Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar's Abbey isn't the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill--though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome--is anything but a romantic hero.
He Needed Redemption...
Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household--and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.
Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena's past threatens, will Justin's burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?
I have pretty strict rules about the historical romances that I will read. Generally they need to be recommended by some trusted sources on Twitter. When I pick them myself I tend to get horrible books that I DNF. That’s why I’m so excited about this book. I chose this one from the description on the book tour and I absolutely loved it!
Helena is on the run but she isn’t flighty or impetuous. Her escape from her family has been well planned. She needs to get married in order to wrest control of her inheritance from her relatives. She is unable to control it herself because she is a woman so she is in desperate need of a husband.
Justin returned from being a prisoner of war in India and in an act of pure spite, managed to seize control of the largest house from its impoverished gentleman owner. Now he is hated by the community and just wants to be left alone. His secretary and a lawyer friend though have advertised for a bride for him. He’s ignored them up to now when his friend in London sent him a woman who is obviously in trouble.
I loved that these were both sensible, no-nonsense people. There was a real threat that Helena was running from based on newspaper accounts of the time. This was a great way to get actual historical issues into the story.
This book felt comfortable from the opening pages. I was pulled directly into the story. This is the type of historical romance that I love and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of The Matrimonial Advertisement! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath's premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.
Determined to break from her father's iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington's into a new decade, embracing woman's equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.
This book takes place in 1910 in Bath. I read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t see many books set in this time period. I was interested to read about a woman who is trying to take over her family business at a time when this was not an acceptable thing to do. This is also a time of great changes in retail. Ready to wear clothing is becoming more popular. Being able to touch the merchandise without a clerk helping you is a new idea.
I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book. In the beginning the writing was a bit clunky. There was a whole lot more description of what people were thinking than showing their actions on the page. I set the book aside for a while because of this. I don’t know if I would have picked it back up if it wasn’t a review book for me and if I wasn’t really interested in the premise.
I’m not sure if the writing improved as I got into the story or if I just accepted it as I went along but it didn’t bother me as much as I got deeper into the book. There are several conflicts here:
The heroine who wants to run the store versus her father who wants her to marry and live the life of a rich housewife.
The hero who wants to expand from a small family store to selling their merchandise in department stores over his father’s objections.
There was conflict between the heroine and hero’s families in the past.
Should department stores continue to cater to the wealthy or should they bring in lower price clothing for the new middle class customers? Would the wealthy continue to shop there if you let lower classes in the same stores?
It was interesting to see the ideas that were considered so progressive (and potentially alarming) that are commonplace now. The anti-woman rhetoric was as expected. Women aren’t smart enough to be in business. Suffragettes are just rabble-rousers causing the downfall of society.
This is a good book for anyone who loves historical fiction where you learn a lot about a topic.
1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.
The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.
Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?
I loved Helena. At the beginning of the book she has just been widowed for the second time although she is only in her early 20s. She is the youngest daughter in a large family. Because of that she has always been treated as a child. They even call her “Baby” although her brother is younger than her.
Helena is shocked by the death of her husband and is starting to get angry about the way her family has swooped in assuming that she is a problem that needs to be managed again. She declares that she is not going to be married off again. She is going to manage her own estate. She is not going to be pushed out of her own life any more.
Then her late husband’s doctor tells her that he doesn’t believe his death was accidental but that the other men on the inquiry panel ruled against him. Most of those men are related to her. What are they trying to hide?
There are several plot lines in this book.
How did Helena’s husband actually die?
Helena standing up for herself with her family
A tenant farmer’s death
I enjoyed reading about Helena’s relationships with each of the people in her large family. She’s always accepted the surface version of things but now that she’s starting to dig deeper into her life, things aren’t always as she assumed. Her little brother is overbearing and too enamored of his status as the head of the family but he isn’t always wrong about what she should do with her life. Her mother and father may not have had the idyllic marriage that Helena imagined. There may be more to her free-spirited artist sister than she expects. All these relationships set up storylines that can continue into other books in the series.
The book dives into disability during this time period also. Helena’s mother is in the late stages of dementia. She has a full time nurse but the mental toll on family members and on Helena’s mother is discussed in ways appropriate to the time period. Helena’s brother reads as autistic. At this time, that wasn’t a described condition so he is mostly considered odd and sometimes offputting. But, his wife loves him and understands him and helps him interact with his family and the rest of the world. Helena has a physically disabled nephew who she loves but who is treated as feeble-minded by his parents even though he is not. She helps him learn to stand up for himself as she learns it for herself.
