Henrietta doesn’t believe in the necklace charm that has been passed down through the ladies of her family and, for years, to her. She doesn’t believe it will help her find her “hero,” but instead believes she will remain a spinster for the rest of her life. After all, she’s 29, and has become known as the “Match-breaker” in the upper social circles, because she’s the one people come to for information when they’re considering a potential match. When James, a friend of her brother, angrily confronts her for breaking off his potential match shortly after Henrietta’s younger sister, Mary, insists that she start wearing the necklace, Henrietta has no idea that fate has been set in motion for her.
Totally genre-fiction, a cross between a romance novel and a mystery novel, set in old-world London. Apparently, there are a bajillion of these novels from this author, all dealing with the same several sets of families. And I mean that – I counted several dozen of them on Goodreads, and that’s when I stopped counting. I had no idea, when I randomly grabbed this audiobook, that it was one of tons. Thankfully, while older books were referred to, this one had its own unique plot that was easily followed and wholly complete. There was a little teaser in the epilogue for the next book, but the story of this one was completely wrapped up.
So there are three parts of this book I want to discuss: the romance, the mystery, and the technical stuff. I’ll start with the technical stuff.
I was drawn into the story right away, even though I knew it was genre fiction and expected flat, dull writing. The writing wasn’t all that bad (except in one instance, which I’ll elaborate on in my next section). The plot started right away, the story was interesting, and though the POV flipflopped constantly, it felt deliberate and manageable. I never got confused whose eyes we were seeing through, even when the POV flipped every two to three sentences. The audio production was great, perfect reader for it, and the setting was believable and interesting. I was surprised at how the two story arcs were timed, because 1) I didn’t realize there were two story arcs when I started, and 2) I’m not terribly familiar with this particular genre of fiction. Maybe it’s normal. But it still took me by surprise, and that leads me into talking about the two arcs themselves.
Romance. I expected something like a historical fiction rom-com with a bit of sexiness thrown in. I did not realize that this was going to read like a Harlequin romance. I found the first couple kisses tantalizing, but they seemed to come very fast. Henrietta and James accepted their romance in the first 2 or 3 disks (of 9). Within days, they were having sex. For twenty-minute segments of the audiobook. It was…awkward, all the members and sheaths and heats. It was also a bit silly, and while believable for these characters despite the time period, very exaggerated. The first scene wasn’t too bad, until it started being referred to as “love-making” (which it most decidedly wasn’t), but the second, third, and semi-fourth were…excruciating. I was laughing through the ridiculous language throughout, and the prolonged extent of the prose. Seriously. It wasn’t quite Bad Sex Award bad, but it was rather ridiculous.
When the love story seemed to wrap up by a third of the way through the book (are Harlequin novels always that fast??), I wondered what the hell else was going to happen. Well, it turned out to be a murder mystery, with a stalker trying to kill Henrietta. The thing is, it wasn’t like most mysteries. With mysteries, there are always suspects, and someone trying to figure out who the killer is. There are twists and turns and progressions, and it keeps the reader guessing. This was nothing like that. The mystery progressed step by step without intrigue. The murderer showed up at the beginning, disappeared in one section of the middle, and by the end, was captured. There was never any mystery about his identity. The whole plot was focused on luring the guy out and catching him, whoever he was, before he got to Henrietta. In a normal mystery, there would have been red herrings – maybe Mary’s insistence that Henrietta wear the necklace, however, means the person she’s interested in will be the murderer, or perhaps one of the policemen involved, and that’s how the murderer stays one step ahead! No. Nothing like that. It wasn’t difficult to discern who he was, and I was never anxious for the safety of any characters.
So the mystery plotline wasn’t the greatest, especially as it was 90% separate from the romance part of the book. This again might just be my ignorance of the genre, however. In any case, while the book was mostly fun, especially in the first half, I have no desire to delve into more of Laurens’ world. It was good, once, as a distraction, and now I’m done.
Note: Audio production read by Matthew Brenher.