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REVIEW: Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick

Otherwise Engaged by Amanda QuickDear Ms. Quick:

I had taken a little breather from your books because I was tiring of the Arcane Society and the light paranormal aspects so I was thrilled to find out that Otherwise Engaged was a move away from the Society toward a straight historical.

In my early days of romance reading, your historicals were the ones that hooked me on the genre in the first place. There’s a certain feeling of nostalgia reading a Quick historical because it sends me back to the feelings of discovery and newness I was experiencing when I first encountered romance.

Amity Doncaster is a world traveler who encounters a dying man in an alley. He begs her to take an envelope with her back to England. She agrees to do so but refuses to leave him. With training she learned from her medical doctor father, Amity helps the man back to their ship. Benedict Stanbridge is surprised and relieved to be alive and even more regretful that he must depart from the ship when it docks in New York for he has an appointment in California he cannot miss. The time the two spend together on the ship lead the two to have feelings for each other.

Unfortunately, Benedict nearly disappears after disembarking not even bothering to telegraph Amity of this safe arrival or when, if ever, he intends to return to London. Rumors begin to circulate that Benedict and Amity shared an illicit shipboard romance which leads to Amity being kidnapped by the Bridegroom, a serial killer killing ladies who have besmirched virtue. Amity is able to fight off her attacker and run from him making herself even more notorious.  Benedict returns, still flush with feeling for Amity, and disturbed that she was the subject of an attack.

Society plays very little role in this book. It is rather centered around the search for the Bridegroom and Benedict’s role as a spy–which he claims is very minor and had to do with obtaining the plans to a solar powered canon. Amity and Benedict work together to solve both the identity of the Bridegroom and the Russian spy.

There’s a secondary romance involving Amity’s sister, a wealthy widow, and an inspector of the Scotland Yard. Both romances are restrained. Long time readers will be familiar with the archetypical Quick characters. Benedict is quietly in love with Amity and unsure of how and when he should express himself, particularly when Amity is so prickly with him. Amity is prickly because Benedict didn’t care to even send a telegram leading her to believe that he’d only been toying with her.

Amity was furious.

Benedict was amazed that she possessed the energy for such a heated emotion considering what she had gone through three weeks ago. But the fire in her amazing eyes was definitely dangerous.
This was not exactly the passionate reunion that he had been dreaming about for the past month, he thought.

He used a knife to slather some butter on the toast while he tried to think of the best way to respond to the outburst. Nothing brilliant came to mind.

“My apologies,” he said. “I thought it best to have as little communication as possible until I got back to London.”

She gave him a cool smile. “Did you, indeed, sir?”

This was not going well, he decided.

Sometimes the heat that simmered between them was so subdued that you really had to be paying attention or you might miss it. There’s very little internal emotional conflict in the story. About a third of the way in Benedict and Amity come to an understanding about each other and while there is an attempt to make it appear that Benedict’s feelings for Amity aren’t as strong as she’d like them to be because he’s not yet given her the famed family jewels, it isn’t believable enough to provide suspense over the relationship.

As always, the story is well grounded in the time period with the placement of small details filtered throughout.

“Amity sat down in a chair and hid a smile. She was well aware that Penny’s manners were not what the inspector was accustomed to from women of the upper classes. Policemen—even inspectors—were usually treated like tradesmen and servants by those who moved in the circles that Penny and Nigel had once inhabited. The very wealthy rarely had occasion to speak to the men of the Yard. When they did find it necessary to talk to an inspector, they did not receive him in their drawing rooms. Nor did they offer tea and cakes.”

The one part of the story that I found overly farfetched, however, was the way in which the Bridegroom was discovered as well as the resolution of the spy plot.  As Benedict might say, “that wasn’t quite as satisfactory as I’d imagined it would be.” Still, I enjoyed the time period, the characters, and the restrained romance. It was a good palate cleanser.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

 

 

 

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. MrsJoseph
    May 01, 2014 @ 10:14:20

    I love Amanda Quick but I can say the last book I read by her didn’t strike the same feeling within me as others did. My favorite is still Scandal, hands down.

  2. cleo
    May 01, 2014 @ 11:20:10

    I’m glad you reviewed this. I’m a long time JAK fan, but I’ve stopped keeping track of her new releases. I got tired of the Arcane Society and all the accompanying info dumping. I’m glad she’s moving away from that.

