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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romantic spy adventure
Giving up life as a schoolteacher on the hope of better prospects with her wealthy estranged uncle, Mary Finch travels from Cambridge to the Suffolk coast. The journey by coach and the people she encounters open up Mary's view of the world, but one particular incident is to have major consequences on the direction her life takes. Near Ipswich, the coach party come...
Published on 31 Mar 2008 by Keris Nine

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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A struggle
This book starts off with an interesting (though familiar) premise - young, single woman, orphaned, mysterious uncle, smuggling etc. After struggling through the first few dozen pages, I looked on Amazon to see what the reviewers had to say about it. I can hardly believe that I've read the same book as some of them. I gave it another chance and plodded on to the end,...
Published on 30 May 2009 by Hel S


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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Romantic spy adventure, 31 Mar 2008
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Giving up life as a schoolteacher on the hope of better prospects with her wealthy estranged uncle, Mary Finch travels from Cambridge to the Suffolk coast. The journey by coach and the people she encounters open up Mary's view of the world, but one particular incident is to have major consequences on the direction her life takes. Near Ipswich, the coach party come across a man who has been injured by the roadside. Mary stops off to look after him until help arrives, and finds that the injured man has a watch belonging to her uncle.

Accompanied by a kindly army officer, Captain Holland, Mary arrives at her uncle's estate to find that there are other suspicious activities taking place in and around the house late at night. The year being 1795, the activities could be those of freetraders and smugglers, but the discovery of coded letters found among her uncle's papers suggests that there is a traitor in their midst conspiring with the French Revolutionaries at war with England.

There's definitely a female spin on events here, the plucky and enterprising Mary not only finding herself embroiled in a spy adventure, but also finding her feelings torn between the brave Captain Holland and the handsome Mr. Déprez from St. Lucia, who is investigating the situation. The romantic aspect is well handled and doesn't in any way hinder the story or make the twists and turns any less compelling, since Mary's uncertain feelings towards each of the men is further complicated when she realises there is every possibility that one of them might actually be a spy. With strong characterisation that keeps revealing new facets to the characters and an intriguing spy mystery, the author holds the reader throughout, right up to the thrilling conclusion on the dangerous streets of London.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A struggle, 30 May 2009
This review is from: The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) (Paperback)
This book starts off with an interesting (though familiar) premise - young, single woman, orphaned, mysterious uncle, smuggling etc. After struggling through the first few dozen pages, I looked on Amazon to see what the reviewers had to say about it. I can hardly believe that I've read the same book as some of them. I gave it another chance and plodded on to the end, skimming bits along the way, and I have to agree with the other people who have given this book a low rating.

Overall, it features a lot of clichéd characters dully wading their way through what is supposed to be an adventure but sadly wasn't much of one.
The dialogue in places is far too modern, with such phrasing as 'I guess you don't...' and 'say mister,is that right?' Reading the author blurb, it was no surprise that the author is American, and I feel that her editor should have picked up on these inconsistencies of speech and corrected them. The interview with the author at the end sounds far too similar in style to a lot of the dialogue in the book, which suggests the author hasn't got a strong grip on how the characters spoke, and this is a shame because the dialogue was, I think, the biggest part of the novel that kept lifting me out of the story. If that had been better I may well have enjoyed the story a bit more.

The cover is absolutely beautiful, though, the one with the red dress, and it deserves a star for that.

I recommend Jane Borodale's 'The Book of Fires' as a great historical read - it also has a more realistic cross section of reviews...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting read, 1 Jan 2012
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This review is from: The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) (Paperback)
I picked this book off a market stall with the intention of buying it for my best friend. As I always do, I scanned the first page and before I knew it I was starting the second chapter. So book bought I headed home and have not been able to put the book down. I have now finished the book and can honestly say that it entertained me and held my interest all the way to the end.
I would recommend this book as a lovely light read and better than anything you'll find on the television! I cannot wait to get the next book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Romantic Mystery/Adventure, 13 Jan 2011
By 
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This review is from: The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) (Paperback)
In the last years of the 18th Century, when the revolution and subsequent wars of France threaten to reach across to infect English shores, an impoverished schoolmistress travels toward an unknown relative, and what she hopes is the chance of a better future.

