It's rare to find a novel you so want to improve. It's an Edwardian murder mystery focusing on an independent-minded lady and her lady's maid who are friends and (help) solve crimes. I really expected it to be right up my alley, but turns out it's in a whole different part of town.
It was wrong to start a series from the second novel, but nonetheless I think the following observations are valid:
- Lady Rose has some potential as a satirical character, a flighty teenager who has romantic ideas about independence and breaking class barriers but not enough backbone to stick to it, but comes off either as an unlikeable romance heroine (the sort that the text suggests needs to be put in her place by a strong man) or a mockery of the very idea of female independence.
- Daisy Levine, the resourceful ex-Cockney lady's maid, is brave and clever and, it seems, not as important as Lady Rose because she's not as pretty or of the aristocracy. For the life of me I couldn't understand why Daisy wasn't written as the protagonist. She's likeable, and it could have centered the comedy if we could have seen Lady Rose's silliness and the hoi polloi's pretensions through Daisy's eyes - instead, she's also a little silly, not at all critical of people's pretensions, and meekly follows Lady Rose around as a retainer should, leaving all decisions to her.
- Harry Cathrail is a particularly boring detective, being sensible rather than clever, handsome, and misogynistic in a socially accepted Edwardian way. He reminds me of a romance novel hero, which just makes me dislike him more.
- This is one of those books where pretty people are the ones we're supposed to like, and the ones we're not supposed to like are ugly or gay. (Baker-Willis is an exception, being handsome, heterosexual, and boring.) Daisy has "slightly protruding eyes" but is otherwise "considered attractive", so we're supposed to like her, but not as much as Lady Rose, who is "very beautiful" and "unfashionably slim". It almost goes without saying, but there are particularly nasty dollops of fat-shaming.
- The author did not seem to realize how much a thousand pounds was really worth in the 1910s.
So in conclusion? The novel had potential to be so many things, but by trying to be three things - comedy, romance, and murder mystery - it ended up being not exactly any of the above, and messy. Philosophically, it was either repulsive or confused. By that I mean I couldn't figure out if it was a poorly written satire of human nature or misogynistic mockery of women in particular wrapped in the trappings of romance novel cliches.
Ow, I'm being unusually harsh. Anyway. Avoid.