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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Review of “Dead Lies” by Cybele Loening

Dead Lies by Cybele LoeningA review by Maria.

First off, a big thank you to author Cybele Loening for allowing Fangirls Read It First to read an advanced copy of Dead Lies.

Web hears the unthinkable on a phone call with his sister – the sound of her murder. Police officer Anna Valentine, who moved to a small town to recover from a family tragedy, investigates the murder as her first big case in town. Older, seasoned detective Jerry Kreeger is lead on the case and takes Anna on as a partner. But solving the case will be far from easy, revealing twists and lies along the way.

Anna was a surprisingly self-conscious character, even though being a police officer usually comes with confidence. She had good instincts, but would often make mistakes in the move from NYPD procedure to the suburbs. She has baggage in the form of an addicted husband and a traumatized son. She also is still reeling from the death of her son’s identical twin. She’s self-conscious about her baggage and dating again. She also feels she not very attractive or desirable in general because of the bunions on her feet. She was very interesting and easy to relate to as the main character.

Web was a character who I didn’t initially like but as soon as his sister died he became a different person right away. He took stock in his life and those around him and began to live more for others instead of himself. It was very realistic, the grief he went through being so much deeper since he had lost a twin sister. Being a twin myself, I found that very easy to imagine. I liked how Loening added in the twin connection into his grief. He also became very charming and sweet with Anna and I found myself very torn between the love interests.

Jerry knows how old he is, and that he has no business crushing on his partner Anna. He feels old enough to be her father, but he still is attracted to her and scared to make a move. I liked the exchanges these two shared while working together on the case. A real partnership developed in this book and the two were able to lean on each other in the case and open up about their lives. I liked how, even though Anna would constantly make mistakes, Jerry would let her know she was busted but also let her recover and learn from them.

The pacing of this book was great, it was slow when it needed to be and still had fast paced moments. The mystery was excellent, full of plot twists that kept the reader second guessing everything. I liked how the author balanced insights into the mystery and character development at the same time.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review of “The Perfectionists” by Sara Shepard

The Perfectionists by Sara ShepardA review by Amanda.

The Perfectíonists is the first in a new series by bestselling author, Sara Shepard. Ms. Shepard is best known for her Pretty Little Liars series, now a television show, and The Lying Game series.

Five high school girls in Beacon Heights, Washington – beautiful, brainy Ava, athletic Caitlin, “It Girl” Julie, musical Mackenzie, and secretive Parker ­ with nothing in common, have formed an unexpected bond over a shared enemy. Rich and popular, bully Nolan Hotchkiss has done terrible things that drastically affect each of the girls’ lives. Grouped together in film studies class, the girls brainstorm the hypothetically perfect way to kill him. Their plan evolves into a non­-deadly prank in order to get revenge. Everyone is shocked when Nolan turns up dead after a party ­ in exactly the same way that they had planned… but someone close to them is working very hard to make it look like they did.

Sara Shepard has found a formula that works and she is sticking with it. The overall plot follows very similar lines as her two previous series’, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game. The protagonists are mostly typical, upper ­middle class high school girls who accidentally create a mess for themselves and anyone close to them, and then find out that they are actually in the center of a much bigger plot. The true villain(s) remains unknown to the girls until the very end. Their well­-intentioned attempts to do the right thing only makes the problem worse. Romantic entanglements add even more drama and intrigue to the already convoluted plotlines.

Having read and enjoyed both of the aforementioned series, I found myself distracted by the myriad similarities, especially in the beginning. The details are where the differences lie and those are why I continued to read. I expected that there would be game­-changing plot twists, but still managed to be surprised by the paths the story took. I liked the book, although the formulaic writing kept me from loving it. I will give the next book in The Perfectionists series a try when it is released.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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