books

Sherry Thomas

Books

Delicious (2008)

The Lady Sherlock Series: A Study In Scarlet Women (2016)

 

 

Delicious (2008)

Set in England in 1892.

This was a fun story–and one full of loving descriptions of food. It also has main characters who are middle aged (30s may not sound middle aged nowdays, but it would have been at a time when most people died in their 50s and 60s.)

Verity Durant is an infamous chef. Her meals are divine, and according to gossip, so are other things.

After her initial diaster-laden months as Monsieur David’s apprentice, in the Marquess of Londonderry’s household, Verity had realized, to her own and everyone else’s amazement, that she was talented before a stove. She had a sensitive nose, an unpolluted palate, and a manual dexterity rivaling that of a circus juggler’s.

Stuart Somerset is a bastard, legitimized by an act of Parliament, and long at odds with his half-brother, Bertram “Bertie” Somerset.

Sir Francis had willed to Stuart everything that was not entailed. The Lords Justices of Appeal, before whom the case had eventually gone, had given Stuart the Somerset town house on Grosvenor Square. But without the rent-rich urban tracts that went to Bertie, the sheep land that Stuart received couldn’t generate enough income for the upkeep of such a house.

But when Bertie dies, Stuart inherits everything–including his brother’s chef.

One of the things I like is that you are told from the start that the couple will end up together, that this is a Cinderella story, and the Cinderella theme comes up throughout the tale.

“I’m afraid I haven’t the luxury of a footman.”

“Why not?”

She looked and sounded highborn enough to have half a dozen footmen at her disposal. She was too old—and too striking-looking—to not already be married. Had she slipped out for an adulterous rendezvous?

She lifted her head. Their eyes met. The skin just above his collarbone tingled. “Haven’t got any lizards in my kitchen,” she said, a trace of wistfulness beneath her matter-of-fact tone.

Her answer made no sense until he recalled that in Perrault’s story of Cinderella—his and Bertie’s governess had been an enthusiast of such tales—lizards were what the Fairy Godmother had turned into footmen, to accompany Cinderella on her nocturnal forays into Society.

“Not a pumpkin in your kitchen either?”

Her lips curved slightly. “Pumpkins aren’t in season.”

The story jumps back and forth in time, which I like as a way to learn about the characters pasts.

I won’t say I loved the ploy of Verity always hiding her face when she sees Stuart. That felt ridiculously contrived, but… it did work.

One the I did love, however, was how there weren’t good and bad people–just people. Bertie starts out as almost a caricature of a bad guy, but in the end is just a complicated gentleman.

Stuart thought of the boys in the photograph, their hands held tight. Seven years later they would despise each other. For the next twenty years they would communicate only through intermediaries, sustaining the hostilities as if the bonds of brotherhood had never meant a thing.

I also very much liked Marsden, Stuart’s secretary. His part starts out small, but then the more I learned about him, the more I liked and respected him.

“I want a reprieve from seating people. Tell me about music hall.”

He dropped his pen. He picked it up and blotted the droplets of ink that had splattered onto the seating chart. “It’s an amusing way to spend an evening.”

“You know what I mean,” she insisted.

He flashed her a smile that was as bright as a theatrical footlight. “Music hall is an actionable offense in this country. I’ll need an inducement to expound upon it.”

She glanced at him from underneath her lashes. “What inducement?”

“Symphonic concerts.”

Her heart bounded high enough to knock against her palate. “I beg your pardon?”

He looked at her steadily and the air around her thickened into pudding. At last he said, “I want to hear about your experience at symphonic concerts. Did you like it?”

She dragged the Debrett’s from across the desk and opened it to a random page. They hadn’t had to use it. He seemed to know everyone’s pedigree and precedence by heart. “What would you say if I said I did?”

“I’ve been asking myself that very same thing,” he said. “I decided that I hoped you liked it.”

“Why?”

“Because you could have been ruined over it, you stupid woman. At least you should have enjoyed it while you were at it.”

I found him utterly delightful by the end of the book.

This is, very much, a boinking book, but at least the boinking was an important part of the story. And it was, despite the boinking, a very enjoyable story.
Rating: 8.5/10

Publisher: Bantam

 

 

The Lady Sherlock Series

 

A Study In Scarlet Women (2016)

Let me be blunt: I never read Sherlock Holmes stories that were not written by ACD. I hate them. I also can’t stand having the character appropriated by other authors. Honestly, I don’t even care as much for the last couple of Sherlock Holmes stories written by ACD. The character feels off to me and I don’t quite enjoy them.

So I immediately dismissed this book when I first came across it, but then I read a review and saw that Sherlock Holmes as he was written by ACD doesn’t appear at all, and I was intrigued.

Charlotte Holmes is an odd woman. She has the characteristics of ACD’s Holmes, but as a woman is required to follow society, and so that informs her character. So she and her friend Lord Ingram come up with Sherlock Holmes, as a reclusive man who sometimes assists the police in their inquiries.

Because she cannot live the life she wants, she decides to destroy her reputation.

“But has your son fared any better? No gentleman would take up with an unmarried young lady from a good family. Does he not share some of the blame?”

“He does.” Lady Shrewsbury sounded as if she were speaking through a mouthful of sand. “And he will hear from his wife and myself. But men are creatures of unbound lust. It is the duty of good women to keep them in check.”

So, how did it hold together as a story? I initially had a difficult time getting into the book. I started several times, and it was only once I got past the initial scene of Charlotte’s ruin that it became interesting. Partially because the story shifts then to Olivia’s POV, and I quite like Livia.

“Lady X is dead.”

Livia braced a hand on the newel post, her incredulity shot through with an incipient dread. “How can that be?”

“They found her expired early this morning. The doctor’s already been and declared it an aneurysm of the brain. But I think it’s divine justice. The way she came and shoved all the blame on us, when it was her own son who was the cad and the bounder? She deserved it.”

Livia shuddered at her mother’s callousness. “I don’t believe the Almighty strikes anyone dead solely for being petty, or even hypocritical.”

It also took awhile for the mystery to develop fully, which didn’t help, since I cared less about Charlotte’s dress and search for a job that I am sure I was supposed to.

And although the female characters were fully developed, as was the Inspector (who I quite liked) I had great difficulty keeping the secondary characters apart, especially since there were a number of characters whose last names started with S and were of a similar length: Sheridan, Sackville, and Shrewsbury–I kept confusing them in my mind, which didn’t help at all.

I also had difficulty believing the valet’s changing of his story.

Treadles didn’t believe him. “If they were truly such pedestrian sins, why did you keep them a secret?”

“Mr. Sackville can’t defend his good name anymore, so it’s up to the rest of us. Men have sinned much worse. But when they die of natural causes, nobody cares what they’ve done in their spare time. Mr. Sackville ought to be given the same privacy— he’d have wanted it.”

Given what Mr. Sackville was doing, I have a very hard time believing that the valet would take steps to try and stop it, but then take such steps to defend him after his death. And to be clear, the valet DID know what was going on, and was horrified by it, and tried to take steps to change or stop it.

His character was simply too inconsistent for me to believe.

That said, I did enjoy the story and think there is a ton of potential here for future stories and I look forward to reading the next book.
Rating: 6.5/10

Published by Berkley