception. I will be honest, this was not my favorite of Cindy's books. That honor still goes to Love, Lies and Spies. It was my absolute favorite by Cindy but Carols and Chaos was a great read. I love all of Cindy's books so much. 

In Carols and Chaos we meet Kate and Matt. This is not the first time we have met Kate or Matt. We met both of them as background characters in Suitors and Sabotage. It was really nice to see them get their own story. I didn't know them well in the last novel, but from the moment I met them each in Carols and Chaos, I just knew they were great people. Their story gave me all the warm and fuzzies of a lifetime holiday movie or a Hallmark Christmas movie. It was simply a feel good read. Yes, there were some cringe worthy situations that they seemed to find themselves in, but overall this book just made me happy. 

Kate and Matt both want to do the right thing. You can tell they are good people through and through- hark workers, honest. They made it so easy for me to root for them. Matt was not even remotely looking for love, but he seemed to light up anytime he was around Kate. I found myself reading as quickly as possible through the parts that only featured one of the characters, because the scenes where they were interacting with each other were by far my favorite. 

If you are looking for a feel good holiday read, set in teh regency era, then Carols and Chaos is the perfect read for you. I think it will put you in the holiday mood and it will put a smile on your face. If you don't fall for Kate and Matt, then I think something is wrong with you. ;p

This review was originally posted on Book Briefs
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,768 reviews333 followers
April 25, 2019
Adapted from the book jacket: England, 1817. The chaos of the Yuletide season is in full force at the country estate of Shackleford Park, but lady’s maid Kate Darby barely has time to notice. Between her household duties, caring for her demanding mother, and saving up money to someday own a dress shop, her hands are full. Matt Harlow is also busy. He’s performing double duty, acting as valet for both of the Steeple brothers, who are holiday guests at the estate. Falling in love would be a disaster for either of them. But that is the least of their problems as they get caught up in an intrigue that begins with a missing footman.

My reactions
I picked this up because I was trolling the library’s shelves looking for a particular cover image. It sounded like a quick, fun read and that’s exactly what it was.

The romance plus cozy mystery makes for some interesting twists and turns in the plot, as well as satisfying tension between the two lead characters. I liked Kate; she’s intelligent, self-reliant, dedicated and persistent. I find that she’s a little too “fluttery” around Matt, but given the genre (YA romance), I’ll cut her some slack. Matt is equally intelligent, disciplined, dedicated and protective.

This is the second book in a series, the first being Suitors and Sabotage . I don’t feel I missed anything by reading out of order. The first book apparently deals with “Upstairs” – the relationship between Kate’s and Matt’s employers; while this one is decidedly “Downstairs.”
Profile Image for Kayla Sheppard.
163 reviews144 followers
December 7, 2018
4.5 stars

This was EVERYTHING I loved how the two main characters were so equal and nobody felt like the “dominant” or whatever in the relationship. Don’t get me wrong I love a good bad boy romance but this cutesy kind was refreshing
Profile Image for Mortisha Cassavetes.
2,218 reviews56 followers
December 8, 2018
I read this book for the TisTheSeasonAThon and it was a interesting read. The book follows a maid named Kate and a valet, Matt and all that is going on in the house that they are employed in. You can feel that they are falling for each other but it is not permitted so lots of secrets. Pile that up with a counterfeiting scheme and a missing footman and you have lots of craziness going on in the house. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it especially during the holiday season.
Profile Image for Dana.
1,048 reviews74 followers
December 19, 2020
Well, I'll admit I'm not one who rushes for holiday reads but I decided this year to make a stab at finding some yuletide reads to get me in the spirit. In Carols and Chaos I was expecting a light, frivolous Christmas romp but what I got was much more intrigue than I expected. Think of one those Downton Abbey episodes with a scandalous mystery at it's heart.

Matt and Kate make no bones about it that they like each other, a real smack in the face to the normal romcom tropes that abound these days. They are both in the employ of two great families whose son and daughter are courting. They know they must operate under the rules of propriety while the two families are together for the holidays but find themselves quickly embroiled in a mystery after one of the footman goes missing. The two sleuth about the town, using her connections and knowledge of the area and his guile and brawn. They get in quite a few scrapes trying to find the footman and bring him home.

Giving this one 3.5 stars as it surprised me with a little meat behind the holiday romance.
Profile Image for CallMeAfterCoffee.
128 reviews233 followers
December 31, 2019
I had little to no expectations for this one, I just picked it up because I had bought it to read during Christmas time and after finishing little women was still in the mood for something cosy ☺️.

It was a quick read, I thought the characters were cute. It was just fun. Nothing overly special about the story, and it was definitely a but cheesy, but I don't even care. I had a good time and it was a sweet little story.
Profile Image for Chloe.
149 reviews
December 28, 2018
This is exactly what I was looking for in a Christmas fluff book! I think that it was made a little too obvious where Johnny was and I'm still unsure if Rolland was related to the butcher or not (I assume he's the nephew or whatever that works for the blacksmith?). But, gosh, the flirting was perfect.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Morgan Mushinski .
228 reviews13 followers
December 11, 2020
Honestly, I was expecting so much more from this book. I feel let down. Both the romance and the action was boring. I was just bored. That's all.
Profile Image for Carol.
270 reviews25 followers
December 23, 2018
The most fascinating thing about this book is that it was told entirely from the POV of two employees/servants of the upper class.

In a romance novel that shouldn't be the thing I enjoyed the most.

The plot was all over the place, dialogue was choppy, and both the action scenes and the romantic relationship were not really believable.
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