I’m not a fan of books where lay people investigate crimes unless the story sets up a good reason why the authorities can’t be involved. In this case the authorities of the area are all family members who may be involved. The doctor is French and may be a spy. You never know quite who you can trust.
I will definitely read the next book in this series.
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two eBooks of Lady Helena Investigates by Jane Steen! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US residents only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British accent according to just about every American she meets.
Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Around the edges of her professional occupations and raising children, she stuck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she had the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author.
Jane has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.
On her 25th birthday, Charlotte Appleby receives a most unusual gift from the Faerie godmother she never knew she had: the ability to change shape.
Penniless and orphaned, she sets off for London to make her fortune as a man. But a position as secretary to Lord Cosgrove proves unexpectedly challenging. Someone is trying to destroy Cosgrove and his life is increasingly in jeopardy.
As Charlotte plunges into London’s backstreets and brothels at Cosgrove’s side, hunting his persecutor, she finds herself fighting for her life—and falling in love…
This is historical romance series with a fantasy twist. Once upon a time a fairy was helped by a woman. In exchange, she asked for each of her female descendants to be granted one wish when they are in their early twenties. This series covers a few of the descendants as they choose their gift and then deal with the consequences in their lives. I hadn’t read a series before that combined fantasy and Regency romance.
In the first book Charlotte decides to wish for the ability to shapeshift. She uses this gift to disguise herself as a man to attempt to live an independent life. This is a good opening for some social commentary about the restrictions on women. The book is also funny as Charlotte tries to control a male body with its over large hands and obvious responses to sexual attraction. Her employer (and eventual love interest) thinks he is taking a young, particularly naive man under his wing and teaching what life in London is like. As their friendship and attraction deepen, both need to comes to terms with their own understanding of what it means to be attracted to a personality no matter the shape of the body that it is in.
Sir Barnaby Ware made a mistake two and a half years ago. A massive mistake. The sort of mistake that can never be atoned for.
He knows himself to be irredeemable, but the captivating and unconventional Miss Merryweather is determined to prove him wrong…
The daughter of a dancing master and a noblewoman, Miss Merryweather had an unusual upbringing. She sees things no one else sees—and she says things no one else says.
Sir Barnaby knows he’s the villain in this piece, but Miss Merryweather thinks he’s the hero—and she is damnably hard to resist…
Barnaby Ware was introduced in book 1 as the man who broke up a marriage and a lifelong friendship by having an affair. When the wronged party attempts to reach out to him in forgiveness, he resists because he feels that what he did was unforgivable. When he visits his former friend he meets Miss Merryweather. Unbeknownst to him, she is due to receive her fairy gift in a few days.
This is a novella instead of a full length novel. It is also the most forgettable of these books for me. I was more interested in the friendship that was trying to be repaired instead of the romance that is supposed to be blossoming.
Letitia Trentham is noteworthy for three reasons. One, she’s extremely wealthy. Two, she can distinguish truth from lies. Three, she’s refused every man who’s ever proposed to her.
Until Letty receives a proposal she can’t turn down.
Icarus Reid barely survived the Battle of Vimeiro. He lives for one thing—to find the man who betrayed him to the French. He doesn’t want to marry Miss Trentham; he wants to use her talent for uncovering lies.
Suddenly, Letty finds herself breaking the rules, pretending to be someone she’s not, and doing things a lady would never do. But her hunt for the truth may uncover more than one secret—including the secret that haunts Icarus day and night. The secret he intends to take to his grave…
This is one of my favorites of the series. Lydia has been living with her gift – the ability to tell lies from truth – for several years. She has refused all offers of marriage because she knows that the men have only wanted her money and not her. She gets involved with an injured former soldier who hears about her ability (but not the magical reason). He wants her to help him find out what happened in the ambush where he was injured and all his companions were killed.
I liked the fact that this book had an older and wiser heroine. She’s seen it all moving through society with the ability to cut through all the games and polite phrases. The chance to do something new thrills her.
Icarus is suffering from severe PTSD. He’s suicidal and has nightmares every night. It is a good representation of this. As the wife of a veteran with PTSD, I appreciated the thoughtful portrayal.
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock…
Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it.
But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue.
He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…
I did not like this book. I wanted to. This book focuses on two male characters who were important in the last book. I liked them. I wanted to find out more about their relationship. My problem with this one was the way the sex was handled. I’m not a huge fan of sex in books anyway. I much prefer slow burn romances and fade to black sex scenes. While the other books have had sex scenes there was enough romance and character development to balance them.
In this book, there is just sex. You don’t get the romantic parts that were seen in the other books. I think that the difference was here because it was switched to a m/m story instead of a male/virginal female story. I don’t think that is a good reason to leave out the romance and tenderness though. Relationship development is still important and that didn’t happen here.
