Review: A Modest Independence

Modest IndependenceMimi Matthews, A Modest Independence

This second installment of the Parish Orphans of Devon series follows Thomas Finchley and Jenny Holloway, both of whom first appeared in The Matrimonial Advertisement. Tom is a London solicitor, and his job is his life; it was his ticket out of the orphanage and his escape from a life of poverty. His clients must always come first, even before his own needs and wants. Meanwhile, Jenny has just received a small fortune that enables her to quit her job as a ladies’ companion. She yearns to see the world and is eager to set sail for India, where she hopes to find news of an old flame who reportedly died in an uprising. Tom and Jenny are powerfully attracted to each other, but they want such different things that a romance seems out of the question. But when Tom spontaneously accompanies Jenny on her trip to India, their feelings for each other grow and intensify. Will they be able to find a way to be together despite pursuing their very different dreams?

I really enjoyed The Matrimonial Advertisement and was excited to continue with the series, but this book suffered a bit by comparison. First of all, I don’t think it stands alone very well; Tom and Jenny’s story definitely began in the first novel, and that context is important as their relationship grows in this book. Secondly, Tom’s actions occasionally rubbed me the wrong way. For example, he decides to escort Jenny to India and hires Indian servants for her without her knowledge or consent. His motives are good — he knows her journey will be more difficult and dangerous if she travels alone — but I didn’t like that he makes these decisions without consulting Jenny first. Finally, the conflict is very repetitive and became frustrating for me. Nearly all the conversations between Tom and Jenny deal with the same problem: she doesn’t want to be tied down by marriage, while he isn’t cut out for a life of adventure. And after all the hand-wringing, the solution seems almost too easy. But while I was disappointed in this book, it wasn’t a bad read by any means, and I definitely plan to continue with the series!

Review: Death in the Andamans

Death in the AndamansM.M. Kaye, Death in the Andamans

Caroline Ophelia Phoebe Elizabeth Randal, known to her friends as Copper, is staying with school chum Valerie on the tiny island of Ross in the Andaman Islands. The vast majority of the population is Burmese, but there is a small British community on the island as well, and Copper and Val naturally form part of this society. At first Copper views the island as a paradise, especially when compared to her rather dreary life in London; and the most upsetting aspect of her visit so far is her feelings for Nick Tarrent, a visiting naval officer who is friends with Valerie’s fiancé. But everything changes one fateful day when a terrible storm leads to widespread destruction on the island, and one of the British plantation owners is found dead. His death is assumed to be accidental until another visiting officer, who happens to be a doctor, suspects foul play. Then the doctor himself is murdered, and it slowly dawns on Copper and the others that the murderer has to be one of them — the storm has cut off all access from the outside world. Can Copper and her friends unmask the murderer before he or she kills again?

I’ve finally read the last of M.M. Kaye’s “Death in…” books, and I’m sorry to have reached the end of them. They all essentially follow the same formula — young woman visits exotic location, falls in love, and becomes involved with a murder — but it’s a formula that appeals to me, so I don’t mind! This book did a wonderful job describing the setting, which is unsurprising, since Kaye actually lived in the Andamans for a while and even experienced a storm like the one in the book! The fact that Copper and her friends were completely cut off from the outside world produced the proper atmosphere of creepy suspense; I was reminded at times of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I didn’t particularly like the fact that there was a lot of head-hopping in the book, from Copper to Val to Nick to various other characters. I also thought the solution of the mystery came out of nowhere. While the plot does hang together, I wasn’t terribly satisfied by the revelation of the murderer, as many other suspects could just as easily have committed the murders for the same reason. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and am sad that I don’t have any more M.M. Kaye mysteries to look forward to!