I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem, Lady Katherine Bascomb is a reporter and owner of a London newspaper. She and her friend Caroline decide to interview a possible witness involved in the Commandments Killer case. But their involvement in the serial murder case results in the head detective being removed from the case for missing information, and the arrest of who Katherine believes to be the wrong man. Unable to do anything, though, she goes to visit a friend in the country, only to find herself wrapped up in yet another murder. And who should be sent to investigate but Andrew Eversham, the very man whose career Katherine has damaged. Yet she and Eversham are both sure this new murder has a connection to the Commandments Killer case, and so must put aside their conflict to solve the case.
First off, I like Katherine and Eversham as leads. Both serve as strong protagonists, eager to solve the murders even as their growing feelings for each other throw an additional wrench in their plans. The side characters like Caro and Val were good as well, though not particularly groundbreaking.
In fact, “not particularly groundbreaking” is a good way to describe how this book overall was for me. The feminist viewpoints presented—that women should be able to succeed in any profession they choose and not be beholden to anyone, even their husbands—is nothing new. The progression of the romance, from initial mutual dislike to grudging respect to affection, is also something I’ve seen before. And the murder investigation, for me, was a bit lackluster. While it could have carried a lot of Sherlockian or Ripper-esque intrigue, since it is set around the same time, it just didn’t. I don’t know what exactly didn’t impress me about the case, but I found myself not overly invested.
As for the core relationship that drives this book, that of Katherine and Eversham, I didn’t fully buy it. They have only interacted for about a week, which to me doesn’t sound like enough time to know each other as well as they claim to, let alone enable them to declare such intense feelings of love. It didn’t strike me as realistic at all, and therefore kind of bothered me.
In the end, Mischief and Mayhem is an adequate, but not extremely innovative, historical romance/mystery. The characters and dialogue are passable, and the feminism is fine. I just wish it has pushed the envelope more, and done something new.
Overall rating: 6.8/10
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem will be published in November 2020.