Hi everyone! This is Julia of The Broke and the Bookish, formerly blogging on my own at The Competitive Bibliomaniac.
I read mostly historical romance, but can often be found reviewing paranormal romance, young adult books (mostly distopian/fantasy), fantasy/sci-fi, classics, and the occasional non-fiction book about languages.
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This was definitely one of the more unique historical romances out there. I can see why RWA gave her an award. Let's break it down, shall we?
The story is gripping. It takes you on a journey with Scotland Yard and its heroes, especially Zeno aka Zak. There is a plot afoot and Cassie seems to be unwittingly caught in the middle. Zak makes it his responsibility to protect her, and well, things happen along the way. The story bounces back between their love and the nefarious schemes of The Bloody Four. It is rather unique in that there is an actual mystery like plot with Scotland Yard, and their romance pretty much solidifies about halfway through the book.
You can tell all the research that went into this novel, too. She really makes it known that this is the turn of the century (almost) Victorian England, and it doesn't do the novel disservice. Although through the first chapter, I wrote down all of the references I didn't get or the inventions I wasn't sure existed. After losing hours to Wikipedia, she was right on them all, and I learned the history of vibrators.
First we shall look at the leads.
Cassie was a contradiction. Well maybe not a contradiction but built a contradiction in me. She is the daughter of a suffragist who rides bikes in breeches. All well and good and pretty awesome. Side note: I've ridden a bike in a skirt and do NOT recommend it). She is also an artist. Super likable yeah? But then she goes and does stupid things like refusing a guard when she knows this not nice man from her past is tailing her and wants her kidnapped. "No I am good with one guard." Seriously?! I don't care how "feminist" you are, it seemed stupid to me and I just couldn't forgive her for the needless danger she kept getting into because of it.
Zak was less of a struggle to like. He was pretty consistent. I got a little tired of the hero gig that he kept playing over and over again. But I guess it comes with his job? I mean he must be super good at it.
All of these complaints make it sound like I hated Zak and Cassie, but I didn't. Not really. They were pleasant for the most part, these were just my qualms.
I did extremely love the side characters and can't wait for them to have books of their own.
The romance took a bit of a backseat to some of the story, but it wasn't too bad. The first half was brilliant in the romance aspect. After they hooked up the first time it was more.... leisurely. And you know that isn't really a bad thing. I would have liked to see more romance outside of the sexy times, but you know this isn't really a negative. It made the story and characters seem more like characters in the real world as opposed to Romancelandia.
Remember how I mentioned the bouncing between romance and mystery? Well, it does this rather smoothly for most of the novel, but the end seemed to drag. To be honest, I wish this would have ended scenes earlier. Like about 50 pages. The ending seemed a little anticlimacitc.
Overall, I liked it. It was refreshing to read a non-regency, a non-ton (for the most part) story about a man making his living in the world. A super interesting living with crime solving and bombs. I am really looking forward to reading more from Ms Stone, especially more of the Scotland Yard books.