Point of Honour

Many of us are familiar with the clean, neat world of Jane Austen, with women in beautiful dresses and men who flirt or look away disdainfully. Madeleine Robins takes this same time period and brings us another view. Sarah Tolerance once came from a proper family - but she made the egregious mistake of running off with her swordmaster. Now she's a fallen woman and the best she can do is be an 1800s version of a private eye. So imagine a 1920s film noir, but instead the sleuth is female and stalking through the dingy alleys of 1800s England. Her aunt runs a whorehouse, she knows how to dodge pickpockets, and her current task is to track down a valuable family heirloom.

Sarah's reason for having her profession and skill set make perfect sense, and her talent with a sword is wonderful to watch. She's got a pistol, too, and isn't afraid to use it. She gets in and out of trouble, people lie to her and deceive her, and step by step she unravels the truth.

This isn't a "romance" - so be prepared going in. This is more about Sarah staying tenaciously on the trail and using her skills to wend past a number of obstacles.

There are great details here. Clearly Robins did her research, and then some. At some points it feels a bit too dense, as if we're sitting through a history lesson, but that's a common enough situation for authors to fall into. Also, be aware that this is an "alternate history" with some changes for the story's sake.

The characters are well drawn and have their own quirks and personalities. The worlds are lush and rich. I love some of the turns of phrase used here. That being said, I do have to say I wish the author wasn't quite so thrilled about calling the main character "Miss Tolerance" so frequently. It interrupted the flow of reading. Saying "Sarah" or "she" would have been quite fine.

Also, there were a number of times that a line of dialogue would be given, and then some modifiers which fairly importantly altered the way the line was being said. So that meant you read the line making an assumption about tone / volume, realized you were wrong, and had to go back and re-read it "properly". That also interrupted the flow.

Finally, and I realize this is a purely personal preference, but I found the main male character a bit "limp". Again, I realize this isn't a romance, but he is a love interest. When Bogie falls for Bacall in Casablanca, you can feel the attraction. Here, I'm just not sure I felt that this wonderfully active, intelligent, skilled woman would fall for him. Still, I'm sure some people adored his character, so we all have our own preferences.

So that being said there are ample twists and turns, and I loved the heroine's sword use. Well recommended!

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