Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

27774658This is the last (for now) book in the Her Royal Spyness series that I’ve been plowing through for the last year or so. I had to take a brief pause while reading this as I ran out of time on my library renewal, so I had to send it back and request it again. It’s a VERY quick read, though!

This time the crime happens before Georgie even gets involved, which is a nice change of pace! Georgie and Darcy are heading to Gretna Green to elope, when they stop for the night and find out that Darcy’s father’s been arrested for murder. Darcy drops everything to go back to Ireland to help out and then breaks it off with Georgie because the scandal will follow her forever. Luckily, Georgie doesn’t give up and heads to Ireland to help out, whether he wants her there or not. Additionally, Darcy’s former paramour-turned-benefactor/friend, Princess Alexandra “Zhou Zhou” Zamanska flies her little plane over to Ireland, not wanting to be left out of the “fun.”

Georgie and Darcy’s investigating feels a lot more realistic in this book. It’s also great to see Darcy’s family and learn a little more about his life before he bumped into Georgie and began his life as an international man of mystery. The murder case gets wrapped up off screen for the most part, so that’s not as satisfying, especially since you know it was never going to be Darcy’s father going to hang. The Queenie situation also wraps up quite nicely, so I’m happy to see how Georgie proceeds from here.

Ten books is a nice round number, but I do hope there’s at least one more for Georgie and Darcy. I’m sure there would be a murder or some crime to investigate as they lead up to their big, white wedding. Fingers crossed!

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The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

23014679I’m clearly not doing very well with my book challenge this year, but it’s only February!

As much as I’ve enjoyed Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, I’ve also enjoyed her non-series fiction as well. She’s become one of my favorite writers. Which is why I was so disappointed by this book. It was so formulaic that I almost felt like I had read it before.

Our heroine, Rachel Woodley, is a governess in 1920s France when she gets word that her mother is dying. By the time she makes it home, her mother has passed and her landlord is ready to kick her out of the family house. As she’s cleaning up, she finds that the father she thought died when she was four isn’t quite as dead as she thought. From here, it goes Pygmalion as she tries to worm her way into her father’s social circle through her half-sister’s group of friends. With an unlikely benefactor sponsoring her revenge plot, she tries to fit in while trying to figure out what she really wants if she gets into her father’s house.

The beats felt familiar, though perhaps that’s the Downton Abbey influence. Her romance seems like an afterthought and I felt like it was even a little unnecessary. I know I’m a “modern” woman reading about a lady a century before me, but I guess I’d love to read a piece where the lady doesn’t wind up with the man and does get that secretary job she’s been talking about all novel long. Maybe next time.

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

18693637This is one of the better Pink Carnation novels and it makes me sad that there’s only one more book in this series. It also made me want to start reading them again from the beginning to get a better handle on all these ancillary characters. I recognize their names, but can’t remember much more about them.

Anyway, this is Sally Fitzhugh’s story (little sister of Turnip Fitzhugh). She meet-cutes Lucien, presumed vampire of London, in his backyard after being dared by her friends to hop the fence. Oh those 1806 hijinks! Lucien’s back in London after being away for 12 years after discovering his parents’ murdered at their estate in Hullingden. (Oh yeah, Lucien’s a duke.) He’s ready to solve their murder (though conventional wisdom says that his mother killed his father and then herself) and Sally ropes herself into helping. There’s a lovely “we’re going to pretend to be engaged and then fall in love” storyline, which totally works, even though it’s completely predictable. I didn’t realize who the real killer was until it was being revealed, so that was an added bonus.

Eloise and Colin are still together in 2004 (so funny that it seems like so long ago even though it was pretty contemporary when the series started 10 books ago). As per usual, Colin is being weird and Eloise is freaking out about it, without talking about it. I used to love their romance, but since they are stuck in the same year for 10 books, I’ve grown a little tired of how slowly everything moves. But it looks like things are going to wrap up nicely with them all the same in the last book, so good for them!

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

20856664While I enjoyed The American Heiress, I wasn’t as enthralled with this novel. Set in 1875, it’s the story of Captain Bay Middleton meeting the “Lennox Heiress,” Charlotte Baird and then meeting Sisi, Empress of Austria and trying to decide between the two. I mean, there’s a lot more to it (almost 500 pages worth) and all these folks did exist according to the author’s note at the end, but in the end, Captain Middleton is really trying to decide what kind of fortune he wants for himself.

Charlotte seems lovely, if stuck by the societal conventions of the day. The Empress of Austria is no gallant heroine, and though I suspect you’re supposed to feel some sympathy for her, married to a man she doesn’t love, she’s royalty, and her husband likes her enough to let her go off to England for hunting season, so it can’t be all bad. Given the state of women in 1875, simply being “bored” in Vienna doesn’t really seem like the human rights violation she purports it to be. Our Fortune Hunter is probably a nice guy, but it’s hard to tell most of the time and I’m not sure who to root for the further you get into the book. At one point, after a misplaced note causes a Three’s Company-level confusion for Bay and Charlotte, which leads Bay to just take up with the Empress without much thought or effort on his part to find Charlotte, I kinda gave up on him.

Everything works out in the end, or so it seems you’re supposed to feel it does, but it really feels unearned.

Spring Awakening by T. J. Brown

16130248The Great War has come to Summerset Abbey and none of our ladies is left unscathed.

Prudence doesn’t want Andrew to enlist, but he does anyway. And when she asks her sister to use her connections to keep him safe, the request puts a rift between Andrew and Prudence that may never be repaired. Rowena is trying to forget about her first love while planning a wedding to her fake fiance. She contributes to the war effort by flying planes from the factory to the airbases. Little Victoria recovers well from her imprisonment, moving to London with her nurse and favorite housemaid. She works a volunteer nurse in London and then on the front in France.

Each sister goes through big changes through the first year of the war. It makes me wonder what would happen if we got to follow the ladies further. But at the same time, it was nice to see the books have a nice ending for each of the sisters (unlike Downton Abbey).