This week I review a historical paranormal mystery...that is a romance. I don't tend towards romances, but I had seen a few good reviews for this book so I made an exception. See how this great concept book did in the execution.
Copyright: April 2013 (Putnam Adult) 384 pgs
Series: 2nd in Ladies of Lantern Street series
Sensuality: Explicit sex scenes
Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal tinged romantic suspense
Main Character: Miss Beatrice Lockwood, undercover agent with paranormal abilities
Setting: Regency? England
Obtained Through: Library
The book opens with the heroine going by the name Miranda the Clairvoyant. Miranda finds Roland Fleming of the Academy of the Occult seriously injured by an attacker seeking her out. Fleming warns her and dies. Miranda flees and changes her name and finds employment as an undercover agent for Flint & Marsh agency. Months go by and Miranda - now Beatrice Lockwood, is making good money and has put "the bone man" who killed Roland Fleming that night in her past. Beatrice can see auric energy in people and their footprints or fingerprints, a talent she uses in her investigations. She is on assignment to keep an heiress from being kidnapped and raped to force a marriage. She runs into Joshua Gage, who used to conduct clandestine investigations for the Crown. In those days he was known as "the messenger" and worked with a mysterious Mr. Smith. Joshua had been through a terrible battle a year prior that left his leg damaged and his face badly scarred, and had thus retired. He comes out of retirement because he thought that his sister was being blackmailed by the old psychic Miranda. But once it becomes clear Miranda -now Beatrice - isn't the blackmailer, he formally hires Beatrice to assist him in finding the blackmailer. He never suspects that the bone man is behind the blackmail in an attempt to find and capture Miranda/Beatrice, he blackmailed Joshua's sister hoping he would find Miranda for him.
I am not a romance reader, but I had also read a few glowing reviews of this title, so I made an exception since it had a murder and investigation. The use of Joshua's scarred face as a device seems poorly conceived since neither Joshua nor Beatrice have any reaction or feelings about it after it is mentioned. Then why have it? His damaged leg however is used effectively to deepen his character. The romance seemed implausible and goes from stiff politeness to can't keep there hands off each other.
This series has a new agent featured from Flint & Marsh in each book. I personally felt that this book would have shone if the characters and romantic interests were able to grow over a few books rather than all in a few hundred pages.
Beatrice is an interesting character, strong, street smart, daring, and yet insightful about people. Joshua starts as the mysterious and tragic agent but shows a devoted and caring side with his sister and nephew. Hannah, Joshua's sister, is a gem and I would have loved to had her in another book to get to know her better. Nelson, Joshua's nephew, is a character that I would not be surprised to see in a future book teaming with another Flint and Marsh female agent. Nelson is a promising character. Sara Marsh, an amateur scientist and Abigail Flint are the surprise stand out characters in this book. Their interest in paranormal aspects and their inventions for their agents to use are in keeping with the time period (which is ambigious and never specified) and are creative touches.
The setting is Alverstock mansion in the country and London. The Alverstock mansion is utilized with rooms full of museum quality Egyptian artifacts large and small to generate an eerie backdrop. The London scenes have some nice gothic touches too.
The plot was okay once you get past the contrived manner of getting Gage involved (sister's blackmail can only lead to him searching for Miranda/Beatrice.) The cat and mouse action at Alverstock mansion was good. The reader knows the ultimate purpose of the "bone man" before Beatrice and Joshua, serving to create suspense. The climax had a good twist and action-filled confrontation. The wrap-up was on par for a romance.
If you enjoy paranormal mystery, plus historical romance this is a good light, enjoyable read.
Ratings: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.