Thursday, January 28, 2016

What I Read in August 2015 Part III

What I Read in August 2015 Part III ...

John Pickett Mysteries

by Sheri Cobb South

In Milady's Chamber by Sheri Cobb South --Regency mystery 

In Milady's Chamber (John Pickett Mysteries, #1) Julia, Lady Fieldhurst is stuck in a loveless, childless marriage. She knows her husband is unfaithful to her but she's been faithful so far. One particular night, when her husband was expecting a visitor, she accepted the escort of Lord Rupert Latham and a little tipsy, made the decision to cuckold her husband. Before the couple can make it to the bed, they discover the lifeless body of Lord Fieldhearst lying in Lady F's chamber with her nail scissors stuck in his neck. 24-year-old John Pickett, a Bow Street Runner, is assigned the case. He's instantly smitten with Lady Fieldhurst and is positive she didn't do it. The clues don't add up to any particular suspect and if he can't solve the crime, Lady Fieldhurst will end up in Newgate or worse.

This isn't a traditional Regency romance or a traditional Regency where the hero and heroine work together to solve a mystery and it isn't a cozy mystery either. It's a nice in-between genre: light romance and light mystery with more emphasis on the mystery. I couldn't put it down though I knew who the murderer was. I was wrong about the reason though. That surprised me as much as Julia. The plot is fast paced and the writing style is good. It sounds old-fashioned and there are enough period details to satisfy a Regency lover but not too many words or descriptions to confuse a newcomer to the genre.

I liked Julia. I felt bad for her that her husband was such a nasty character. I wanted her to be happy, but not with Rupert. He was also a bit of a nasty character and a fortune hunter. Julia is a sympathetic character. She handles the whole murder thing quite well and makes appropriate plans for her future considering her social status and the time period. Her solution will appeal to modern readers while still being accurate. John is also a sympathetic character. He's so sweetly naive and that makes him endearing. He may be starry-eyed over Julia but he's also smart. He didn't figure out the big clue I guessed right away but that's because of his background. Julia may have been able to guess but she is also very innocent and probably wouldn't have thought of it. I like how John loves Julia but knows his place and does his job. He's a character I'd like to read more of and see a happily ever after for.

A Dead Bore (John Pickett Mysteries, #2)
Dead Bore  
Lady Fieldhurst is supposed to be mourning her late husband, but all she feels is bored and confined by the lack of Society in London. Her best friend encourages her to remove to Brighton with everyone else, but Julia wishes to go where no one has heard of her scandal. She accepts an invitation to a house party in Yorkshire, but quickly comes to regret her decision. She's been invited not for her company, but to convince the daughter of the house that a London Season is a grand and exciting affair. Julia does not look fondly on her Season or her marriage and refuses to encourage Emma. The other house guests include the local Justice of the Peace Lord Kendall and his family; Mr. Carrington, a nabob; the younger Hollingshead children and a boring clergyman, Mr. Danvers. Mr. Danvers is engaged is writing a history of the village and will bore any listeners with his stories. A rainstorm brings the departed guests back, but Mr. Danvers is nowhere to be found. His charred remains are found among the burned vicarage, a sad tragedy. Julia suspects it was more than lightning that burned the vicarage. She sends for John Pickett to investigate. John can not resist Julia and is eager to help. Can he catch a killer again?

This is another light mystery/light romantic story. It doesn't spoil events of the first book so you can skip that one if you wish. The plot is more engaging than the first book. I could not put the book down until I found out the truth. I never guessed how it would end. I was really surprised even at the moment of truth. I suspected something else entirely though I was right about one secret that comes to light. John and Julia's romance really begins in this story. They tease each other, share secrets and suppositions, and keep each other company. I really like watching the budding romance unfurl. It's all so very sweet! My only complaint is that the story is a bit too long. There are too many characters and it was hard to keep them all straight and remember who was where when.

John is a very nice young man. He's so sweet and innocent. I love his interactions with women. He must be the most innocent man in London! He's such a kind friend to Julia when she needs one most and she relies on him now. She is also very kind and thoughtful and despite her curiosity, she always lets John do the investigating.

