Lady Emily wants nothing to do with the London Season, but she’s there for it nonetheless, avoiding invitations like mad. She wants to focus on her studies and occasionally on Colin Hargreaves, who is the only man permitted to court her, but a pesky man claiming to be the heir to the French throne is too busy commanding Society’s attention. At the same time, a cat burglar has been stealing anything that belonged to Marie Antoinette from all the best families, and Emily is one of the victims. When another one is murdered, and the burglar begins to show an alarming fascination with Emily, she finds herself in the middle of all this, her reputation and romance at stake if she doesn’t get to the bottom of it all.
I enjoyed the first in this series, but I read it too soon on the heels of the fabulous Lady Julia Gray series by Deanna Raybourn, and the similarities between the first books made them too easy to compare. At a year’s distance, this book stands out and I found I enjoyed it far more. I had a hard time putting it down and I couldn’t guess the twists and turns that make up the plot. There are several threads running through the story, but they all come together very satisfactorily at the end with conclusions to the various mysteries.
I really appreciated Emily’s character in this novel, more so than I did before. She is a budding academic with her opportunities limited due to her station in life. She doesn’t let that stop her, though, and is often found reading and learning Greek. She’s also determined to be independent. She sees her friends shackled down by marriage and realizes that all the things she thought she owned aren’t hers, but are instead owned by her husband’s heir. She doesn’t want that again, and even though Colin wants to marry her, she would prefer to remain an independent woman. This is a huge part of the scandal that surrounds her – without a husband or fiance to protect her reputation, rumors fly freely through London, and Emily realizes how important the reputation of an earl’s daughter actually is when her friends start to snub her. It all feels superficial to a twenty-first century reader and it’s hard to believe that family friends would discard you if a man was seen outside your house at night, but in Victorian society, it’s easy to see how this could happen. It also makes me very glad I live now and not then.
A Poisoned Season is a book that I didn’t want to put down. I am now looking forward to continuing the series, and I think this type of book may cure me of my historical apathy.
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