Author: Carol K. Carr
Genre: Fiction (Historical / Victoriana / Mystery)
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Prime Crime (10/4/2011)
Source: The author.
Rating: Liked very much -- I couldn't finish fast enough!
Did I finish?: You couldn't stop me!
One-sentence summary: Historical Fiction
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: I do -- the same model from the first book is featured here, dressed in an outfit mentioned late in the story. You see her eyes, too, which is a huge bonus!
I'm reminded of...: Kage Baker, Laurie R. King
First line: Alafair, you stupid girl.
Did... I discover I've still got a crush on the two leads?: YES. It was a wonderful reunion, too: I grinned like a girl in love as India and French entered the story. Delish!
Am... I going to die waiting for the third book?: YES. Carr drops some hints about India's back story, too, that had me shaking the book and squealing!
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow -- if you've read the first India Black book! Otherwise, buy it then get this one!
Why did I get this book?: I adored the first India Black book and have been on pins-and-needles to read this one!
Review: I've been waiting for this book pretty much from the minute I finished the first one, and I'm thrilled to say it's a happy reunion. Everything I loved from the first book -- the humor, the banter, the historical detail, the action scenes, India -- was in this book and I gobbled it up.
Again reprising her role as a Victorian Bond Girl, India is enlisted to go undercover to Balmoral, where Queen Victoria is spending Christmas (rather unusually). Prime Minister Disraeli (another returning character I was amused to see again) thinks Scottish nationalists will try to assassinate the Queen, so India and dreamy-but-cool government agent French go undercover to protect Victoria and figure out who's trying to do her in.
Still, despite the adventurous romp and snarky commentary, it wasn't exactly like the first book. The vibe of the story was far tamer than the first one and India, for a madam, was downright respectable even while scurrying around undercover as a maid. The feel of the narrative changed a bit, too: I found myself describing this series to a friend as a slightly risque take on the 'cozy mystery'. Instead of a yarn shop or small-town bakery, you've got a brothel; rather than a pet groomer or retired grandmother, you've got a madam. But the elements one enjoys in a cozy mystery are found in this one: reassuringly familiar characters, slightly ludicrous plots that are enjoyable nonetheless, a vague romantic entanglement, and a satisfying conclusion. If the rest of the series keeps this up, I'll be a very happy girl.
The will-they-won't-they thing going on with India and French is amped up a bit in this book which made me pretty gleeful, and Carr drops some exciting hints about French's and India's backgrounds that have me salivating for the next book. I am hoping it'll feature India the madam a little more as I love the unapologetic (but tasteful) way Carr presents her work, but honestly, India can stand in a shop and sell tomatoes and I would read on with joy.
Don't start with this one if you're new to the series: even though there's some very quick recapping of the first book, I still think those unfamiliar with the series won't have as much fun than those who've read India Black and enjoyed it. Pick up both this fall and thank me later!
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I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy of India Black and the Widow of Windsor to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this simple form. Open to US/CA readers, closes 10/21. For another entry, be sure to come back on October 10 for my interview with Carol Carr!