RogerBW's Blog

In the Cards, Celia Lake 10 May 2023

2019 romantic fantasy, fifth of its loose series. Lorelei "Laura" Penhallow has been healed of her consumption enough to live a normal life, and that includes being invited for a weekend house party by a family with an eligible son. But we all know what happens at weekend house parties.

Soon enough, indeed, the person who's been making herself objectionable to everyone ends up suffocated in the conservatory, her brother's vanished, and everyone's calm façades are coming to pieces. There's the eligible son's friend from school days, who's Not Quite Our Sort, though are the hosts working a bit too hard to put him down? There's the older brother, badly wounded in the War, who's not fit for company and locked away in his alchemical workshop; it seems he knew, and indeed "knew", the victim when they in Paris. And when Laura calls for help from her well-connected brother-in-law, she doesn't get quite what she was hoping for, but rather a Guard captain who wants to play Great Detective…

It's an isolated-party mystery in the tradition of Christie, of course, but it's the sort of mystery that gets written now, in which the reader is expected to have some idea of what the conventions are, because one of the interesting parts is the way they're broken to make this story different. (Some of that's the setting, because we have portals that eliminate distance and make living on a remote island entirely convenient… until they get broken.)

On top of all that, we have a three-sided romance story, and it's not at all clear at first how that'll end up. Everything's moving on multiple levels, and it's all great fun. Some of the dialogue is perhaps too realistic, with people who understand each other well speaking in sentence fragments that sometimes don't seem to have much to do with what went before, because they're missing out the bits that they both know.

(Yeah OK there's a five-card tarot spread that has four major arcana, oh well.)

(You should probably read Goblin Fruit first, which introduces Laura and her situation.)

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Previous in series: Wards of the Roses | Series: Mysterious Charm | Next in series: On the Bias

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