Review: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Review: A Conspiracy in BelgraviaA Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock, #2) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #2
Published by Penguin Group (USA) LLC on September 5th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Twisty, complicated, multi-layered with multiple stories and a unique heroine, this story demands a lot from its readers, but delivers a shocking resolution that moves the overarching storylines of this series forward.

THE STORY: Continuing her work and deception as “Sherlock Holmes”, Charlotte Holmes has a new complication. Lady Ingram, the wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor wants Sherlock to locate her first love who failed to show up for their annual meeting. It turns out that man that Mrs. Ingram is seeking is none other than Charlotte’s illegitimate half brother. Charlotte is also struggling with an unexpected proposal from Lord Ingram’s brother. Mysteries, deceptions, divided loyalties, and false identities abound in this story.

OPINION: Continuing this complex gender flip on the Sherlock Holmes series, this book moves the series past the “origin” phase and shows Charlotte in her complete agency. The book begins right after the ending of the first book and assumes knowledge of those events (so readers with fading memories might want a refresher). Having discovered that she did not actually escape her desperate circumstances under her own power, but rather because of her longtime friend Lord Ingram, Charlotte contemplates what that means.

Right into this conflict walks Lady Ingram. Charlotte now has another dilemma to sort out — what are her obligations to Lord Ingram now that she knows that his wife has a tender for another man. Charlotte, of course, considers this from her intellectual factual perspective, but the other characters around her help illuminate the emotional aspects as well. The plot of this story is complex with several different investigations involving different parties (and even different investigators). There are also numerous characters with their own issues and motives (I especially like the Scotland Yard Inspector who is having difficulties dealing with independent and intelligent women — even his own wife). I was completely satisfied by these various stories but a reader who is looking for a straightforward mystery might be frustrated because nothing is straight here. Some things are significant even when they don’t appear so and vice versa. Some things are connected. Some things completely random. And some things are probably merely planting seeds for the future.

I believe that Charlotte’s character’s complexity takes a big leap in this book. Readers already introduced to her, know that she is poor at the emotional resonance of actions and really, really good at the intellectual calculations involved in decisions (think Sheldon from Big Bang Theory).  We get to see that she has her own method of understanding the world and relationships that are not at all cold. She does, after all, care very much for her two younger sisters. As she contemplates the marriage proposal of Ingram’s brother, we get to see her thought processes which gives tremendous insights into her feelings not only for Ingram’s brother, but for Ingram himself. As a character, Charlotte is not an easy one to understand — or perhaps for everyone to like — but I enjoy the way her mind works and her essential decency. Even when that means that she must impart hard information.

I look forward to the next book in the series, but there is much still left to discover.

WORTH MENTIONING: Moriarty.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA is the second book in the Lady Sherlock series. I think this book needs to be read as part of the series and not on its own.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Sight Unseen

Review: Sight UnseenSight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas by Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, Emma Barry, J.A. Rock
Published by Open Ink Press on June 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 386
Goodreads
four-stars

SIGHT UNSEEN is an anthology of five stories written by different authors.  Three months after the publication, the authors will be revealed.

LOST THAT FEELING:  Alma is being held in prison where she is told she is a thief and a murderer.  Having cast a spell on herself, Alma has lost her memories from the last seven  years.  When she is rescued by a man named Driss, he tells her he is a friend and that she is actually a hero helping to overthrow an oppressive leader. Alma, however, doesn’t know who to trust and also who she really is.  This story was a disappointment to me.  I really loved the setup and the relationship between Alma and Driss seemed to have much promise, but instead of focusing on the relationship, the story spends too much time on the reasons that Alma’s spell went wrong. I wish there was more relationship development.  Rating: 2 stars.

CLEAR VIEW OF YOU:  Kate was raised by her mother as a future witch, but Kate was a disappointment to her mother. As she grew, Kate realized that her mother was actually running a cult and that magic is fake.  Fleeing to the “real world” Kate finances her education by acting as a psychic.  When her new client, North, has a special request for Kate, she wonders if this is an offer of a lifetime or one too good to be true.  I really liked this story.  My complaint was that it was too short.  I would love to read more stories in this world with these characters.  For such a short story, there is a lot of development in the story with both discovery of self and also dramatic plot developments.  Fun and intriguing.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

FREE:  Brad White is in love with Wren Masters.  The complication is that Brad works for a criminal motorcycle club and Wren is the club’s president’s daughter.  When Wren discovers the truth about the club, she works with Brad to discover the truth about what is going on with her father’s club.  The truth may, however, threaten any future for Brad and Wren.  This story was uneven and parts of it were unsatisfying, but I loved Brad and his devotion to Wren even when she doesn’t respond to him.  There was something fresh and intriguing about the story even if it didn’t feel polished.  I wanted to know more about the future of these two.  Rating: 4 stars.

