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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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Melikan, Rose: The Counterfeit Guest

  Amazon  

3 stars

Note: Review copy received from publisher. Amazon affiliate: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price.

Mary Finch, orphaned teacher at a girls' school turned wealthy heiress, was introduced in Rose Melikan's 2008 novel The Blackstone Key (see my review). In that outing, Mary found out about her late uncle's surprising bequest, fell in with smugglers, and met the dashing artillery expert Captain Robert Holland.  The Blackstone Key was delightful, a slow but still compelling pseudo-Victorian novel. Having finished it, I was eager to read the second installment in Melikan's proposed three-book series.

In The Counterfeit Guest, Mary is again required to act in a manner ill-befitting a proper 18th-century lady of means. After her father's death, Mary's friend Susannah Armitage--a cousin, as it happens, of Captain Holland--marries an older man, Colonel Crosby-Nash. When suspicions arise that Crosby-Nash is in league with the French, Mary stays with her friend and acts as a mole in the Crosby-Nash household, a dangerous business if in fact he is a traitor. Meanwhile, against a backdrop of general unrest in the military, Captain Holland is required to deal with mutinous gunners at his own base.

Unfortunately, though The Counterfeit Guest offers much the same elements as Melikan's first Mary Finch novel, the book doesn't quite work. The story plods along as slowly as an evening spent in the tedious company of Susannah and Colonel Crosby-Nash. The writing itself is good, taken sentence by sentence, but the book is too long and the plot mostly uninteresting. There is too little development in the relationship between Mary and Holland, who don't share the same stage, as it were, as often as one would like.

If I had not so enjoyed The Blackstone Key, I'm afraid I would never have stuck with this one to the end. As it was, I was just curious enough about the development of the book's romance to see it through. The third book in the series is due out in 2010. Here's hoping Melikan will be able to recapture the magic of the first novel.

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