But Mary Finch is quickly catapulted into a world of secrets, spies and lies, and is forced to rely on her wits and intellect to stay alive as the death of her uncle and a nefarious thief she encounters on the road leave her prey to the machinations and danger of a world at war. Two men - one an artillery captain, the other a confirmed St Lucian agent and friend of the English - offer their aid. But can she trust them with the secrets and codes she discovers, or is she merely stepping closer to her own demise?

This mystery adventure story, set in and around Suffolk and London, is a really good read right from the get-go. Its classical style of writing lends a sense of period to the story, and reads well. And the main protagonists, in particular our modest heroine Mary, are sympathetic and easy to warm to. The 'whom can you trust?' conflict theme is used a lot here, but very well, keeping you guessing up to the denouement, with an ending that sets us up for the next instalment in the trilogy.

All in all, one I would recommend.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beware of good reviews!, 15 July 2010
By 
Mrs. K. A. P. Wright - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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The best written section of this book is the blurb which engaged my interest and, along with all the 5 star reviews, encouraged me to buy it. Unfortunately I also bought the sequel as well. The style is plodding. The characters are stereotypes, the plot is slow and not well developed. It is full of anachronisms. Women could not behave as freely as Mary does. She would have been a social outcast. Were there really police stations in the 1790s? I think not.
However, its major crime is that it is quite crashingly boring.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting adventure, 11 April 2008
By 
Mrs. Jane V. Stevens "Jane Stevens" (Melbourn, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a book that you cannot put down. Melikan keeps the action going throughout this tale of spies and intrigue, there is never a dull moment. The characters are well drawn, particularly the fiesty heroine, Mary Finch. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor reading, 24 Jun 2010
This review is from: The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) (Paperback)
This novel is a poor read, the characters have no substance and are unreal. Very disappointed with this writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "None of these sights inspired conversation...", 12 Jan 2010
P.76 precisely sums up this book.

The plot is slow, characterisation is cliched.
The main character asks many redundant questions as the plot painfully unfolds so slowly.
Too many confusing red herrings, the plot doesn't seem to know where it is going.
Some of the dialogue is interesting, yet fails to convince.
Nice cover though.

The other reviews must be rigged.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant skim, 19 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) (Paperback)
I skipped many passages of this book because I found them lengthy without additing to the story or the characters. The bits I enjoyed featured a gruff but kind young Captain Holland and fulfilled my original need for reasonably intelligent but non-challenging romance. The rest didn't grip me amidst the jungle of words and quite cliched plot devices.

I would say, however, that I wouldn't normally go for a book with this cover (it suggests the overly dramatic romance) and so I may not be a good judge of the genre.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Five goes napoleoonering indeed!, 9 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) (Paperback)
Dreadful. Completeley agree with previous 1 and 2 star reviewers. The book has a jolly japes tone more akin to the 1930s than the 1790s. There is zero mystery, zero intrigue and zero romance. Very disappointing. Seemed to be ill researched too - a section of dialogue about the 'police station' could have almost come out of NYPD Blue. Shorty after reading this I read the first in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I didn't even realise Gabaldon was American or hadn't visited Scotland until after she wrote the first book - there was nothing in the style of writing, the way the characters talked or the plot/description which had me doubting the truth of the authors narrative. The same cannot be said for Melikan. I also agree with other reviwers who find it highly dubious that the authors friends/family have been so blatantly promoting the book on this site without openly acknowledging their connection. A sad reflection not just on the demise of Amazon reviews but also the author's/publishers sales tactics.
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The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch)
The Blackstone Key: Number 1 in series (Mary Finch) by Rose Melikan (Paperback - 19 Mar 2009)
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