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review 2017-05-04 13:35
What happened?
My Beautiful Enemy - Sherry Thomas

After finally reading ''The Hidden Blade' by the same author I thought and hoped that this book would be close (it is the second of the duology after all). Instead it seems like a completely different story.

 

We fast forward a few years to see Leighton and Ying-Ying (who goes by Catherine as well) as adults. But there's a history. While searching for a particular heirloom we have danger and peril. Old enemies return, new friends are made, love triangles happen, people die, etc. You know, just a normal historical romance.

 

Or something like that. After the careful setting-building and following of the characters' development it's like it all went out the window. Leighton and Ying-Ying have a history together before meeting up. The book moves back and forth through time, flashing back to their initial meeting and relationship to the "present" where an ever-lurking danger has deadly consequences.

 

This book somewhat suffered from the same problem of the previous one: there really isn't much focus on a plot and unfortunately this is all about the romance between the two. I can't stand that. I actually liked both characters MUCH better when they had never met. The story just ended up dragging on and on without much to really keep me reading. I wouldn't have expected the author to spend much time on their character histories/development in this book but for such time and care in following these characters' backstories only to be shoe-horned into such a boring romance was rather disappointing. I know there are some people who did like it without reading the prequel but based on my experience I only know I would have hated it even more. 

 

I am quite sad at the drop off in quality and am quite surprised it has such high ratings. Glad I got this from the library.

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review 2017-05-01 00:38
'Downton Abbey' meets 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'? Sold!
The Hidden Blade: A Prequel to My Beautiful Enemy (Heart of Blade) (Volume 1) - Sherry Thomas

I bought this based solely on the description provided by the back of the book (also on Goodreads) in the midst of a 'DA' fever. It's been years since I've seen 'Crouching' and I've usually found that marketing that tries to sell X book to be like A book or B movie or C TV show, etc. are usually very generous stretches here. It was nice to see more accurate marketing, if perhaps not as straightforward as one thinks.

 

Author Thomas flips between two stories of two childhoods, Leighton in England and Ying-Ying in China. Leighton is ripped from a happy childhood and placed in the care of his awful, abusive uncle. Ying-Ying loses her mother but gains knowledge of martial arts from her Amah. We will follow these two as the story alternates between Leighton's struggle to survive and Ying-Ying trying to find the best situation for herself with no mother and limited resources. 

 

You can read the synopsis elsewhere but I was pleased to say I quite enjoyed this. My 'Downton' fever has worn off and I came in with low expectations for the book. It wasn't long ago that I read the first in Sherry Thomas's 'Charlotte Holmes' book so I was happy that I liked this much better. Normally I cannot stand alternating POVs because one or the other isn't interesting due to lack of character development, plotline, etc. Here that is not so. There isn't that much of a "plot" per se (it's a chronicle of their upbringings and young adulthoods) but I found Thomas' ability to put me in England and China during these particular time periods worked just great!

 

However, I would say that the 'Downton' meets 'Crouching' might not be the most accurate lure. There are certainly aspects to this (Ying-Ying is "Downstairs" and her Amah uses martial arts to steal/protect an artifact while Leighton's "Upstairs" character is a young man who learns about the constraints of English society for his time in some of the saddest/worst ways). I'd say there's more "Crouching" than "Downton" to this but I still enjoyed it anyway. 

 

As others have written the martial arts action scenes sometimes go on a bit too long. And as there is no "conflict" to resolve as this is apparently a prequel that could be a turnoff. I also wonder if perhaps this should have been really part of a larger book with 'My Beautiful Enemy" instead of as a separate duology.

 

Overall, though, it defied my expectations. I'm not sure if I'll read Thomas's romance books (BTW, there is almost no romance here other than things like marriages of secondary characters, a secondary character seducing a minor one, etc.) but I'm looking forward to 'Enemy'.

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review 2017-04-03 15:48
A Study in Scarlett Women: First in the Lady Sherlock Series
A Study In Scarlet Women: The Lady Sherlock Series - Sherry Thomas

What a unique take on Sherlock Holmes. As a young child, you never would have thought that quiet Charlotte would grow up to be the woman behind this determined and cunning novel. Charlotte studied individuals without them noticing her, she perceived things that others might not notice, carefully connecting the pieces until it all made sense to her. It was if she knew other individuals better than these individuals knew themselves. Charlotte didn’t limit herself to just people, she was conscious of her world, as others ran amok with the voice, Charlotte watched with her eyes. If was later that she realizes that she had to use her voice and I found it funny that at this age, she found it was difficult to find things to say and what she did finally say was awkward. Charlotte didn’t want to be the traditional wife and mother, Charlotte wanted more from life and she had a plan. She was determined to get there even if others got in the way. When she met up with Mrs. Watson, I thought she wouldn’t accept the job offered to her, as she would consider it to be tedious and boring but she took it. These two women turned out to be quite the talented duo.

