Sarra Manning, London, with Love
This contemporary novel follows Jen Richards from her awkward adolescence in 1986 to her middle age in 2021. When she was 16, she was an insecure kid who strongly identified with Sylvia Plath, and she was desperately in love with her brooding, pretentious best friend, Nick. As the years go by, she and Nick pass in and out of each other’s lives, but they can never completely ignore the strong connection between them. I don’t think this is a bad book, but it ultimately wasn’t for me. While I sympathized and related to adolescent Jen, I found her less likable as she got older and (theoretically) more mature. I also didn’t think her relationship with Nick was healthy, so I was never really rooting for the romance. I think this book might really resonate with people who grew up in London during this specific time — but since I’ve barely even been to London (though would love to go back!), I don’t have that nostalgia. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I just don’t think I’m the ideal audience for it.
Kristin Vayden, Fortune Favors the Duke
Six months ago, Quin’s older brother died tragically and unexpectedly, making Quin the new duke of Wesley. Now a grieving Quin must grapple with his new responsibilities, when all he really wants to do is continue his career as a Cambridge professor. Meanwhile, the late duke’s fiancée, Lady Catherine Greatheart, is grieving too, but she’s accepted that it’s time to move on. As Quin and Catherine support one another in their shared loss, they develop romantic feelings but are unsure whether they ought to pursue a relationship. This was another disappointing Regency romance. The premise — man falls for his dead brother’s fiancée — had so much potential, but it’s barely explored. Quin and Catherine fall for each other pretty quickly, with minimal guilt, and the book’s main conflict turns out to involve an external villain. Where was the guilt, the uncertainty, the struggle against (arguably) inappropriate feelings? In my opinion, exploring that conflict would have been way more interesting than the random troublemaker’s shenanigans. Further, the writing style was awkward and inauthentic, and I didn’t even believe in the central romance. I’m glad I got the e-book for free, but I wouldn’t recommend it even at that price.
Hannah March, Death Be My Theme
After a serious illness, Robert Fairfax is convalescing in the rural outskirts of London when he encounters another mystery: Curmudgeonly Gabriel Chilcott falls to his death down a flight of stairs with an expression of horrified shock on his face. The incident appears to be a tragic accident, but then why did Chilcott’s much younger wife lie about the man seen leaving her bedroom? When a local servant is murdered shortly afterwards, Robert investigates and uncovers a particularly cold-blooded killer. This might be my favorite book of the series yet! The mystery plot is very well done, and I also liked the development of Robert’s ill-fated romance with the married Cordelia. There’s even a cameo appearance by the Mozart family, and a mistake in one of 8-year-old Wolfgang’s compositions proves to be a vital clue. I’m hoping the next (and, alas, final) book will give a satisfying ending to the series!