CHARIOT OF DESIRE:  CJ Crespo has always been interested in her bandmate Donny Times. After years of self-destructive behavior (it was the 1970s after all), Donny has joined a cultish religion which imposes a morality that threatens to tear the band and Donny and CJ apart.  This is more a vignette than a fully reconciled story.  I was unhappy because while the story tells something about these characters, it felt unfinished and I was left asking what would actually happen between these characters.  Rating: 2.5 stars.

THE HEART IS A UNIVERSE:  On the planet of Pax Cora a young woman is slated to be the sacrifice in order to save her planet.  Vitalis, however, has moved from acceptance of her fate to the decision to flee and save herself.  Her desperation leads her to accept an invitation to a courtship summit where she meets the heroic and handsome prince Eleian of Terra.  Immediately upon their meeting the stranger Eleian proposes marriage. What is unclear is what are Eleian’s motives in wanting to marry a woman who will die in sixteen days if she doesn’t escape.  Absolutely wonderful.  My favorite story in the anthology.  While all the threads didn’t come together for me in the end, I thought the journey and the relationship between these characters was compelling.  I couldn’t put it down and kept turning pages wanting to know what the secrets between these characters were, how the two would resolve the dilemmas facing them and just wanting to know what the end would be.  Rating: 4.5 stars.

four-stars

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women

Review: A Study in Scarlet WomenA Study In Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1) by Sherry Thomas
Series: Lady Sherlock #1
on October 18th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

“Holmes’s mind has always been a thing of beauty.”

“Holmes wants only an occupied mind. Everything else is secondary.”

FINAL DECISION: An intriguing book which is uneven in parts and not as mystery intense as I expected but which turns the Sherlock Holmes mythology on its head in a fascinating way. This book clearly is setting up future stories which I have much potential. I can’t wait to see how this series develops.

THE STORY: Charlotte Holmes is a woman with a unique brain who doesn’t fit in a society that only values a woman’s looks, marital prospects and breeding potential.  Charlotte plans her own ruination to gain her freedom and independence.

OPINION:  What would happen if Sherlock Holmes was a young woman in Victorian England?  That is the question this book begin with.  This is Sherlock’s origin story and as such is much more focused on the characters and the setup of the series rather than being devoted to the mystery.  There is enough mystery here for interest but the focus is on how Charlotte truly becomes Sherlock Holmes

Charlotte is an incredibly intelligent woman who is out of step with the roles allowed women in Victorian England. She miscalculates in trying to determine her own fate which leaves her vulnerable in ways she didn’t expect. While her unorthodox behavior and way of looking at the world initially makes her difficult to know, it is clear that she does have feelings even though she wishes to think them away.  Her relationships are what bring out her humanity.

Livia is Charlotte’s older sister cares deeply for Charlotte and her devotion is returned. Livia has taken care of her sister and when Charlotte is on her own, her sister fears for her.  Charlotte realizes that her situation has damaged her sister and works to repair the situation.  The ending leaves interesting possibilities for Livia’s future.

Lord Ingram is Charlotte’s romantic interest although the two have a long history together and he is now married.  There is clearly something between these two that compels them together even though they do not have a future.  Ingram operates as an intermediary for Charlotte in her investigations.

Inspector Treadles and his wife Alice are a genuinely happy couple. Treadles is the police investigator who seeks assistance from Holmes and is also given information by Holmes. He is married above his station and works with Sherlock Holmes in an attempt to better his professional prospects. Treades and his wife operate as a truly happy couple amongst all the disfunction.

I enjoyed this book because the series has a great deal of promise.  There are some slow points in the book and I don’t think the mystery is as well integrated or as interesting in its solution as I would have hoped.  I think that now that the parameters of the series have been outlined, however, there is much to look forward to.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This series is intended to be an ongoing one.  The mystery is resolved but there are numerous overarching character stories which remain unresolved.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN is the first book in the Lady Sherlock series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars