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Monday, February 08, 2021

Of All the Historical Mystery/Romances in All the World, This One Just Doesn't Quite Live Up to the Hype

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When her abusive husband dies, Lady Katherine Bascomb breathes a sigh of relief.  Not only is she finally free from his explosive temper, but she's now a wealthy widow and the owner of a London newspaper.  As such, she's free to write the kinds of articles she wants to pen, even if the laced-up Victorians frown upon a lady reporting hard news.  Kate refuses to let that stop her from using her own intelligence and insight to try to solve a spate of murders that have been plaguing the city.  When she makes a rookie investigatory misstep that puts a young woman in danger, however, she sees just how dangerous meddling in police work can be.

A seasoned detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police, Andrew Eversham is furious when he learns that Kate has been nosing around in his case.  He becomes even more enraged when he encounters her again—this time as the discoverer of a murdered manservant at her friend's country manor.  As annoyed as he is by the beautiful Kate, he can't deny that she's smart and observant.  True, she made a dangerous mistake in reporting, but would it really be so bad to give her another chance?  Andrew needs all the help he can get to stop a vicious criminal and Kate just might make a worthy partner.  Can the duo work together without losing their tempers—or their hearts?  

Everything about A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins—from its playful cover to its clever tagline to its lively plot summary—screams light, fun historical mystery/romance.  I expected to be thoroughly charmed by the novel, which I have been looking forward to reading ever since it landed on my doorstep.  Did it live up to my (admittedly high) expectations?  Not exactly.  While the book is diverting overall, it didn't enchant me the way I wanted it to.  The characters are likable without being anything special.  I get that Kate is supposed to be a forward-thinking woman, but her attitude and speech feel too contemporary to be authentically Victorian.  As far as Andrew goes, his constant distraction over Kate's looks made him seem unprofessional and less honorable than I wanted him to be.  Both are supposed to be fiercely independent and love-adverse, but neither has to work too hard to win the other over, which makes their romance seem insta-lovey and stale.  I was especially annoyed by a brief, but fairly graphic sex scene that occurs about 3/4 of the way through the story.  The swerve from PG-ish territory to R came as a disappointing surprise to me.  It didn't fit with the vibe of the novel, although perhaps I should have seen it coming since Collins' other books are, apparently, bodice rippers.  Nevertheless, it soured my reading experience of what I thought would be a light, frothy romantic mystery.  Speaking of the mystery, it does have a plot twist that I didn't totally see coming, which made for a nice surprise.  Still, the finale is pretty lackluster and anti-climactic.  All of these things considered, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem turned out to be an only slightly better-than-average read for me.  It was engaging enough to keep me reading, but too many irritants got in the way of me really enjoying it.  I wanted to love the book and just...didn't.  As far as this genre goes, I'll stick with what I already know and love.  Sorry, but Kate Bascomb simply can't compete with Veronica Speedwell and Kat Halloway.       

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Veronica Speedwell mystery series by Deanna Raybourn and the Kat Halloway mystery series by Jennifer Ashley, although I'd recommend both of these over A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem from the generous folks at Forever Books (a division of Hachette Book Group) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


  1. This sounds like it just doesn't work, what a shame!

  2. I'm sorry this one wasn't as good as you hoped! I hate when that happens.

  3. The premise sounds interesting but too bad it didn't deliver. Hopefully the next book will be better.

  4. What a shame, the premise certainly had potential. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  5. I think I'll pass on this one. I love both the Kat Holloway and Veronica Speedwell series and definitely would have picked this one up as the premise would have grabbed me. However, both of those are so great I think that would make this one seem especially disappointing.

  6. Oh, that's too bad. I hate when that happens. Sorry this was a disappointing read for you.


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