Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick
Overall Rating: 4 (sXe)
First, I need to acknowledge I enjoy Amanda Quick’s books. I have read quite of few of them, although this is the first I’ll review on this blog. In particular, I like the Arcane Society books, although I’ve had a hard time finding them to read in the right order. I have reviewed books by this author, as she also writes under the name Jayne Ann Krentz. In fact, the Arcane series gets extended from its historical romance setting under the pen name Amanda Quick into the future/modern era under the name Jayne Ann Krentz, if that helps to identify at least one of the differences in novels by the different pseudonyms. Note to self: one day I need to write blog post about pen names. I haven’t given it much thought, but I think the topic requires more time and attention. Sorry for the digression!
To get to the novel, Ursula Kern runs a professional agency and while in the midst of a job for Slater Roxton, Ursula finds her best friend dead. Believing it to be murder, rather than the suicide the police determine it to be, she quits her assignment with Roxton to try and solve her friend’s murder. Slater, drawn to Ursula, offers to help and the two of them embark on a dangerous quest that involves brothels, drugs, and an evil American (a nice twist to the typical American novel where the British are portrayed as the bad guys).
There are a few overall things I enjoy about this book that I will list because it would take too long to describe them one by one: 1, the professional agency provides some insight into the limited professional opportunities women of a certain class enjoyed in Victorian England; 2, sexual morals are acknowledged but exploited by Ursula’s status as a widow; 3, Slater, while fitting many masculine stereotypes, is not all knowing or all powerful the way many heroes are portrayed, but rather uses his resources wisely and seems vulnerable in odd moments; 4, while I am not sure the accuracy of the representation of non-Western meditative practices, I enjoy their presence in this novel; 5, there wasn’t any weird revenge plot mucking up the primary murder mystery.
With that lengthy list, you can see why I rated the novel so highly. There are times when I think a better job of character development would have been appropriate. Ursula’s damaged reputation due to a divorce case was referenced in weird ways at the beginning of the novel, making it harder to understand her character after the details of the case were revealed. And the sinister attempts at foreshadowing Slater’s intentions after returning from abroad fell flat to me. But these are minors things that do not detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel. If you like historical romances with a twist of mystery, then please give this novel a try.