The Gentleman of Holly Street
Grade : D

Lotte R James’ The Gentleman of Holly Street is the third installment in her Gentlemen of Mystery miniseries. After enjoying the first two titles in this series, I found this one was a chore to get through; there’s too much telling and too little showing, too much repetitive internal monologuing, and the characters, while they had the potential to be interesting, ended up being bland.

Eight years before this story begins, Freddie Walton has just returned from traveling the world, purchasing odds and ends to sell in the shop he wants to start in the property he’s recently purchased. While wandering his newly acquired space, Freddie realizes someone is outside in the freezing cold. That someone is Philomena Nichols. Freddie brings her inside and offers to allow her to stay for one night and one night only. From there, we flash forward eight years to 1831.  Freddie and Mena have made Freddie’s shop a success with Mena staying behind and running it when Freddie travels. Freddie is stunned to discover on his return from his latest travels that he’s actually in love with Mena, but believing himself to be unworthy of her and unaware she shares his feelings, he resolves to keep his feelings to himself. Freddie has his own secret, it turns out, making him feel unworthy. Meanwhile, Mena resolves to keep her feelings to herself because she feels unworthy of Freddie due to her past. After a break in at the shop – which results in Freddie and Mena physically showing their feelings to one another – Freddie believes his past has finally caught u[ with him.

In the time they’ve been together, Mena develops agoraphobia, partially due to her dependence on Freddie. She struggles to leave their home to visit an investor for the project she has been working on on her own without telling Freddie: a shelter for those in need. As someone who was once homeless herself and forced to do horrible things to survive, Mena wants to save others from the same fate. She fears what Freddie will think as she hasn’t yet told him what’s she’s been doing.

The Gentleman of Holly Street gets off to a good start, but sadly, doesn’t continue that way. Both main characters have interesting pasts and have pulled themselves up to better situations, but the author doesn’t explore those circumstances so that they’re ultimately bland and unmemorable. Mena comes from a decent family, but circumstances compelled her to do things such as sell her body to survive. Her agoraphobia makes her a unique heroine, but it isn’t explored much beyond her first time leaving her home. Freddie was raised from a young age by a kind man who found him following as-yet-unknown-to-the-reader events. In his favor he is not a lord, making him somewhat unique in the world of historical romances.

There is a scene before the middle of the book involving someone breaking into Freddie and Mena’s home before setting it on fire. It is an exciting scene and one I thought would kick off more excitement through the rest of the story. But it doesn’t. Instead, the attack seems largely forgotten until near the end. The resolution  has more action and is satisfying, especially since Mena is able to come to Freddie’s rescue rather than the traditional other way around.

What truly makes this one such a slog is Mena and Freddie’s constantly thinking how neither is good enough for the other and all the much telling rather than showing. Mena and Freddie are both in love with each other from very early on, so there is no tension to be found there. Instead, we get pages of pages of both MCs thinking the same thoughts on repeat.
In the end, The Gentleman of Holly Street was a big disappointment. I’ll probably read this author again as I’ve enjoyed her other books, but this one was a real misfire.

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Reviewed by Jessica Grogan

Grade: D

Book Type: Historical Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : December 17, 2022

Publication Date: 11/2022

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