Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What I Read in December 2015 Part VI

What I Read in December 2015 Part VI ...

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe -- Historical Mystery/Romance 

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc Wealthy socialite Anna Blanc is tired of living under the tyrannical thumb of her father. It's 1907 in Los Angeles not Europe in the Middle Ages. She's read unsuitable books and asked her father for things to make her happy but without success. Her only recourse is to run away. Enter Louis Taylor, her soon-to-be husband, if they can make it to Las Vegas without her father finding out. The elopement is semi-successful - Anna manages a wedding but unfortunately the marriage is annulled faster than she can discover the secrets of married life. Anna resolves to try again to do all she can to escape, but under strict chaperonage, it's difficult to do. She finally manages to take a job as a police matron. The job is difficult - Anna is hardly qualified- and the men are mostly rude and crude. When she discovers a vital clue in the deaths of a number of prostitutes and urges the police to take her seriously. It seems no one cares what happens to prostitutes. The police are focused on catching the Boyle Heights Rape Fiend with Anna's assistance. Anna is put on duty under cover with her antagonist, Joe Singer, the police chief's son. In the name of police duty, Anna pretends to be his sweetheart and kisses Joe. The kiss sends her body tingling in the nether regions and makes her head spin. She never knew kissing could be so delightful. If only her new fiance would kiss her now and again. She's certain she'll learn to love him once they're married and she'll even give up police work, but she does like Joe immensely. What's the difference between liking someone immensely and loving someone? Will she have the chance to find out? If her father and fiance find out about her job and Joe, they'll lock her up and throw away the key. There's also a murderer and a rape fiend on the loose. Can she solve the crimes before her wedding?

I had mixed feelings about this book. The plot was compelling and I never guessed who the rape field or murderer was. I suspected the same thing as Anna did towards the end but the author threw in a delightful twist that turned what I/Anna thought on it's head. I thought the rape fiend plot was too much of an aside and the novel could have been trimmed a bit. There's a bit too much of dead bodies, visiting brothels and passionate kissing scenes that pad the novel. I also really wanted to know what happened to one of the villains and what the law actually was for that sort of thing. Yes it's a terrible terrible thing to do but I wonder whether that person would be hanged or get off with a jail sentence. I'm not marking this book as clean or kisses only though technically it is. There's a lot of racy dialogue, passionate kissing scenes, a rape fiend, a frank sentence describing treatment for hysteria, visits to brothels, and violence. I can nitpick a few things that weren't around yet in 1907 but the author does acknowledge this in the beginning of her book so she's forgiven. The author did an amazing job researching 1907 Los Angeles and wove the details seamlessly into the story. However, I have no frame of reference for Los Angeles and would have liked to see a map or have the story set in New York, Boston or London but that's because I've been to those cities and am familiar with the geography.

My main beef with this story is Anna! She is TSTL (too stupid to live). I cringed as I turned the pages anticipating her next madcap scheme. She's a sheltered innocent longing to break free from her gilded cage. She acts very immature for her age. Her innocence and longing for adventure don't make her a very appealing heroine. I felt like locking her up myself. I find it a bit hard to believe she could connect the dots to solve the mystery of the murdered prostitutes. I couldn't have put the clues together. I did admire her pluck and determination to solve her problems on her on. I didn't like her relationship with Joe. She strung him along and played with his emotions. He was the only central character I remotely liked but I wish more of the story had been from his point-of-view so the reader got to know him better and know what he was thinking, especially in the beginning. The rest of the male characters were so stereotypical. I find it shocking that men would be so rude and crude to women in the West as late as 1907. The West was more liberal than the East Coast in attitudes towards women. I especially hated Wolf and Snow. The only male who isn't crude is Edgar and I wondered if his refusal to kiss Anna meant something about his sexuality but that never came up. Anna longs for a Heathcliff type lover and I don't think Edgar fits the bill. He's way more like Edgar Linton.

There's a lot going on in this book and it's worth reading if you like gaslight mysteries and crime novels. Marquise and anyone who despises ditzy young heroines, you will NOT like Anna so unless you really love crime novels, skip this one.

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