Series: The Secret Scientists of London, #1
Published by Berkley on 9th February 2021
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What is a Victorian lady's formula for love? Mix one brilliant noblewoman and her enigmatic protection officer. Add in a measure of danger and attraction. Heat over the warmth of humor and friendship, and the result is more than simple chemistry—it's elemental.
Lady Violet Hughes is keeping secrets. First, she founded a clandestine sanctuary for England's most brilliant female scientists. Second, she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all? Her feelings for protection officer Arthur Kneland.
Solitary and reserved, Arthur learned the hard way to put duty first. But the more time he spends in the company of Violet and the eccentric club members, the more his best intentions go up in flames. Literally.
When a shadowy threat infiltrates Violet's laboratories, endangering her life and her work, scientist and bodyguard will find all their theories put to the test—and learn that the most important discoveries are those of the heart.
Women of science—repressed and working in secret in Victorian England—was a lovely, clever idea of a story I already knew I wanted to read, more so when it featured a bodyguard-like romance as well. And it’s quite smartly conceived and pretty wittily-written for our time too, bravely going the way of 2 older protagonists who have had some things thrown at them along the way, rather than the young-ish debutante/older rake type of historical pairings that seem to be dime-a-dozen. Pockets of rom-com moments pepper the story, and it did make for an entertaining time of action, ingenuity and openness that I didn’t think I would find in a historical romance.
But I did have reservations about the start-stop, uneven pacing of the storytelling. The development between Arthur and Violet was overshadowed from the start by too much, too soon. A wealth of characters came in and out of the story to the point of distraction, with too many things going on in the background and too many pointers of where the narrative might be leading until it was frankly, just hard to follow. As a result, the lack of concentrated focus on Arthur/Violet’s connection made it feel like a thin straight line that suddenly accelerated from some half-hearted dialogues to full-steam horizontal-dancing ahead while various mini-conflicts brewed in the background. At some points, it became a trudge through white noise that I had to flip through to get over; at others, I could read fairly easily and with enjoyment.
The feminist-tone and the empowerment of women in historical fiction (as conceived by contemporary 21st century women writers) are always elements that I’ve looked out for, as much as they exist in the realm of imagination more than what reality seems to dictate. But Elizabeth Everett has given this a valiant attempt; I just wished it worked out better in all aspects for me.