 

The Inspector and Lord Ingram were investigating these two murders. They are not getting very far when suddenly another death is added to the investigation. Were these murders related and if so, how? They decide to ask Sherlock Holmes for assistance but at the last minute they are denial assess to him. An in-between person relays the information for them and soon they have information from Sherlock to proceed on their case. It’s a strange setup but the case moves forward. The Inspector wonders if the information he received is really from Sherlock Holmes.

 

I really enjoyed the character of Charlotte. She was an internal person who observed her world and connected all the dots, she was a thinker. She was honest and bold and you knew where you stood with her. During the scandal, I was thinking wow, this girl is so cold but as I took in the whole picture and saw her intentions, I was thinking otherwise. I found myself lost at times during this novel, the changing of the stories occurring without warning and there were times in the beginning of this novel it was slow. Now that I understand what is happening and who the characters are, I would like to read the second novel of this series.

I received a copy of this novel from Read It Forward and Berkley in the Silent Book Club Sweepstakes.

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review 2017-03-16 14:13
Review: A Study in Scarlet Women
A Study In Scarlet Women: The Lady Sherlock Series - Sherry Thomas

I am quite optimistic about this series. The writing is compelling, and so are this particular Holmes and Watson. There are some pacing issues in the first half, but overall, it's very satisfying in terms of plot, character, and craft. And it sets up a series that looks to be a great deal of fun without leaving the reader on cliff hanger.

 

I also really want to throw out a content warning, but that particular content is a major plot spoiler, so I'll hide it behind this tag. 

 

This book includes both child prostitution& includes the suicide of one of the victims of pedophilia. There are no graphic depictions of pedophilia or suicide, but both happening are central to the plot.

(spoiler show)

 

I love Charlotte Holmes. I love both how good she is at solving puzzles and how bad she is at thinking outside the box. Which I know sounds contradictory, but isn't. If the pieces exist, she can put them together. However, a novel solution to her own problems evades her until another character suggests it, even though she's half way there. Her thinking is constrained to what is possible in society, even when she knows her own capacities aren't aligned. 

I've already pre-ordered the next book in the series.

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review 2017-01-04 18:16
I wanted to like this! But it just did not gel for me.
A Study In Scarlet Women: The Lady Sherlock Series - Sherry Thomas

Originally I had no interest in a book that recasts the famous detective as Charlotte Holmes. Never read the original source material, only saw a few adaptations/other imaginings (including Robert Downey Jr's and Ian McKellen) plus enjoying characters supposedly inspired by Holmes such as Hugh Laurie's House and Batman. But a Lady Sherlock? Intriguing (there's a female Watson on TV so why not?) but ultimately an "eh" for me.

 

Unfortunately it doesn't quite work. It probably doesn't help that this is the first book in the series. So there's a lot of lifting to do: introducing the characters, laying out how Charlotte can be "Sherlock", the mystery itself, etc. And the elements are there, however it doesn't quite work as whole. The book feels like a draft of threads thrown together with multiple character POVs (which I can't stand) plus several storylines.

 

 

But I was sold on the premise when I believe Book Riot talked a bit about the concept: Charlotte is a young woman determined to make a different life for herself than what is expected of her (and most women if not all women of this era). She doesn't want to get married, for heaven's sake! But when her father refuses to honor his promise to allow her to do as she wishes she decides to take matters into her own hands which eventually leads to her having to investigate and solve murders that cast suspicion on her family.

 

Sounds awesome, right? How would a woman in this era be someone even remotely resembling Holmes? How does Thomas make this work?

 

Unfortunately it doesn't quite work. It probably doesn't help that this is the first book in the series. So there's a lot of lifting to do: introducing the characters, laying out how Charlotte can be "Sherlock", the mystery itself, etc. And the elements are there, however it doesn't quite work as whole. The book feels like a draft of threads thrown together with multiple character POVs (which I can't stand) plus several storylines.

 

Honestly, the mystery bored me completely, which wasn't good at all. I didn't care for the other characters introduced via that part of the story. It just wasn't compelling and the "twist" at the end seemed a bit too forced. However, I liked Charlotte. There was a lot that I could identify with in her and that kept me reading (also appreciated that all the romance in the book was subtle and not a main feature). But ultimately she does become a bit of a supporting character in her own series with the cast that surrounds her and that  doesn't work.

 

Maybe it's because it's the first book and the author needs to get the hang of it. I understand that Thomas is a prolific writer but this is the first work of hers I've read. So while I'm glad I didn't buy the book (which I strongly considered doing for my vacation) I'm glad my library had it and will probably be borrowing the next installment to see if it improves.

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