Monday, November 10, 2014

Death Comes to London (A Kurland St. Mary Novel #2)

Author:  Catherine Lloyd
Genre:  Mystery/Regency Romance

Three Stars

A season in London promises a welcome change of pace for two friends from the village of Kurland St. Mary until murder makes a debut. With the reluctant blessings of their father, the rector of Kurland St. Mary, Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave home for a social season in London. At the same time, Lucy's special friend Major Robert Kurland is summoned to the city to accept a baronetcy for his wartime heroism.

Amidst the dizzying whirl of balls and formal dinners, the focus shifts from mixing and matchmaking to murder when the dowager Countess of Broughton, the mother of an old army friend of Robert, drops dead. When it's revealed she's been poisoned, Robert's former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is accused, and she in turn points a finger at Anna. To protect her sister, Lucy enlists Robert's aid in drawing out the true culprit.

But with suspects ranging from resentful rivals and embittered family members to the toast of the ton, it will take all their sleuthing skills to unmask the poisoner before more trouble is stirred up.


Miss Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna are going to London for their first Season in order to find husbands.  Lucy is twenty-six years old and and as such, does not have the same high expectations as her younger, more vibrant sister.  Still, she expects to find someone who will suit her.

Soon after they leave, Major Kurland, whom Miss Harrington has nursed back to health after a grievous injury at Waterloo, is also summoned to London, but for a very different reason.  He is to be given a baronetcy by the Prince Regent in honor of his heroism during the battle.  Even though he isn't interested in such an award he knows he must go anyway, for it wouldn't do to disappoint the Prince.

When the major arrives in London he meets with old friends - Lieutenant Broughton, who has decided to sell out, like himself, and Andrew Stanford, a widower with two small children who has taken an interest in Miss Harrington and her friend, Mrs. Sophia Giffen, a young widow.

While at Almack's, that revered place where young ladies make matches with eligible men, Lieutenant Broughton's grandmother dies.  She was a harpy and quite a horrible woman, so everyone believes that she merely died from heart problems attributed to old age.  But when it is discovered that she died from being poisoned, Major Kurland decides to get involved because Miss Harrington, however inadvertent it may be, was involved (albeit vicariously) and he has set out to prove her blameless.  In doing so, he spends quite a bit of time with Lucy, which sets the London wags to talking.
There are two things that should happen in a mystery-romance; and especially in a mystery-romance that is also set in Regency England.  The first is that the mystery should be solved, with all ends tied up nicely; the second is that there should be a Happy Ending.  Anyone who enjoys reading Regency novels also expects that the romance part is tied up nicely.  In the first instance, we are not disappointed.  In the second, I refer to it as "being held hostage" by the author.  What do I mean by that, you ask?

Well, it merely means that the author has decided not to give us the romantic ending we wished.  It could have been done in a mere four or five pages more, but it was not. Therefore, the author has decided to  hold her readers hostage - in other words, ensure that they read the next book in the series by not having a resolution in the romance department in this one.  Now, it could have been done.  Anne Perry, who writes historical mystery/romance, for one, married off William Pitt quite early on and the books continue some 25 or 27 volumes later (I'm not sure exactly of the number.)  The fact that we knew how the relationship ended up quite early did not diminish her readership one bit.  This book amounts to what is known as a "cliffhanger."  Cliffhangers are good for television shows; not so good for  books.  Not that it doesn't happen, but what works in a present day setting unfortunately will not work in a Regency era novel (at least not any I've read.)

This book really didn't even really end.  It just...stopped.  There was nothing to let us know what was going to happen next, if Lucy and the Major were going to get together, etc.  It felt unfinished, and that was so completely disappointing.  But then, I am different in the fact that I will not be held hostage by an author: I absolutely will not purchase the next book in the series if I believe that the author has treated me unfairly in the current one.  I believe that it is a ploy by the author to ensure continued readership, and I, for one, will not be reading further.

Three stars for the writing, which was very good.  Read it if you've read the first, you will probably enjoy the further adventures of Major Kurland and Lucy.  Otherwise, use your own judgment.


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