When Lady Julia Fieldhurst is banished by her late husband’s family (along with her three nephews), she wasn’t expecting to stumble upon a body on the beach. Luckily, the body in question survives, but this leads to a new conundrum – is this truly the long lost daughter of the local Laird? Or is she an imposter, looking to cause trouble or to get her hands on the inheritance from an old, ill man? Plus, in her attempt to stay anonymous, Julia had given the name Pickett to the innkeeper – who do you guess is called from London to investigate?
Okay, let’s get the actual historical question out of the way first – didn’t the Bow Street Runners operate in London? I looked around and found no evidence that they would have gone (or even been called) to Scotland. Usually, snags like this in a story bother me – I am too much an academic at heart, I guess, to just ignore them. Luckily, I was able to set it aside, as the relationship between John and Julia was really too cute to miss.
I really enjoyed both John and Julia – their backstory is alluded to throughout their conversations (the short version is Julia was suspected of her husband’s murder, and John was the only one both able and willing to help her), and definitely colors their relationship. I am always on the lookout for new historical mysteries, especially those with a light (or occasionally heavy) hand of romance, and I’m glad I picked this one up. The mystery was definitely the star of the show here, which was a nice change, and at times it read a lot like classic Sherlock Holmes, complete with interrogation scenes, scoping out the crime scenes, and the big reveal at the end.
Surprisingly, though, there was also a touch of humor added in, which rounded out the plot nicely. Little touches like bouts of seasickness, the young nephews running around and causing trouble (usually while trying to help), and a fun balcony scene (really, everyone does like to go out to the balcony for some privacy during the ball, don’t they?) gave both the story and the characters a realistic feel. As a reader, I definitely enjoyed that.
At only 224 pages, the story zipped by at full speed. While this is definitely a full story, it felt a lot more like a novella at times. There wasn’t much time spent on characterizations (this is the third book, so supposedly the reader is already familiar with our hero and heroine). I really enjoyed the alternating perspectives – spending time looking at their relationship definitely gives the reader more an idea of who John and Julia are – but I wished there was more to the story.
The twist at the end was lovely, and definitely unexpected, both in the mystery and with regard to the romance. Between the style of writing and the lack of overt sensuality, it’s definitely appropriate for almost every age. The writing may lack a certain sophistication, but I’m looking forward to reading more of these.