Lauren Willig, The Deception of the Emerald Ring
Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, a spy working with the Pink Carnation, has been in love with the beautiful Mary Alsworthy for years. But when he accidentally compromises her younger sister, Letty, the two are forced into a hasty marriage, after which Geoff immediately leaves for Dublin on Carnation business. An upset Letty pursues him, hoping to convince him that she didn’t intend to trap him into marriage, but she soon gets pulled into the Pink Carnation’s mission as well. Now Geoff and Letty have to deal with an Irish rebellion and continued threats from the Black Tulip — not to mention their own growing feelings for each other. I don’t remember this being one of my favorite installments of the series, but this time around I felt there was a noticeable improvement in both Willig’s writing style and the plausibility of the plot. Geoff is more believable as a spy than either Richard or Miles, and the story—while still light and fun—feels a bit more grounded in reality than the previous books. Looking forward to book four even more now!
Benjamin Stevenson, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone
Ernie Cunningham is approaching his family reunion at an Australian ski resort with some trepidation. The reunion is meant to welcome back his brother Michael, who’s about to be released from prison — but it’s Ernie’s testimony that put him there. At the resort, things go from bad to worse when a murdered body is found on the slopes, and Michael is the prime suspect. Ernie feels compelled to investigate, partly to clear Michael’s name and partly because, as the book’s title indicates, everyone in his family has killed someone. This novel lets you know right away that it’s going to play with the conventions of Golden Age mysteries: Ronald Knox’s “commandments” are reproduced at the beginning of the book, and Ernie promises he’s going to be a reliable narrator. So this is a bit of a meta mystery, and part of the game is also figuring out whom all the Cunninghams have killed and why. Stripped of these gimmicks, the central mystery isn’t all that unique (and actually quite reminiscent of a certain Agatha Christie novel), but it’s still a good read that I’d recommend if the premise interests you.
Mary Balogh, The Temporary Wife and A Promise of Spring
In The Temporary Wife, Anthony Earheart marries the prim and plain-seeming Charity Duncan solely to anger the father he despises. After a few weeks of visiting his family to rub his marriage in his father’s face, he plans to set up a separate establishment for Charity, which she needs to support her impoverished siblings. Visiting his family reopens old wounds, but it also may bring healing and even love. In A Promise of Spring, Grace Howard is left destitute when her brother dies. She is rescued by a gallant proposal from the lively, charming, 10-years-younger Peregrine Lampman, but secrets from her past threaten their marriage. I’m a Balogh fan and enjoyed both of these novels, though The Temporary Wife is the standout. I loved Anthony’s slow transformation from anger and emotional repression to vulnerability. I’m glad I picked up this volume and will definitely be keeping it on my shelves!