    I think Amanda Quick was the second romance author I knew and sought out by name (after Jude Devereaux). I have a lot of her books on my keeper shelf. But she kind of feels like my romance past, not my present.

  3. Cassandra B.
    May 01, 2014 @ 11:45:06

    Seeing as how JAK is moving away from paranormal elements and the Acrane Society, I guess I am in a minority that I am bummed that she seems to letting it behind. I really enjoyed all the interwoven elements and characters. The only thing that I didn’t like was that it got really confusing to track the series with all the trilogies and different pen names and her website didn’t do a great job of clarifying. I do agree that her most recent works seem to be lacking a certain spark from the books written in the 90s. Sometimes I wonder if its more her writing, or if when you first start reading her you are new to her formula and still surprised in some ways by the mystery and characters. JAK is my favorite author because I always know what I am getting and that I will enjoy it, but she definitely has a formula, a series of back stories for her characters that she just switches in and out as needed, and as Jane says a set of archetypical characters with added quirks as needed for the story. Those seem like bad things (and occasionally it does bother me), but those are also the characteristics that ensure I know what I am getting when I pick up her books.

  4. library addict
    May 01, 2014 @ 14:11:01

    I do hope that she completes the Dark Legacy (as JAK) and Ladies of Latern Street (as AQ) trilogies since there was one more book to go in each and I would like them for closure.

    I liked this one slightly more than Jane (I gave it a B- which is still 3 stars for me in Calibre). For the most part, I liked her her Arcane books, but many of her early one word historicals are still my all-time favorites.

    @Cassandra B.:

    …but she definitely has a formula, a series of back stories for her characters that she just switches in and out as needed, and as Jane says a set of archetypical characters with added quirks as needed for the story. Those seem like bad things (and occasionally it does bother me), but those are also the characteristics that ensure I know what I am getting when I pick up her books.

    Agreed. She’s a comfort read. An average book by her is better than a great book by some other authors.

  5. Cassandra B.
    May 01, 2014 @ 14:47:07

    It took me a while to realize that this book is not the conclusion of the Ladies of Lantern Street trilogy. I also hope she finishes the two trilogies she has hanging. I don’t know why authors do that, I am sure it something to do with publishers, but it is still annoying. I actually stopped reading Susan Andersen because she developed a trilogy and then stopped after two books (and she had set up the third book in the previous books). I understand that this decision may have been out of her hands and made by her publisher (and it was really before self-pub took off, where she might have finished anyway herself if she legally could). But regardless, I felt betrayed and I didn’t love her books enough to get over it and I have not read her again. While I will keep reading JAK regardless of the trilogies, I will be really bummed if she doesn’t finish them. She doesn’t have a blog (I think), so I don’t think there has been information floating around on their status.

  6. kaye sykes
    May 01, 2014 @ 16:13:21

    I’m so glad you reviewed this book! I’ve wanted to read Amanda Quick but have no idea where to start.
    I would be grateful for recommendations if people want to give them.

  7. Jane
    May 01, 2014 @ 16:14:35

    @kaye sykes: Scandal for sure! It’s my favorite too! @Mrs. Joseph

  8. Cassandra B.
    May 01, 2014 @ 16:25:25

    Scandal is definitely good, I also really like Dangerous and Mistress. Plus I really like her medieval ones: Desire and my favorite Mystique. I think my all-time favorite AQ is Deception.

  9. cleo
    May 01, 2014 @ 16:49:07

    @kaye sykes: Deception is also one of my favorite AQs. It’s hard to go wrong with her single titles from the 90s, imho (although some are better than others, of course). Ravished (with a fossil hunter heroine) is also a favorite, as are the medieval ones. I think Paid Companion (Victorian) is another good one.

    As someone else said, JAK tends to follow a formula, but she does it really well. So if you like the formula, it’s awesome, because her backlist is so deep. I love her smart, quirky heroines and her strong but not-an-asshole heroes.

  10. kaye sykes
    May 01, 2014 @ 16:51:29

    Thank you so much for the recommendations! I’m really excited to get these. You all are the best!

  11. library addict
    May 01, 2014 @ 17:10:28

    @kaye sykes: Deception, Ravished, and Scandal are my favorites. Rendezvous, Dangerous, Mystique, Mischief and Affair are also good. I also lked The Paid Companion.

    I also really liked some of her Arcane books which are paranormal. The series encompasses historicals as Amanda Quick (starting with Second Sight), contemporaries as Jayne Ann Krentz, and eventually her futuristics as Jayne Castle.

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