Bennet skillfully weaves mystery, political history, and romance together in this captivating novel. She surprises the reader by including in this story with its threads of grief, guilt, and grimness a couple of humorous scenes that reminded me of my favorite scene in Georgette Heyer’s The Unknown Ajax. But I think her finest achievement is the heroine who remains unconventional to the end even when she cooperates in the most conventional of romance fiction’s elements: the HEA.
Now that Miss Bates has read Bliss Bennet’s second romance novel, she can place her in histrom-world with Rose Lerner, Cecilia Grant, and recent discovery Blythe Gifford. They all have the rare, and becoming rarer, ability to create main characters who reflect their times and are in turn uniquely, likably themselves. Their main characters’ constraints are not solely those of personality or circumstance, but political, economic, social, and/or gender strictures. Bennet creates creatures of their time and yet uniquely themselves, approachable and sympathetic to the reader.
The writing is smooth and lyrical, always lending itself to the romance, never detracting from the story. The political history is also far from intrusive and adds a fascinating dynamic. (How have I never come across the term dandiprat before?) Sibilla’s passion for politics is engaging and contagious, and Per’s obsession with rescuing women is well balanced by a dash of rash, rendering him utterly irresistible.