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A Reader of Fictions: Lady Backnell - Charlie Mole

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lady Backnell - Charlie Mole

Secret Letters

Author: Leah Scheier
Pages: 327
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Source: Disney/Hyperion via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin's ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits--and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective--to save her cousin's reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way. Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.

First Sentence: "Cousin Adelaide and I were traveling to London to choose from the latest fashions of the season."

What a fun read this was! It's chock full of things that I like, such as a spunky heroine, romance, literary references and a mystery. I went into this one without any expectations and was definitely pleasantly surprised to find what a joy it was. If you enjoy period piece dramas and mysteries, you will not want to miss Secret Letters.

My favorite part of the book was definitely the two main characters Dora Joyce and Peter Cartwright. Dora is a regular firebrand. Despite being a lady of quality, she constantly ignores what a woman in her station is supposed to do, which may not be super believable (at least her getting away with it) but is definitely fun. Definitely not faint of heart, Dora is a powerful heroine, willing to get her hands dirty, clever and sassy.

Dora came to London to help her cousin enlist the aid of Sherlock Holmes in catching a blackmailer, but Dora also has a plan of her own: to tell Sherlock that he is her biological father. Unfortunately, he has been killed elsewhere and she will not get to do that. Actually, the Sherlock Holmes connection was the one part of the book I wasn't really cool with. I love literary references and books about books, but I thought that this fell into the unclear border where it doesn't quite make sense. In this world, Sherlock Holmes is a real detective, BUT the novels about him also still exist. Did he write them? Did Watson? If it was Watson, where is he? Anyway, since this was really only the inspiring idea and not a huge part of the story, I just got over it.

Anyway, her cousin enlists the aid of young Peter Cartwright and his boss in her case, and Dora, unable to stop researching, becomes inextricably bound up in the case. Peter and Dora have totally awesome chemistry. I love the way that they interact, flirting by making fun of one another and trying to one up each other with their sleuthing skills. They definitely felt like they had a real connection, and it was super charming.

Another aspect that I really loved was when Dora went undercover as a maid in a giant estate in an effort to solve the mystery. This part definitely had a Downton Abbey feel to it, so I was ALL OVER IT. There's even an unscrupulous butler, who I totally pictured as Thomas even though he's blonde and straight. The drama and scandal of life above and below stairs was great, and definitely satisfying.

The mystery parts weren't bad, although the guilty party was all kinds of not surprising. For me, this was definitely more about the setting and characters than the plot points. Watching the two detectives try to ferret out clues, though, was definitely entertaining, especially when things would go a little bit awry.

If you're looking for a fun read with an inquisitive heroine, look no further! The ending definitely seems like Scheier could write more books in this world at some point if she wanted to. I'm up for that or whatever Scheier does next!

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "But then—we all had our personal mysteries, I suppose."

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Blogger Ashley said...

I read about this book awhile ago, was super excited to read it, and then promptly forgot about it. Thank you for your review and for reminding me that I need to read it!

July 24, 2012 at 2:22 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Haha, glad I could help. I thought it was super fun. Hopefully you do too!

July 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Cristal said...

I hadn't heard of this book but your review really hooked me in! The Sherlock elements seem very unique. I don't usually read much mystery but this book's mix of romance and intrigue and history looks very interesting!

July 27, 2012 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I'm not a big mystery fan either. It's one of the genres I usually avoid, but this one was cute and fun. Mysteries may be better when set in the past, haha. Actually, I think that may be true of most every mystery I've really liked.

July 27, 2012 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Nori said...

This sounds fantastic! I'm so behind on my galley list!!! But I definitely need to read this one now. So, I basically was sold at the summary. But your Downton Abbey reference sold me double-time!

July 27, 2012 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Nori, you will totally find this one to be adorable and fun!

July 31, 2012 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Katie Marie said...

That cover is really intriguing. Makes me want to read up about the book. And after your review, I definitely will! :-D Thank you for your encouraging review. I just might have to splurge soon... ;-)

August 1, 2012 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Woo! This was definitely a fun one.

August 1, 2012 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Jaime Lester said...

I haven't read a lot of books that are period pieces. Or very many mysteries, really. At least, not where the mystery is the main part of the story. I actually saw this in my libraries catalog and it looked interesting, but I hadn't heard of it before and (forgive me for this) the cover just didn't appeal to me in the least. After reading your review, I may just have to check Secret Letters out. One of the best things in a book for me is a fantastic character(s). This sounds like it might just surprise me!

August 13, 2012 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

No worries! I don't read many mysteries either; that's definitely one of my least favorite genres. I do, however, adore period pieces. It was that and the Sherlock Holmes tie in that made me pick this up. The cover held no appeal for me either, so no judgment there either!

I hope you enjoy it!

August 14, 2012 at 8:20 AM  

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