The subtitle. Being the Latest Volume in the Entirely True and Wholly Remarkable Adventures of Margaret Preston Fitzroy, Maid of Honor, Impersonator of Persons of Quality, Confirmed Housebreaker, Apprentice Cardsharper, and Confidential Agent at the Court of His Majesty, King George I—the fabulosity of it begs the question: Why have ridiculously long subtitles gone out of fashion? (Ditto the chapter headings, which read along the lines of Chapter Nine: In Which Our Heroine Makes a Perilous Descent Among Some Unruly and Unkempt Ruffians.)
I touched the jeweled pin that decorated the center of my stomacher—an item I’d requested my patron, Mr. Tinderflint, to commission especially for me—and for a moment silently dared Sebastian to come closer. I had been adding some most unmaidenly skills to my arsenal over the past months, and my carefully manicured fingers were itching for an excuse to unleash them on this particular visitor.
She’s fought off unwelcome advances, been thrown out of her own home, thrust into a shadowy world of intrigue, and even faced death with aplomb. She’s funny and smart and brave and capable of conniving with the best of them, but when it comes to dealing with the couture of the day, she is a tad less dauntless:
It was a dread and terrible time to be a maid of honor, for we found ourselves in the midst of the storm of revolution. For women, the wig had gone out of fashion.
The Scarlet Pimpernel makes an appearance. Yes, The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in 1792, while this book is set in 1716, but a Lord Blakeney who is attired in “a coat of a truly amazing shade of blushing rose silk” couldn’t be anyone but, right?
The romance takes a backseat to the rest. Even better than that, Peggy and Matthew are already head-over-heels in love, and—minus a few moments of trepidation—there is no tiresome Oh, no, what if he doesn’t really love me/Woe is me, he looks at naked women at art school/How can I choose between my heart and my life’s work/I can’t tell him I’m a superspy so he’s all suspicious and jealous all of the time nonsense. He is an ally and a friend, not a weakness or a complication, and beyond finances, her job as a maid of honor in the palace, and her unwanted betrothal to a would-be rapist, there’s no real impediment to their future bliss.
Everything else. It has brains, humor and heart, and it was such a joy to read that I followed my husband around the house with it, reading aloud*. I never had any doubts that it would all turn out okay in the end, but there is still plenty of suspense (the climatic game of piquet!) and drama (a Bad Man kicks a pregnant lapdog!**), so much so that I kept catching myself skimming ahead to be sure that everything really WOULD turn out happily. While I wait for the next installment, I’m going to catch up with Mary Quinn, the heroine of Y.S. Lee’s The Agency series, but if you know of something else along similar lines, please, please, PLEASE let me know. I’m already in withdrawal.
*Winter is hard on him, as it’s much more difficult to escape to the outdoors.
**I gasped aloud, I kid you not.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.