Book Review: Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman

mysterywomanTitle: The Mystery Woman
Author: Amanda Quick
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program

I’m a fan of Amanda Quick (aka Jayne Ann Krentz) and auto-buy her books. I admit I lost interest in her Arcane series once we reached the conclusion of how Jones & Jones agency came together and she started expanding the Arcane series to include outside associates. I wanted to prep for this review by reading the last 3 books I missed, but decided it would be best to read from a new reader’s perspective without any previous knowledge as most new readers.

Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman is the second book in her Ladies of Lantern Street series. If you haven’t read the first book, Crystal Gardens, it’s not necessary to do so. Quick does a good job giving you an overview of what exactly the agency Flint & Marsh specializes in and a brief history of how it was established.

On the night her mentor, Roland Fleming, is found murdered, Beatrice Lockwood is forced to change her identity to hide from the killer. She finds employment at Flint & Marsh, a private agency that specializes in discreet inquiries. Undercover as a paid companion, Beatrice meets Joshua Gage, former messenger to the mysterious Mr. Smith, and helps her foil a kidnapping attempt on her employer. Joshua informs Beatrice that he has been looking for her and needs her assistance in finding his sister’s blackmailer. Little do they know, someone with a more sinister plan is also looking for Beatrice. Will they be able to uncover the identity of the blackmailer or will Beatrice become the killer’s next victim?

The writing is very typical Quick especially with the use of paranormal elements she’s been fond of using these past couple of years. It doesn’t distract a reader and it goes hand in hand with the time period of late Victorian England. The paranormal became popular during the era and there was a demand for people who had the ability to conjure spirits or speak with the dead. It makes sense that she would have a character with some type of extrasensory ability. In this case, Beatrice is a clairvoyant and Ronald Fleming recognized her talent. Joshua doesn’t believe in the paranormal and several times Beatrice reminds him how his intuition has been spot on and therefore is an extension of the psychic realm. Quick once again does thorough research and it shines throughout The Mystery Woman. She incorporates aspects of Egyptology in her plot and again it makes sense, since the Victorians were obsessed with Egypt. As the use of electricity emerged in the 19th century, so did the question of raising the dead. Quick takes advantage of this experimentation and incorporates into the plot. I won’t say exactly what it is, but it goes hand in hand with Egyptian mythology and paranormal ability.

In terms of characterization, one thing that stood out immediately is how much Joshua resembles a previous Quick character. Joshua reminded me of a lot of Tobias March (from the Lake/March series) and both share the same characteristics in terms of an injured leg and having a nephew under his wing. What I really like about Quick is that she gives us strong heroines who aren’t afraid to make a life for themselves. These are no shrinking violets and The Mystery Woman reminded me once again why I’m a fan of Amanda Quick. She also makes you think about the possibilities of science. The whole idea of reviving someone who is dead will leave most readers fascinated and yet horrified. I’m still thinking about it a few weeks later.

If you’re a fan of historical romance mixed with a bit of mystery, I recommend Amanda Quick’s The Mystery Woman. Just be advised, there a few plot holes regarding the mystery, but nothing you’ll lose sleep over.

Advertisements

Book Review: Dara England’s Death on Dartmoor

16281112Title: Death on Dartmoor
Author: Dara England
Genre: Mystery / Historical
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

When American Heiress, Millicent Wright, travels to Devonshire, England to become better acquainted with Sir Oliver Longbourne, she has no idea she’ll be the heroine at the center of her own gothic novel. Her mother, on the other hand, wants Millicent married and who better than an English titled husband? Millicent is reluctant because she knows there’s only one reason why Longbourne would want to marry her: she’s an heiress and it’s apparent he needs the money. In the late 19th century, cash strapped English aristocrats married American heiresses, who were part of the nouveau riche, in exchange for a title that would earn them a place in high society. Millicent is aware of Longbourne’s interest as well as everyone present at Buckfast Hall, Longbourne’s estate. When Longbourne is murdered in front of his guests, everyone becomes suspect. Will Millicent unmask the culprit before another victim is claimed?

Dara England’s Death on Dartmoor has a gothic feel to it in terms of plot and language. Readers familiar with the gothic novel will be familiar with the set up. The writing is polished and the language is appropriate for the time period. It doesn’t sound too modern and it was just a delight to read. Characters are relatable and flawed. In terms of a suspect, we’re introduced to Amelia Shepherd, the daughter of a local physician and neighbor to Longbourne; she was once a prospective bride to Longbourne. Millicent begins to suspect Amelia, after all people have been known to commit murder for being jilted. Along with the murder, Millicent has to deal with the Longbourne curse. Several events point to the family being cursed and while Millicent doesn’t exactly believe in it, she has a hard time explaining certain events.

As far as the mystery goes, the clues are fairly easy to pick up on, but nevertheless it was an intriguing read. The reasons for key events are thoroughly explained and one can’t help but feel heartbroken at not being to help. Although we do have a detective assigned to the house, it’s Millicent who makes up her mind to help solve the murder. At one point she tells Lockwood, she’s read gothic novels and knows how investigations are conducted. He’s reluctant to have her assistance, but she goes out to prove him wrong. Unfortunately, her investigation doesn’t go as planned, but nevertheless, Lockwood has to agree she’s an important asset to the investigation. There was one instance, though, I wish she had spoken with Lockwood regarding an incident involving Longbourne’s grandmother. I understand why it was set up the way it was, but I can’t help but wonder what Lockwood’s reaction would have been, had he been privy to this piece of information.

