Madeline's Reviews > Point of Honour

Point of Honour by Madeleine E. Robins
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's review
Nov 12, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: regency-fiction, historical-fiction, mystery, class, family, women, noirish, novels, toughandromantic-as-the-cityheloved, 2012, dreaming-spires
Read in October, 2007

The rather delayed third novel in this series came out last fall - The Sleeping Partner. I haven't been able to get to it yet, but I've been meaning to reread Point of Honour and Petty Treason for a while, anyway. (There's going to be a fourth, also! Which is great.)

What I like about these books is, primarily and quite rightly, the heroine, Sarah Tolerance. Serial mysteries do rather live or die on the strength of their main characters, and Robins has done a great job with her Miss Tolerance. Sarah is clear-eyed and persistent, believably clever, tough, resourceful - all the traits you'd need to have this job as a woman in the early 19th century. (It's worth noting that Robins' Regency is sort of a parallel universe Regency - not exactly the Regency we know, but close enough to be recognizable, and she slides the differences in without much comment.) But she's not without her faults, flaws, and blind spots.

I like, also, the way Robins mixes the flinty perspective of her heroine (and her heroine's circumstances) and the very, very, very polite social milieu we tend to associate with this time period. That Sarah Tolerance is caught between one world and the other does not go unnoticed or unremarked in the narrative, but the novel is itself a kind of mixture. I mean, the book opens with a riff on that most famous of opening lines, "It is a truth universally acknowledged . . ." Robins knows what she's doing. It's tough to balance the conventions of noir with the conventions of ~romantic historical fiction, and yet Robins manages. Point of Honour is both a diverting genre read, and a thought-provoking book.

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