Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Kindle Loan
Read: July 21, 2011

Cover Blurb: It’s the summer of 1879, and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, is in trouble. Annie’s husband squandered her fortune before committing suicide five years earlier, and one of his creditors is now threatening to take the boardinghouse she owns to pay off a debt. Annie Fuller also has a secret. She supplements her income by giving domestic and business advice as Madam Sibyl, one of San Francisco’s most exclusive clairvoyants, and one of Madam Sibyl’s clients, Matthew Voss, has died. The police believe it is suicide brought upon by bankruptcy, but Annie believes Voss has been murdered and that his assets have been stolen. Nate Dawson has a problem. As the Voss family lawyer, he would love to believe that Matthew Voss didn’t leave his grieving family destitute. But that would mean working with Annie Fuller, a woman who alternatively attracts and infuriates him as she shatters every notion he ever had of proper ladylike behavior. Sparks fly as Anne and Nate pursue the truth about the murder of Matthew Voss in this light-hearted historical mystery set in the foggy gas-lit world of Victorian San Francisco.

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I'll be the first to admit I wasn’t expecting Maids of Misfortune to keep my attention past bed time. I'd already read Dandy Detects and though I found it enjoyable, the short story wasn’t exactly a page turner so I was unprepared when Locke's full-length mystery proved difficult to put aside. 

The first installment of the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series introduces readers Annie Fuller, an enterprising boarding house matron living in San Francisco during the late 1800s. Annie is a rare character. She is modern in many aspects, but not overly so and appropriate to the time and place of the novel. Too often authors forget context and I appreciated Locke's attention to detail and obvious admiration for the period in which the story takes place. 

I also liked that I didn’t call the ending. Not to toot my own horn, but I often anticipate twists and turns before they unfold and was pleasantly surprised that I was unable to do so here. Lighthearted though it was, I found Locke's enigmatic presentation quite satisfying and can't wait to see where she takes Annie and Nate next. 

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She may have been only twenty-six, a widow without any immediate family to protect her, but she refused to let Driscoll, or any other man for that matter, rip her home and independence away from her a second time.
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