There’s a hint of romance between Millicent and Lockwood. I’m hoping they’ll wind up together. We’ll just have to wait and see if her mother manages to successfully bring up a titled gentleman up to scratch. Although I can imagine Mrs. Wright having a fit of the vapors at the thought of her daughter marrying a detective!

Death on Dartmoor is a delightful read. If you have a few hours to spare and are fan of gothic mysteries, I highly recommend picking this up. I’m looking forward to reading more of England’s work.

Book Review: Vicki Hopkins’ Dark Persuasion

Dark Per SmlTitle: Dark Persuasion
Author: Vicki Hopkins
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: No
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

I’ve stated before in a previous review how I’m not a big fan of authors who are upfront and state the history of central characters and how they are connected. This approach can be either hit or miss, but in the case of Dark Persuasion, Vicki Hopkins does an amazing job setting up the plot and it defiantly is needed to understand the particular actions of certain characters.

Charlotte Grey was a child when an accident left her blind and she’s surprised her aristocratic neighbors are interested in being her sponsors and hold a ball in her honor. At the ball she meets two brothers, Patrick and Rupert, who are different as night and day. Both will battle for her hand, but which brother will win her heart and can a wrong be rectified?

Hopkins does an excellent job with historical research. She introduces Braille to the point of having Rupert translate a letter he wrote to Charlotte. There’s also the mention of guide dogs and although the time period is 1890 (the first official use of guide dogs from my own personal research indicates they were first used during World War I in Germany), I can let it go because in literature prior to the 19th century, in a few texts, they mention the blind being guided by a dog. I’m not sure of the extent of actual guide dogs as we know it prior to the First World War and I’m not nitpicking on the historical aspects because as I stated Hopkins does a superb job. She also keeps to social etiquette of the time and the language used doesn’t sound too modern.

Characters are well developed and you can easily see how two brothers become rivals. At the heart of the novel is Charlotte’s blindness and although she can’t see the world around her, she believes she can trust her own instinct. She tries to be independent and her family allows her the freedom she wants, but also cautions her. Like most young women she truly believes she can read people and their intentions. Rupert talks to her and she likes that he’s interested in getting to know her, whereas Patrick doesn’t say anything to her, but he has a reason for keeping quiet and keeping her at a distance. She believes someone opening themselves is how to truly communicate with one another. Your heart breaks for her and all she lost. In one poignant scene, she wishes she could see the face of the man she married. And in another scene her husband doesn’t quite realize what it would be like to be married to a blind woman until Charlotte’s sister is sitting next to them at the wedding breakfast and she’s helping Charlotte eat. He looks down at her place setting and he sees pieces of food all over as she attempts to eat.

What I really liked about Dark Persuasion is that Hopkins gives us a villain, who in the end repents for his actions. Sure it’s not the way we would like him to do it, but he realizes his follies and tries to atone for the way he acted towards Charlotte. There’s a twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting, but overall it’s a satisfying read.

Please note: there is some history of abuse and if you are sensitive to particular situations you might not be comfortable reading this book. It’s not detailed, but it is mentioned and explained.

If you’re in a historical romance rut I highly recommend Dark Persuasion.

Favorite Victorian Era Novels

These are a few of my favorite Victorian era novels. All the novels listed were published during the period from 1837-1901. It’s not a complete list, but these I love to reread. What are your favorites?

vanityTitle:Vanity Fair
Author: William Makepeace Thackeray
Year: 1847
A Novel without a Hero is a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, first published in 1847–48, satirizing society in early 19th-century Britain. The book’s title comes from John Bunyan’s allegorical story The Pilgrim’s Progress, first published in 1678 and still widely read at the time of Thackeray’s novel. Vanity fair refers to a stop along the pilgrim’s progress: a never-ending fair held in a town called Vanity, which is meant to represent man’s sinful attachment to worldly things.

anna-karenina
Title: Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Year: 1877
Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

In their world frivolous liaisons are commonplace, but Anna and Vronsky’s consuming passion makes them a target for scorn and leads to Anna’s increasing isolation. The heartbreaking trajectory of their relationship contrasts sharply with the colorful swirl of friends and family members who surround them, especially the newlyweds Kitty and Levin, who forge a touching bond as they struggle to make a life together. Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.

hugoTitle: Les Misérables
Author: Victor Hugo
Year: 1862
In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean – a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert – Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.

Trying to forget his past and live an honest life, escaped convict Jean Valjean risks his freedom to take care of a motherless young girl during a period of political unrest in Paris.

nsTitle: North and South
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Year: 1855
When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

tale_of_two_cities_bookTitle: A Tale of Two Cities
Author: Charles Dickens
Year: 1859
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

baskervilles_000Title: The Hound of the Baskervilles
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Year: 1901
Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville families home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a giant hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate?

the-woman-in-whiteTitle: The Woman in White
Author: Wilkie Collins
Year: 1860
‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth…stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with pyschological realism.

Matthew Sweet’s introduction explores the phenomenon of Victorian ‘sensation’ fiction, and discusses Wilkie Collins’s biographical and societal influences. Included in this edition are appendices on theatrical adaptations of the novel and its serialisation history.

LadyTitle: The Portrait of a Lady
Author: Henry James
Year: 1881
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel’s tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.

the_Importance_of_Being_Earnest-2Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
Author: Oscar Wilde
Year: 1895
Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

little-womenTitle: Little Women
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Year: 1868
Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg’s joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo’s struggle to become a writer, Beth’s tragedy, and Amy’s artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. Based on Louise May Alcott’s childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth- century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.