This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Harper Teen
Released on December 3, 2019
What could be more delightful than a mingling of Regency era manners, mystery, and a heroine who fangirls over Jane Austen? I was prepared to be enchanted and I was not disappointed.
Dangerous Alliance opens with a young lady, Lady Victoria Aston, on the cusp of her coming out living on her family’s country estate content to help her father with estate matters, read her favorite novels by a certain Miss Jane Austen, and dream of being a character in one of those novels. Her musings are rudely interrupted when she spots her erstwhile neighbor, the latest Earl of Halworth, who used to be her childhood friend until he abruptly departed for the continent and has avoided any proximity for her in the year since his return and then she is bludgeoned over the head with Tom racing in pursuit.
If she thought this would thaw Tom and restore their old camaraderie, it does not. She has no time to dwell on it because here is her older sister, Althea, back home bruised, battered and refusing to say much more other than her husband Lord Dain is responsible and she’ll never return to him no matter what. Naive Victoria is now confronted by the sometimes darker and secret side of some marriages when she is faced with the fact that the smiling, sociable, and well-connected Lord Dain is a brute. These circumstances lead to her need to step up and put herself out there in London Society for an eligible marriage that will save the family estate and fortune from getting into the hands of Lord Dain because he’s got a claim because of marriage with Althea.
Tom has returned to the family after his father’s death has ended his exile. He is now the new earl, the head of his family, and up to his ears in his father’s debts and responsibilities. He is burdened with secrets of the past that involve his breaking his friendship with Vicky and keeping his distance even now. He goes up to London to mingle in the society of his peers that he doesn’t even know so that he can find backers for his hotel project that he hopes will reverse the family fortunes. Of course he encounters Vicky and must prevail upon her to introduce him. She is as spirited and swift tongued as ever and does not look on him with favor. Not that he blames her though he does worry when he sees the sort of men circling around her.
The pair of them must navigate a complex social situation where any false move can end in failure meanwhile there is the mystery of the attack on Vicky and a few other mysteries involving rogues and dastardly men who have their own agendas. Vicky wonders what her favorite Austen heroines would do under the circumstances, but it is only when she is simply herself that she can make the right choices and survive the dangers.
Dangerous Alliance had me chuckling in the first few pages and then sobering when dark issues like attempted murder, domestic abuse, evil hiding behind polite smiles. But, I ran the gamut of emotions when all was said and done. There was a nice bit of verbal crossing of swords now and then, but also the excitement of some suspenseful scenes. I felt like the story moved along quickly, but wasn’t under-developed. I was entertained and just wanted to keep reading on.
I felt the author did her homework and got the historic setting, Regency Era Cultural norms, social issues of the day, and dialogue down. Vicky was a bit progressive as an independent female, but not so far out that she was unbelievable.
There are three narrators in this one.
The main character, Vicky, Lady Victoria Aston, that is, is a pistol. Plain and simple. She is the type to cut off her nose to spite her face and hold a grudge like nobody’s business. She wants to be noble and sacrifice herself for her sister and her family, but she’s enough of a teen that a bit of whining and petulance will show through. She can’t understand some adult matters like why her sister is the way she is after living in an abusive situation for two years and is accidentally hurtful. She struggles to see other viewpoints or ask why because she thinks she already knows particularly when it comes to Tom who she now wants to detest. This of course leads her to a certain amount of blithe prejudice where she attributes all sorts of evils to one suitor, Tom, while ignoring warning signs about the artful other one. She pulls a few stubborn-stupids and gets into all sorts of trouble and madcap adventures as a result. But, she is a YA Heroine and has to have the chance to stumble and bumble about in life before getting her feet under her just when needed. And, to be fair, she doesn’t have the perspective the reader gets to see all the points of view and she does have some reason to be angry and hurt by Tom’s earlier behavior and his later reticence.
Tom has good reasons for being uncommunicative about certain things and his own sense of honor and pride, but it doesn’t help his cause in the end. Tom’s situation was the old rock and a hard place. There is a mystery to his past and what went on with his father exiling him and him refusing to speak to Victoria. Slowly the reader gets the truth and this earns Tom great sympathy. He is a truly heroic guy and will do the right thing even when it costs him. He might not be up to snuff on all the ways to navigate London Society, but he’s been knocked about in the world and is a good judge of character.
I won’t say that the suspense elements were that difficult to work out, but I also think that it was odd that so many people were blind to what I saw as often blatant behavior and words proving what sort the villains were and what they were after.
If this story seems familiar to some, you’re not imagining it. Vicky was enamored with Jane Austen and reminded me of book fandoms everywhere just two centuries ago in Vicky’s case. Potterheads, anyone? However, not just Vicky is the source of Austen. There are Easter eggs for Austen fans all through this one from characters, scenes, and large bits of the plot. Vicky saw herself as an Elizabeth Bennet and I amusingly saw her as a Catherine Morland, a very different Austen heroine who let her imagination get the best of her.
All in all, it was highly entertaining and sheer fun. Those who enjoy young adult historical romances or adult Regency romps should definitely pick this one up.
My thanks to Harper Teen and Austenprose for providing this book to read in exchange for an honest review.
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