Skip to main content

Review: The Blackstone Key, by Rose Melikan

Mary Finch, a schoolteacher, receives a letter from her uncle, inviting her to visit him. On her way there, she encounters a Mr. Tracey, injured from a carriage accident, lying in a ditch at the side of the road. In his possession is a watch belonging to Mary’s uncle. Her arrival at her uncle’s house leads to a mystery and adventure involving everything from smugglers to European politics. Along the way, Mary is assisted by Captain Holland, but she can’t help finding herself attracted to Mr. Paul Deprez, a handsome gentleman from the West Indies.

The author is a scholar of late-18th and early-19th century political history, and she does a wonderful job of explaining the politics of the period, without dumbing things down. The coded messages were an added plus to this well-crafted book. Where the author is less knowledgeable is in the area of social history; there were certain things that a few of the characters did that made me think, “that would never have happened back then” (I read quite a lot of history and historical fiction). The characters in and of themselves are well-drawn, though I thought the elderly Mrs. Tipton was a bit of a caricature (she’s an elderly, eccentric termagent with a tongue sharper than a knife).

Other than that, this is an entertaining, lighthearted, and fun read. The author doesn’t turn 1795 England into a trip to Disneyworld the way that Lauren Willig does in her Secret History of the Pink Carnation series. I’m looking forward to reading further books in Melikan’s series. I’d love to find out what happens next.

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews


Amanda said…
O good review! Sounds like a book I'd like.
Michele said…
Looks like I'll be adding this one to my pile...thanks alot. ;) Nicely written review!
Ladytink_534 said…
Ooh, sounds really cool.
Bookfool said…
Jenclair wrote a great review of this one, too. It's already on my wish list. I love that comment about the author not turning 1795 England into a Disney World the way Willig does. I read The Secret History of the Pink , but I thought I was alone in that thought.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…