As with the first in this series, the subtitle of this book is a complete sham. It describes itself as ‘a sumptuous unputdownable Regency romance’, and the only part of that to be unequivocally true is ‘Regency’. It is certainly not sumptuous (whatever that means in the context of a book – a TV show may be sumptuous, or a meal or furnishings, but a book?). It may, possibly, be unputdownable (opinions may vary). What it most assuredly is NOT, however, is a romance. The first in series could, at a stretch, be described so, but not this one. It’s a cosy murder mystery set in the Regency era.
Having got that gripe out of the way, here’s the premise: our low-key couple from the first book, John and Lydia Savidge, are on their way home from their honeymoon when they are diverted to a house where there just happens to have been a murder. Can they solve it in three days? Well, what do you think? Our intrepid duo set about their task with vigour. Who had a motive for killing Sir Benedict Stanbury? Who even knew he would be at the place where he was murdered, and at midnight, too? Did he really intend to change his will? If the murderer wasn’t the stable hand, the lover of Sir B’s niece, could it be the solicitor? Or the niece herself? Or the timid governess? Everyone has secrets, yet no one seems to be a likely murderer.
I’m going to be honest here and say that I spotted the murderer at a very early stage, and everything that happened afterwards served to confirm it. Not the most difficult puzzle to solve. It was fun watching John and Lydia investigate, but it got a bit wearing at the end when they seemingly couldn’t see what was right in front of their noses. A whole chapter was devoted to them telling each other that no, they couldn’t crack it, it was just impossible to work out and they would have to admit defeat… They were practically out of the door before the vital hint appeared to nudge them in the right direction.
Despite all that, this was an enjoyable read, whimsical and charming, with as eccentric a bunch of characters as anyone could wish for. It’s technically clean (no onscreen sex), but everyone seems to be having affairs so there is a lot of discussion of the subject. Unlike the first book, the author has got the names right this time, and I only spotted one place where some dialogue was wrongly attributed to Lydia instead of the niece. This wasn’t quite as much fun as the first book, but it felt like a more assured work, the murder unravelling was given centre stage, without the distraction of a faux romance, and I might well read future books in the series. If only the publisher could refrain from hyperbole in the subtitle! Four stars.