Top positive review
Entertaining and educational
7 February 2016
This is a good romantic mystery story. I loved the historical setting and the writing brought it vividly alive. The characters , though maybe a bit stereotypical, are also alive and interesting and the story held my attention. This is a much better book than its cheap price would suggest.
It does have weaknesses. Some of the clues were quite easily guessable, one at least of the plot devices pretty hackneyed (I won't say which one, so as not to provide a spoiler) and there are occasional grammatical mistakes ('are' instead of 'is', for example|) and spelling mistakes (the worst I found was 'the yolk of the Bonaparts'!!) A good editor should have found and eliminated these. The villain is very villainous indeed, with no 'dark and light' to make him a bit more real. There is a little too much reliance on coincidence to make this a thoroughly well-plotted story. And despite the thoroughgoing research, the author's writing style occasionally falls into modernism. Magdalena is 'feisty' says Woods, and she realises she 'has feelings' for Lavender.
On the other hand, the war with Spain, like the rest of the historical setting, is very well-researched and I now know a good deal more about the early C19. The plot holds together pretty well and comes to a satisfying climax. Plot weaknesses exist in novels by much more famous novelists than Ms Charlton and perhaps are inevitable in an series of whodunits. Although many of the characters appeared in an earlier novel, it did not hinder my enjoyment of this one. I would certainly read the others in the series and, despite its various weaknesses, I find I still want to give this book five stars for sheer entertainment.