Eleanor Wrotham has sworn off overbearing men, but she needs a man’s help—and the man who steps forward is as domineering as he is dangerous: the notorious Mordecai Black.
The illegitimate son of an earl, Mordecai is infamous for his skill with women. His affairs are legendary—but few people realize that Mordecai has rules, and one of them is: Never ruin a woman.
But if Mordecai helps Miss Wrotham, she will be ruined.
Eleanor is searching for her sister, who ran away to marry a soldier. Eleanor’s fiance ran off because of the scandal her sister caused. Her father and aunt kept her sister’s letters from her. Now she has found a several month old letter saying that her sister is in trouble. The only person willing to help her is a relative of the man who jilted her.
This ends up being a road trip story like book 3. I don’t think it is quite as strong as that one but is enjoyable nonetheless.
At the age of four Lord Vickery was stolen by gypsies and sold to a chimney sweep. At the age of five he was reunited with his father. His history is no secret—everyone in the ton knows of his miraculous rescue.
But when Vickery finds his father’s diaries, he discovers that there may be a secret buried in his past…
Georgiana Dalrymple knows all about secrets. She has several herself—and one of those secrets is her ability to find missing people.
When Lord Vickery turns to her for help, Georgiana sets out to discover just who he actually is…
Georgiana can find anything, including the answers to old mysteries if she just asks the right questions. But is uncovering the truth always for the best?
I liked this book a lot. It was nice to see the heroine trying to convince the hero that she would stand by him instead of the other other way around like it is common in a lot of historical romances. There is no meet-cute here. They have known each other all their lives and their relationship is formed out of their friendship. It was a nice end to the series.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this series if you like historical romances. Just skip the third book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there?
Mary Quinn is given a last minute reprieve from the gallows and is sent to a school for girls. She is savvy enough to know that this is very strange. She doesn’t know what is behind it until years later when she finishes her education and is offered a place in a detective agency run by the headmistresses of the school.
Mary has secrets of her own. She is an orphan and knows that her father was Chinese. In 1850s London Chinese people are not admitted to polite society. She explains away her dark coloring by saying that she is Black Irish. That settles things for most English people but Chinese people she meets recognize the truth about her.
The Agency places its agents undercover as maids or ladies’ companions because women are considered not smart enough to be spies. They can infiltrate places that men would never be able to get.
On Mary’s first assignment she runs into James Easton in a closet while snooping. He is snooping about the family she is assigned to also but for different reasons. They are forced to work together. Mary and James have great chemistry in this series. It is a slow romance that has many reasonable obstacles.
Now nearly a full-fledged member of the Agency, the all-female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, Mary Quinn is back for another action-packed adventure. Disguised as a poor apprentice builder and a boy, she must brave the grimy underbelly of Victorian London - as well as childhood fear, hunger, and constant want - to unmask the identity of a murderer. Assigned to monitor a building site on the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, Mary earns the confidence of the work crew, inching ever nearer her suspect. But if an irresistible desire to help the city's needy doesn't distract her and jeopardize her cover, unexpectedly meeting up with an old friend - or flame - just might.
The Agency has always placed female operatives but one of the founders wants to expand. She agrees to let Mary go undercover as a boy in order to get a large contract. They are hired to figure out part of the reason why a man was murdered at the construction site of the Houses of Parliament. Mary knows nothing about construction but is trying to fit in with her new crew when an engineer comes to do a review of the building practices. It is a physically and emotionally battered and beaten down James Easton.
I think that this may be my favorite book of the series. I don’t usually say that about second books. They are usually a let down. In this one the author has already established the characters so well that you care about them and their adventures. You get a better idea of the dangerous world of the extremely poor in London. For me this book was more about life in the city and the class and gender and racial barriers that both characters are bending than the mystery.
Get steeped in suspense, romance, and high Victorian intrigue as Mary goes undercover at Buckingham Palace - and learns a startling secret at the Tower of London.
Mary is on assignment undercover in Buckingham Palace to investigate some thefts. This gives the author the chance to examine the lives of maids in Victorian times. They worked all the time. They were not supposed to be seen by members of the royal family so they had to freeze or hide if any of the nobility came into a room. They are also vulnerable to any male member of the nobility who take a fancy to them.
While investigating the thefts, Mary stumbles on a scandal involving the Prince of Wales. One of his highborn friends was killed in an opium den by a Chinese man who has the same name as her supposedly dead father. She decides to investigate this and has to face the truth of her Chinese heritage that she has managed to avoid for most of her life.
Right when she is starting to make progress, she is recalled because the Agency finds out that the engineering firm owned by James Easton will be doing some top secret work under the palace. They don’t want her to get involved with him again because he has complicated her other cases. Should she stay or should she go?
