Posted by Sari
As I was temporarily widowed on new year's eve because Jukka worked the whole night through, and couldn't really leave the apartment as I have a wee puppy dog and an adult dog scared of fireworks at home, I thought I'd gobble together something on books I read last year. I ended up reading somewhere around forty books which is actually more than last year, so hurray! On the other hand, I managed to write about only very few of them, so boo!!! To rectify the situation, here are a few:
All the historicals I managed to read this year are mysteries, written by a woman and take place in late 18th or early 19th century. It is all quite unintended, but not really surprising. I have always had a soft spot for regencies, and historical mysteries are my favourite comfort reading.
Rebecca Jenkins: Duke's Agent
This is a historical mystery set in county Durham during the Regency era. Our hero, the retired army officer Raif, arrives to small town of Woolbridge to be the agent for non-resident Duke of Penrith. He is viewed by suspicion by the locals, is attacked, accused of murder and stumbles upon financial irregularities in his predecessors accounts. Duke's Agent is interesting in that it has some romance and mystery tropes familiar from regency romances, but its milieu and cast of characters is a bit off the beaten path. The management of great estates and Raif's problems with local elite and his duke's tenants are the most interesting part of the novel. The murder/mystery plot didn't really hold my interest, and Raif himself was just a bit too generic for a hero.
Anna Dean: A Moment of Silence
Another historical mystery from the beginning of the 19th-century, this is a bit more familiar affair. Our detective, Miss Dido Kent tries to unravel strange occurrences in a country house where she is staying to witness the engagement of his niece to the only son and heir of Sir Edgar Montague. Things get quite knotty when the fiance disappears and a body of a woman is found in the shrubbery. I found A Moment of Silence quite entertaining and fun, it was a Christie country house mystery moved back in time to 1805, and as such it works quite well. The mystery plot is unraveled quite satisfactorily, and Dido both has a great name and is a a fitting if a little too Miss Marpleish detective. I think I will pick up the next installments to the series at some point, when I want some fluff to go with a hammock and/or red wine and chocolates.
Tracy Grant: Secrets of a Lady
Tracy Grant blogs at http://historyhoydens.blogspot.com/, and as I have enjoyed her take on historical romance over there, I have also been looking for her historical novels. The Secrets of a Lady is a beginning of a series of a romance/mystery series set – you knew it – during the Regency, but interestingly the protagonists are already married with children when the novel opens. Mélanie and Charles Fraser are toast of London when tragedy strikes and their son is kidnapped. As both of them are competent and experienced people (they met on the continent during Wellington's Spanish campaign), they look for they boy themselves instead relying solely in authorities. During the case Mélanie has to reveal things from hist past to Charles that could end their happy marriage. Again, like with The Duke's Agent, I liked the premise a lot. It is nice to see an established, equal partnership between the protagonists at the centre of a historical romance/mystery instead of the usual boy meets girl thing. The plot seems to be a bit subservient both to the entertaining but very dramatic back story, and the tensions Mélanie's secret causes. However, that is counterbalanced by the nice depiction of the milieus of regency London. I think this is a series which actually might get better further it gets.
Barbara Hamilton: The Ninth Daughter
Fantasy author Barbara Hambly has written historical mysteries under the name of Barbara Hamilton. The Ninth Daughter is a first in series where Abigail Adams, wife of the later president John Adams solves crimes in colonial Boston. In this one, Abigail finds a dead woman in the rooms of her friend, the said friend missing. The murder might have something to do with the revolutionaries, and John Adams ends up as a suspect. As political tensions rise on the eve of Boston Tea party, and Abigail must find her missing friend and exonerate her husband. I am a fan of the Founding Fathers, American Revolution and John and Abigail Adams, so this was one of those must-have books. It could have been a terrible disappointment, but luckily this was not the case. The novel was well plotted, the historical Boston nicely depicted, and the characters were not caricatures of themselves. In the light of Abigail's and John's famously companionable and by the day's standards equal marriage, it is nice that themes of women's autonomy were addressed in the plot. Again, a series I am going to continue reading.