Need a froth fix? Holding your breath until the next season of Downton Abbey? Fan of all things CW?
As I said about its predecessor, Cinders & Sapphires, it’s not ultranuanced, it’s not particularly surprising, it’s not a “Serious Work of Litrachure”...but it’s entirely enthralling, full of characters like: Rose, the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat, raised as a housemaid but now navigating her debut season; Ava, her half sister who’s about to become engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in England, even though she’s secretly in love with a young Indian student named Ravi; the Duke of Huntleigh, a superrich artist with a superbad reputation who’s got his eye on Rose, but who doesn’t know that she used to be a housemaid; Ava and Rose’s stepsister Charlotte, who has been secretly carrying on an affair with the same bachelor who is pursuing Ava but who is ALSO making a play for the Duke of Huntleigh; Sebastian, who is in love with his valet Oliver…who, as if there aren’t ENOUGH obstacles standing in the way of their romance, happens to be about to stand trial for murder; and Michael, who is in love with Priya, the nursemaid, who is carrying a Dreadful Secret*....
You get the idea. And those are only a FEW of the characters and storylines! Rasheed clearly comes from the Dickens school of literature, in that there are apparently only 43 people living in London: Every single detail—right down to the romance novel that everyone in the book is obsessed with—factors in, coincidences abound (in a generally delightful manner) and there’s a healthy dose of humor to balance out all of the soapiness:
Charlotte was surprised at and rather proud of her ability to make things up on the spur of the moment. Perhaps I should write a novel after I am the Duchess of Huntleigh, she thought. She quickly dismissed the thought; far too much like work.
While there are a few one-note characters—a couple of out-and-out Mustache Twirling Villains and a Doomed Innocent—for the most part, the character development is much stronger and more multifaceted than in the first book. In terms of plotting, I was especially pleased to see at least one pair get a Happy Ending** and another character get a fabulous (and not romance-based!) Happy Ending—in my experience, both of those things are quite unusual in this subgenre of series fiction.
I’m not sure how I’m going to make it a whole year for the next one: Do you have any favorites to recommend?
*Actually, I shouldn’t poke fun, because it is a truly Dreadful Secret. And while the villain ultimately gets some amount of comeuppance, that doesn’t do much for poor Priya.
**Well, it might not bode well that WWI hits when they’re honeymooning in Egypt, but their love life is in good shape, at least!
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.