Rivals in the City (The Agency, #4)by Y.S. Lee on June 5th 2014 Pages: 352 Published byWalker
The series comes full circle as the one of the criminals from book one is dying in prison. Mary is hired to watch for the one that escaped making a last minute visit. She knows they will have a score to settle with her and James.
This was a great last book. It ties up a lot of loose ends by going back to the villains of book one and seeing how everyone has changed in the intervening years. It is hard to talk about this book much without spoilers for the series.
I binged this series over the course of a week. I absolutely loved it. On top of complex mysteries there were discussions of the intersections of race and class and gender at the time. Add a very fun and banter-filled romance on top of that and this is a great series even if mysteries aren’t usually your favorite.
About Y.S. Lee
Y S Lee was born in Singapore, raised in Vancouver and Toronto, and lived for a spell in England. As she completed her PhD in Victorian literature and culture, she began to research a story about a girl detective in 1850s London. The result was her debut novel, The Agency: A Spy in the House. This won the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s inaugural John Spray Mystery Award in 2011.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Ever since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, they proved that space travel was both possible and profitable.
Now, one century later, a plantation in the flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby. A tomboy who shares her father's deft hand with complex automatons. Being raised on the Martian frontier by her Martian nanny, Arabella is more a wild child than a proper young lady. Something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England.
Arabella soon finds herself trying to navigate an alien world until a dramatic change in her family's circumstances forces her to defy all conventions in order to return to Mars in order to save both her brother and the plantation. To do this, Arabella must pass as a boy on the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company with a mysterious Indian captain who is intrigued by her knack with automatons. Arabella must weather the naval war between Britain and France, learning how to sail, and a mutinous crew if she hopes to save her brother from certain death.
Arabella was born and raised on a plantation on Mars. Her mother is from England and wants to take her daughters back to have them raised as proper ladies. When Arabella’s father dies, she seizes the opportunity and takes them back to England, leaving Arabella’s brother in charge of the plantation.
Back on Earth, Arabella doesn’t fit in. When a nasty cousin realizes that he will be heir to the plantation if her brother dies, he jumps on an airship to Mars to kill him. Arabella realizes that she needs to get to Mars first to warn her brother.
This book felt a lot more like a sea-going novel like Horatio Hornblower than a space-traveling sci fi book.
The ships that travel to and from Mars are basically British naval vessels of the sailing era fitted with balloons. Arabella disguises herself as a boy and gets a job on a ship. Most of the book takes place on the ship on the way to Mars with aerial battles and possible strandings and mutinies.
I was interested to see how this wooden ship was going to be made able to withstand the rigors of space. Were the balloons going to wrap around it and seal the ship? Nope. In this world science is different.
There is air in space so you don’t need oxygen.
There is wind in space to move the ship using the sails.
It isn’t cold. You can wander about in normal clothes.
There’s no vacuum so you don’t explode.
The only thing different on Mars is lighter gravity.
Social issues discussed
The role of women in society
The captain of the ship Arabella works on is Indian and that doesn’t sit well with several of the white crewmembers
There are native inhabitants of Mars who the English treat as servants as they were wont to do when colonizing places. The Martians are not pleased with this.
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…
I loved the premise of the British Army using mediums to communicate with soldiers killed in battle in order to find out more about enemy troop movements. This takes place in 1916 during World War I in France during the Battle of the Somme.
This book is a great historical fantasy/mystery but it also addresses issues of class and race in the British Army at the time.
Ginger is the American niece of the titular head of the Spirit Corps. She attends all the briefings because she is better suited for that duty. Her aunt is in charge though because she is a Lady.
The most powerful medium is a West Indian woman named Helen. She isn’t known to be the mastermind behind the program because she is black and the army command won’t consider listening to her.
Indian soldiers aren’t trained on how to report in after death. They feel that it is a slight stemming from the fact that the white officers don’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to report accurate information.
Married women regardless of their abilities are not allowed to participate until things get desperate.
The women of the Spirit Corp are thought to be there to help morale in clubs like USOs. No one outside knows that they also spend time talking to the dead. No one thinks of this because they are women so how could they be doing anything vital?
I can’t talk much about the actual plot without giving away some spoilers. No men know how the Spirit Corp trains soldiers to report in. Only a few know who the mediums are. The Germans know that it is happening but want to find out how it all works. There is a spy and Ginger goes to investigate because she is one of the few people who knows all parts of the operation.
I loved the first half of the book. For me the story bogged down a little in the second half so I gave it 3.5 stars instead of 4. I’d recommend this to any historical fiction or paranormal fans.