Dear Ms MacAlister:
I was delighted to see that you came out with a new historical novel! I’ve enjoyed your period pieces before, though tend to prefer your contemporaries a bit more. There’s just something about the utter madcap impossibility of the heroines that’s both appealing and just a touch appalling. Once again, you didn’t disappoint.
Princess Dagmar Marie Sophie of Sonderburg-Beck, cousin to the Danish royal family, is in just the tiniest bit of a pickle. With her father dead, her cousin Frederick, the crown prince, is demanding she and her companion, Julia, quit the only home Dagmar has ever known and make their fortunes elsewhere, anywhere, really, but where he is. Enter Leopold Ernst George Mortimer, seventh Earl of March, a young man in service to the very British crown as a spy. Leo has the unfortunate privilege of having crawled into Dagmar’s garden, injured, at just about the same time the penniless Dagmar finds out the only way she can secure passage to England on one of the British ships in the harbor is as the wife of an Englishman. How was Dagmar to know Leo wasn’t going to expire from his wounds while on the sea journey? What man doesn’t want to wake up in the middle of an ocean where he had no intention of being after several days of high fever, injured, married to an impoverished princess? Resulting hijinks ensue as he tries to find a proper place to stash his new wife and her companion while all three of them search for a murderous Englishwoman.
Underwhelmed would probably be the best word I could use to describe how I felt reading this. Usually I race through your books, giggling madly at the situations the characters find themselves in. This one, however, felt rather weak on plot. To be quite honest, it read rather like you’d phoned it in while counting down the days until you could be finished with historicals.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning premise, it dragged on way too long and Dagmar became less and less of a sympathetic character with each page turned. I found myself wondering, at several points, why Leo didn’t simply drop her off in the worst part of London and keep going or maybe push her overboard on the trip back to England. I think the only thing keeping him from strangling her was the fact that she and Julia nursed him back to health. But, you know, after a few days of gratitude, even that wouldn’t have been enough.
Predictable is another good word to describe the book. You’ve woven in a lovely little cold-case murder mystery subplot that has so much potential – but a toddler could figure it out. The clues are about as subtle as a chamberpot to the head. Combined with secondary characters who are sketched in, at best, and rely heavily on descriptions from previous books in the Noble series, and all of this makes for a rather unmemorable book.
Now, before you start thinking I hated the whole thing – I didn’t. I found it charming the way Leo and Dagmar found themselves falling in love, despite their best intentions. There was a bit of a “Gift of the Magi” theme going on there for a little while – and it was utterly delightful. The call back to characters from previous works was a nice touch. I love it when authors reintroduce people we’ve come to know in the past and let us see what happened after the final chapter.
At the end of the day, while predictable and a bit overwrought in places, this was a fun read – definitely a good popcorn / beach read or a palate cleanser after something heavier. Like lemon sorbet, it’s light and refreshing, but ultimately unsatisfying. D
Wishing for Something Different,