[book review] Masquerade in London by Emily L Finch

Synopsis: London, 1861. Samantha Kingston has lived under the control of her overbearing uncle since the death of her parents six years ago. Trapped by the conventions of her gender and social class, she is desperate to find a way out. But when her aunt and uncle are murdered, the freedom she sought seems even further out of reach. A suspect in the crime, she finds herself on the run, unsure whom to trust, lost in the underworld she had only ever read about in the pages of a Dickens novel.

V.T. Wyatt has defied his aristocratic upbringing to pursue a life as a private investigator. After an unusual first meeting, he hires Samantha to help him solve a rash of burglaries. Soon, a connection between the burglaries and the murders emerges, drawing Samantha and Wyatt even closer together as they race to solve both mysteries and clear her name.

Let me begin this review by saying that for a book to draw me in within the first few pages is a rare feat indeed. I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve stopped reading something for one reason or another. Not only that, but I think I’ve found a new favorite author in Ms. Finch, even though I said I wasn’t gonna have favorites anymore. That’s how much I enjoyed this book.

There seems to be a rise in historical mysteries, and even stories combined with fantastical elements. It’s almost as though fantastical historical fiction is the new steampunk. And I am glad for it. Let’s take a look at MASQUERADE IN LONDON via its characters, writing and settings.

The Characters

First of all, I appreciate that the heroine, a Miss Samantha Kingston, isn’t labeled a “bluestocking” or a “wallflower.” That seems to be the trap most Victorian era writers pinhole their characters into. Especially when it’s a romance. Next, I appreciate that this isn’t a romance, but there are elements of attraction between Wyatt and Samantha. There is much development for each character separately as well as together, which really makes this a well-rounded story. The heroine isn’t “overdone,” and she’s willing to do what it takes to survive.

The Writing

This story is told between two points of view, both Samantha and Wyatt. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews on this site, I’m not fond of stories with more than this, or stories where the POV changes so much that it’s difficult to stay with the program. The pacing is pretty much perfect, where the author gives her readers time to get into the mind of each MC, and it changes near the end to keep up with the action. There are several subplots that, in my humble opinion, all wrap up nicely at the end. While I guess “who dun it” quite early on, I still enjoyed the journey and I think that’s what counts the most.

The Settings

This is a book that begins and ends with family. While it’s hard to imagine tragedy such as Samantha’s actually happening, it did give way to many different settings. While there are balls and dinner parties as was typical in Victorian London, we also saw the darker, seedier side of city life. Each setting sets the mood well, and I wasn’t disappointed in the variety.

Final Thoughts

This book is so good I barely stopped to take notes for this review. The synopsis pitches it as the first in a new series and, while I don’t see any information on a book 2 just yet, I really, really hope there will be more stories featuring Samantha and Wyatt. They are just good, well-rounded characters who each have room for more growth. Even though I managed to figure out plot points early on, I finished reading this book in one evening. It’s the type of adventure and mystery I’d been looking for for a very long time. For all the reasons above, I give this book my very first five out of five-star review for 2023!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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