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+