Review: “When A Lady Deceives” by Tara Kingston

“When A Lady Deceives” by Tara Kingston

A review by Vanessa.

I received this book for free in return for participation in the release book tour, and an honest review.

When Jennie Quinn discovers her most recent informant murdered in the streets of Whitechapel she reacts predictably; she loses her lunch in the gutter. But Jennie is anything but a predictable woman. Her determination, drive, and sense of justice have pushed her to become a successful and respected female journalist at a time in Victorian London when such a thing was quite rare. Jennie knows who killed her lovely actress turned informant. In fact, her contact with the lady is likely what caused her demise. Now Jennie will do whatever it takes, including taking a job as barmaid for a ruthless mobster, to catch the culprit. If only the mobster’s right hand man wasn’t so distractingly handsome… But Jennie has never let anything derail her from her course. Harwick has been ruling London’s criminal element for years, and Jennie has been trying to expose his crimes and bring him down. But she’s not the only one who has that goal firmly in mind.

Matthew Colton does not like having the new auburn haired barmaid around. She has a penchant for getting into trouble poking around all the bar’s patrons, and she is distractingly beautiful… a distraction he does not have time for. He has already sacrificed years of his life trying to bring down the man who had his partner murdered. A sacrifice he was willing to make, even when it meant being disgraced from the police force and having to work closely with that same man. He never questioned his sacrifice, until a certain beautiful woman walked into his life and he realized that the man he had become would never deserve a woman like her. But together they just might find the justice they’ve been searching for.

Though the story does occasionally wander into the realm of the cliché, I much prefer the term classic. While the characters are at times predictable, they cannot be described as boring. The romantic entanglement stays true to what a reader would normally expect from an historical romance genre novel. However, that does not make it any less engaging. The innocent waif overwhelmed with desire for the dark, handsome, more experienced rapscallion is an evident theme, but it’s the twists on this theme that make it the engaging piece that it is. The lady may be innocent of the effects of true desire, but not because she has been coddled and sheltered. It is because she has been through so much, chased her dreams as a journalist, and never met a man who truly made her feel more alive than her work does. The handsome rapscallion is drawn to the lady as expected, but what is most unexpected is how he holds back. He tries to resist her charms because he believes she deserves better than himself. And in a thoroughly modern twist, the lady gives in to her desire for him not because she seeks the expected route of love and marriage. She simply wants to fully experience and explore what she feels for him.

In addition, throughout all the busy back and forth of the romantic story arc, there are also interesting interactions with secondary characters. The mystery, murder and mayhem broiling in Whitechapel is an excellent backdrop for the story. Background characters are intriguing and well written, but sometimes a little under utilized. Kingston writes characters you want to know more about, and I hope that is a problem that will be rectified in what is likely to be a future series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Maids of Misfortune” by M. Louisa Locke

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa LockeA review by Danielle.

Annie Fuller is a young widow living in 19th century San Francisco. After finally digging herself out of the debt her late husband amassed before committing suicide several years ago, by turning the large old Victorian her aunt left her into a boarding house, she receives a letter from one of her late husband’s more vicious creditors. The letter contains thinly veiled threats to take the boarding house in exchange for settling the debt.

Annie is also leading a double life to supplement her income, as a clairvoyant known around town as Madam Sybil. She specializes in domestic and business advice to set her apart from the other so-called mediums in town, and to be taken seriously. Annie’s favorite client Matthew Voss, a prominent business man in the bay area, is suddenly murdered and all his stock, bonds, and money go missing, unfortunately affecting Annie as well, when it is revealed by Nate Dawson, one of Mr. Voss’ lawyers that Matthew left her a railroad stock which Annie could use to save her boarding house.

Annie and Nate work together to find out who murdered Matthew Voss and stole all of his financial documents. As they get closer to discovering some real evidence, a key witness is murdered, throwing light and suspicion on both Nate and Annie. Now they must race time to find out who the real killer is to stop both their worlds from coming crashing down all around them.

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke is an excellent book to read if you are trying to dip your toes into the historical fiction genre. Reading the descriptive settings of 19th century San Francisco was extremely interesting. This is first in the series and I cannot wait to read the second book. M. Louisa Locke does a great job of shifting the suspicion of the killer’s identity to multiple characters rapidly. I was never able to guess who the killer was and what motive they could have had for hiding the financial documents. The suspect pool was just too large and the reason for motive just too vague to fit anyone person in particular.

Annie Fuller and Nate Dawson are also excellent characters, both very strong willed and entertaining to listen to as they banter back and forth while they deny their feelings for each other. Nate is the perfect gentleman and Annie is not the typical demure young girl that was expected back then.  Following both characters as their romance evolves while simultaneously trying to solve a great mystery is incredibly entertaining and makes for a great read.

 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime by E.L. DoctorowEvery month, our club votes on which book we will read for that month. December’s winning book was E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. The following review is based on an online discussion after Decemberr’s meeting.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

First published in 1975, Ragtime is an intricate tale of life in pre-World War I America. Expertly weaving together fiction and historical fact, Ragtime follows several seemingly unconnected characters. There is the “average” American family, only known as Mother, Father, Mother’s Younger Brother, Grandfather, and the little boy. The family lives in New York, in a three-story home at the crest of the Broadview Avenue Hill. Father owns a company that manufactures various “accoutrements of patriotism” such as flags, buntings, even fireworks. Next, we meet an immigrant family, also living in New York, sharing one room among the three of them – Mameh, Tateh, and The Little Girl. Tateh is an artist who tries to support his family as a peddler on the streets. Mameh and the little girl sew knee pants to make ends meet until they are informed that the little girl must attend school. Having lost the income the little girl provides, Mameh must find an alternative way to help her family survive. Other characters, both fictional and real, appear frequently throughout the book – a young African-American musician named Coalhouse Walker Jr. provides a detailed look at racial tensions in 1906. Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, and Henry Ford are given fictional connections to the story loosely based on actual events of the time.

Fangirls’ Analysis:

December’s hostess chose this book because she just loves it. “I think that it is timelessly composed, and beautifully demonstrates what a reflection of any society should look like.” Club members voted for it because of an interest in historical fiction and its purported similarities to other works (i.e. Fiddler on the Roof).

What We Liked:

Doctorow’s writing style in Ragtime included simple, matter-of-fact sentences that were no less eloquent for their brevity. His words evoked powerful imagery and we appreciated his ability to let us see early 1900s America from varying perspectives. He allowed us to experience a story of working class success a la Harry Houdini. Through eyes of the unreliable narrator we see characters reaching for the typical “American Dream” and then watch the way those dreams shift and adapt to unexpected circumstances. During the discussion, several parallels were drawn to goings-on in the 1970s, when this book was being written, as well as current events (particularly regarding race and gender equality).

What We Didn’t Like:

While this book was enjoyed by most who read it, others found it difficult to get into. Those who had little interest in the historical aspects found their attentions wandering depending on the subject matter. A few members disliked the unknown narration and the fact that some characters were not given names.

This book bored a couple of members to tears but was largely enjoyed, even loved, by most.

Fangirl Rating: 4/5 stars

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