New characters include the Hollinghursts. Sir Gerald is an amiable, likable man. He has simple needs and is a loving family man and good landlord. Everyone loves him and it's not hard to see why. His wife, on the other hand, is as aristocratic as they come. Lady Anne, the daughter of an Earl, is not very kind at all. Given her history, she should have been more sympathetic but all she cares about is status. Their eldest daughter Emma is of firm mind. She appears to be an intelligent young lady and knows her own mind. Her younger sister Susannah, is very young and silly. She provides the comic relief and some very sweet moments with John. The Hollinghust heir, Philip, is a dissipated youth who feels he is bullied by his father. We don't get to know him very well, only his actions.

The clergyman, Mr. Danvers and Mr. Merriweather are not fleshed out too much. They both seem nice and Merriweather is intelligent and firm in his principles. However, he doesn't confide in his true love and he suspects her of something horrible which I don't think he should if he truly loves her. (She also suspects him). Perhaps the young lovers would not be so interested in each other if her parents agreed to let them marry. Mr. Danvers may seem boring but he has a good heart and is a clergyman because he has a calling. He appears to do good works and wants to see justice done.  The Hollinghurst servants pretty much round out the cast of characters. They're fairly stereotypical, especially the maid. I don't really get why the housekeeper was so hard on John.

Content: A prostitute friend of John's who tries to proposition him; one maid who tries to seduce John; one kiss. 

Family Plot (John Pickett mysteries, #3)
Family Plot

Julia is bored in London under strict confines of her late husband's family. A minor indiscretion at the theater gets her banished to Scotland with George Bertram's three sons. The boys are having a tough time dealing with their change in status and need a change. Julia also wants to get away from her notoriety and decides to take the boys to the ocean instead. As Mrs. Pickett, traveling with her nephews, Julia believes they will have a peaceful vacation. That wish couldn't be farther from the truth. When the boys discover the body of a woman washed ashore, the "Picketts" suddenly get swept up in a tale of a prodigal daughter returned after fifteen years. Old Angus Kirkbride isn't sure the woman is his daughter Elspeth so he sends for a Bow Street Runner. John Pickett is mooning over Julia but plans to marry Lucy in a fit of philanthropy. When his mentor gets the message from Scotland, he whisks John off to investigate. John is suddenly thrown into Julia's orbit once again. He must continually mind his place, Julia is too far above him, as his mentor keeps reminding him. As inheritance issues arise and old scandals are dredged up, and someone ends up dead John must focus on his duty, but it's very difficult since the innkeeper believes him to be Julia's husband!

I could not put this down. The reader is clued in to the mystery right away but there are still surprises in store. I wasn't entirely surprised by any of the revelations though. It seemed pretty obvious to me but I wasn't 100% convinced. The romance finally gets off the ground but the author ended with a twist and I need more NOW! I just love the chemistry between John and Julia. He's so cute and she's trying so hard to be a lady but when the two are together, there's chemistry. They're so sweet!

The new characters aren't very likable. The Kirkbrides are a proud, old family with the usual problems. Elspeth was a headstrong teenager who was so spoiled and obnoxious, she threw it all away. What happened to her in the meantime is unknown. She doesn't seem a whole lot more likeable as an adult. She cares about her father, nominally, anyway. I don't know how much of her is an act and that's a problem. Her revelations at the end didn't surprise me much. Her cousins are both unlikable. One is too nice to be true and one is always angry whenever Elspeth is around. He's the only one I have respect for because he didn't welcome her with open arms. He was properly skeptical. I found Gavin a bit too slick for my tastes. His London manners don't impress me much.

George's boys: Harold, Robert and Edward are having a tough time. I don't really feel all that bad for them because they still have all the privileges of wealth and that upbringing, unlike John. As Julia points out, they might be better off being free of the restrictions being heirs to a Viscount brings. I feel intense sympathy for Edward. I too get sick if I sit in the middle, or backwards. The boys add some comic relief to the plot, which is nice because this one is pretty heavy.

Content: Veiled discussion of male sexual innocence; discussion of what happens to actresses who are no longer young and beautiful; discussion of Elspeth being caught in flagrante delicto with a stable lad; one young man mauling a woman and one passionate kiss (no tongues).

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