A retiring spinster inadvertently becomes embroiled in solving a mystery with the crown prince of Alucia, winning his trust and love—which is a problem since he’s expected to marry, but he can’t marry her.
“At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge.” The judge is The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, Eliza’s father. The family is highly respectable but common. However, Eliza’s sister, Hollis, runs a ladies’ gazette, and their closest friend, Caro, is an aristocrat. Caro and Hollis routinely mingle in society events, but after a youthful indiscretion, Eliza is mostly content to live vicariously through them while helping her blind father navigate his physical and professional spaces with cheerful efficiency. Unusually, she decides to attend a masquerade ball arranged to help Prince Sebastian find an English bride. When a masked stranger cynically tries to seduce her, she’s amused, then tickled and surprised when she realizes it was the prince. After the dance, Sebastian’s personal secretary is murdered, and a note with a rumor hinting at the possible culprit is delivered to the Tricklebank family’s home. Hollis publishes the gossip, which leads to a rude visit from the prince. Eliza throws him out—a novel experience for Sebastian—but subsequent run-ins between the two highlight her honesty, intelligence, and wisdom, which he comes to depend on as they work the case together. Sebastian wants Eliza, but she’s not an appropriate match since he’s not allowed to wed a commoner. London’s newest series launch is a charming read, but don’t come to it for the mystery, which feels hodgepodge and poorly motivated. Where it works is as a perfect showcase for the delightful Eliza, an anti-Cinderella who captures the prince not with her beauty but with her precious real self.
A fun, touching “prince meets real girl” Victorian fairy-tale romance.