A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden

Posted May 29, 2016 by Sophia Rose in Reviews, Sweet Delight / 20 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Lady in the Smoke by Karen Odden
A Lady in the Smoke

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Genres: Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense
Released on March 29, 2016
Pages: 374
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Get it at: add to goodreads

Victorian era romantic suspense sounded all sorts of goodness to me so I snatched this one up and settled in.  The new to me author did a fantastic job of establishing historical backdrop and an engaging plot from the beginning.  It slows down in the middle and comes rushing through at the end.  I was left wishing that it wasn’t over and wistfully hoping this is not the last of the author’s efforts at mysteries set in that world and with those characters.

The story opens with Lady Elizabeth Fraser journeying home with her disappointed mother.  Elizabeth has been through three London social seasons and didn’t snag a husband and now rumors are rife that her dowry has diminished and even her title and looks won’t be enough.  Always impossible to make happy, Elizabeth’s mother makes her feel that it is all Elizabeth’s fault and Elizabeth is careful not to respond to the verbal barbs because her mother’s laudanum habit and her frail emotional state.

But then all thought of her blighted future is pushed aside when a horrendous wreck of their train causes her to first fight to get them out of danger, take care of their injuries and then on impulse, assist the young railroad surgeon with the mounting wounded.  Elizabeth’s station in life should prevent her from stepping in, but she wants to be of assistance so she neglects to tell Mr. Wilcox, the surgeon, her title.  Helping Paul Wilcox is fulfilling and she enjoys his company, but soon the inevitable happens and he discovers her lie and the great chasm between their social classes pushes them apart.

Not before Elizabeth learns through overhearing Paul’s newspaper friend, Tom Flynn, discuss that the train wreck was no accident, just like the death of the man who was prepared to report on the safety of another line owned by that same railroad.  Elizabeth is intrigued and wants to help with the investigation Paul and Tom are involved in particularly when she discovers that her family might have a tie to the situation and Elizabeth is poised in a unique position to help.  She has to be circumspect in her assistance because there is not only danger to her reputation, but also to her life if she is discovered.  Elizabeth sets all that aside when the stakes grow more dire because Paul is taken up for murder.

The story captured my interest from the beginning.  It starts off like a typical Victorian era historical romance and then boom, the train catastrophe and the plot thickens to a juicy mystery.  The heroine, Elizabeth, is the first person narrator.  She is a product of her times, but there is a spirit of restlessness and adventure in her, too.  This helps her draw close to a working class man and engage in detecting with him and his newsman friend, but she never goes too far so that I felt she was an anachronism.

The pace was slow as it built up each part of the background and plot so that when it did move forward everything had it’s reason and made sense.  This was something of a cozy mystery as Elizabeth played detective on her end, but it also blended some courtroom drama and political intrigue in for good measure.  All the surrounding cast of characters had backstories of their own and significant roles to play.  In fact, my one and only niggle is that there were some loose ends with the secondary characters when the book was sort of rushed at the end.

I liked the many layers to the plot.  Elizabeth’s growing attraction and budding relationship with Paul was there, but was also backburner stuff due to everything going on.  There was also the sad and bitter relationship with her mother.  Her family’s history that shadowed the present.  Her best friend and her family’s sad situation that also played a part.  Then there was the sometimes humorous, but most action part of the story with Elizabeth’s unorthodox and wary partnering with a newspaperman to solve the railroad mystery and conspiracy.

The attention to the historical setting was well done.  I liked learning about the railroad building, companies, laws, railroad medical staff and injuries, and how it fit into the other components of Victorian times.  It was fascinating and was a huge part of the story, but didn’t dissolve into a dry history lesson the way it was naturally woven into the story.

So, all in all, this was a fantastic read and I most definitely recommend it to those who enjoy a historically accurate story, cunning mystery, mild romance, and engaging characters in their historical romantic suspense.

My thanks to Penguin-Random House for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #162 RS
New to Me #68 author

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • I do like historical mysteries

    • This one is slow in the middle, but even then the history part and the character development was nice. I hope she writes more.

  • A Historical romantic suspense, that sounds like fun! And the cover is pretty and intriguing with the mist and the train coming along. I hope for you that it will be a series as it sounds like a great book. I like the sound of the mystery with the train accident which turns out not to have been an accident. You know how much I enjoy a good cozy mystery, so I think I might enjoy this one. I don’t mind it when a book is a bit slow paced if it fits the book, it sounds like the slow pace works here. And I am glad to hear the historical element is nicely woven into the story. Great review!

    • Oh yes, this was an all around good one for me. Like you, the slower pace is fine if other elements are strong and carry it like the historical backdrop and character development. I do hope she writes some more.

  • I used to read historical romance because I liked reading about what it was like all those years go. But things weren’t all that great for women.

    • No, they were not, Mary. This one really drives that point home. She wants to help the doctor and that causes people to freak out like it was an awful thing. And then later she wants to help with the investigation and they kept trying to push her aside. Women definitely had it rougher.

  • Debbie Haupt

    OOh goodie, a new author, great premise and fantastic review, sign me up:)

    • Oh yes, this was how I reacted when I saw it. Nice historic cozy mystery, Debbie!

  • YASSSS SOPHIA! I see this book gave you ALL THE FEELS! <3 I feel like even though I don't pay this genre any attention, that it would be something that would make me fall in love with it! I love the romance, and the action with the train crashing?? HOLY CAKE BALLS. I love action, romance, and a story that is engaging.:)

    • It was a great combination to grab my attention. Holy Cake Balls, indeed, Keionda! I hope she writes more. 🙂

  • I am trying to remember where I saw this book. It definitely looks like my type of read, but I don’t think I added it to my GR. Great review!

    • I think Braine reviewed it (she’s more on top of her review pile so it was a month ago). LOL I got it from Net Galley. Maybe you saw it there, Lekeisha.

      Hope you like it when you get the chance.

  • Sounds and looks like a good one!

  • It sounds really interesting and like you didn’t see anything horrible in the history. But you say even her looks and title won’t be enough – Did she have a title passed down to her as a daughter? I know there was at least one,

    • Hers is a courtesy title as the daughter of a noble, but the title goes to nearest male relation. I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics. It was the noble bloodline combo with beauty thing that along with that lost dowry made her a big catch.

      • I think it would have to be the nobility and connections because I it is just a courtesy title although in my post last week I cited “The daughter of a peer if married to another peer takes the precedence
        of her husband and relinquishes her own, but she retains it if she
        marries a commoner,” From EdwardianPromenade.com.

        Aren’t you glad we don’t have to worry about this stuff?

        • Very glad! LOL! Yes, this would be another Lady Sybil and Tom situation.

  • That sounds really amazing, Sophia. I love when the setting is well done and have such a thing for historicals be they romance or historical fiction. I don’t think I’ve ready a cozy mystery type before. Thanks for the heads up on her!

    • Yes, this one was well researched. It was interesting trying to decide the niche. I went with historical cozy mystery b/c it is gentler and slower-paced than a suspense (at least that’s what I thought.) 🙂