May 9 2006
Dear Ms. Birdsell,
I read a great review for your second book, and decided to give it a try.
It’s a good story and despite how farfetched the plot seems, it works. OK, it’s another English nobleman working as a spy against France but in this case it’s during the War of American Independence and Canby (yeah, he’s a Duke) is thought to be dead. It’s only when Selena is accused of his murder and sentenced to be hanged that he has to resurface and reestablish his identity. I like both Canby and Selena, the falconer’s daughter he loves, and especially the fact that Selena doesn’t immediately fit into Canby’s aristocratic world. In fact, she never does really fit into it and given that Canby hates it as well, I thought the ending was inventive. You’re also not afraid to make your characters un-PC (especially the secondary ones) and take the time to make the villains of the story have reasons for what they do. And it’s interesting to see the other side of the coin as far as England vs her colonies in America. I would love to see more American Colonials but I’m getting tired of most of the currently available ones featuring a British officer and a spirited American woman.
The scenes of Selena in prison and headed towards a necktie party at Tyburn are well done. You work a lot of information into the story without being obvious. And most of the characters really do show many sides, even the villains. Canby’s brother and future sister-in-law are rather too vague but perhaps the next installment will flesh Randolph out.
Canby’s cousin, best friend and fellow operative is an interesting fellow and I hope is primed for his own book next. But as much as I like parts of the book, I’d be reading along when suddenly something would happen that would pull me out of the story. Characters would do things or act in ways that didn’t seem realistic for the 18th century (Canby has his valet go ask a society hostess’s housekeeper for an invitation to a supper party) and then just as quickly, things would revert back to feeling “right.” I’m not sure what you were doing in these brief instances. If you didn’t have time to set things up correctly, didn’t know, didn’t care, what…and to make it worse, I can’t see that those bits were even needed in the story. If only you’d cut them out.
But, if you can get this aspect of your writing straightened out, I think you’ll be well on your way. And judging from the pluses and minuses pointed out in another review that your first book got at another site, I think you’re improving. B- Oh, and love the cover even if the hero does have an open shirt. At least it looks like an open 18th century shirt and he looks sorta English.