I loved this book. I loved the very concept of The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes when it was announced, I loved wondering what the story could be. When we get to the end of The Queer Principles of Kit Webb it isn’t a cliffhanger, but there are a lot of loose ends which still need to be tied up – this is the book that does that tying, while unraveling and re-weaving a few threads of its own.
So, what is this book? The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes is two bisexual disasters doing their worst. If that tag line doesn’t get you interested in this one, I’m not sure what will. But we can at least go with how Sebastian describes the story: “It’s the story of a woman who falls in love with the man writing her blackmail letters, and a man who is the worst blackmailer ever (and who has a convenient weakness for women who write him mean letters). When she kills her husband and needs an accomplice to help her run away, she turns to the only person she knows who has any experience with crime—her blackmailer.”
I have a fondness for epistolary novels (although I haven’t always) and the idea of two characters falling in love with one another through blackmail letters intrigued me. And the letters – Sebastian writes with such clarity of voice, that their letters sound like them and you immediately know what kind of people these characters are. These are two characters who seem predisposed to making terrible choices, but they make terrible choices which work in concert with each other’s terrible choices. Marian is prickly and difficult, and Rob is warm and charming and in love with her from page one, and it all just works. So, so well.
Sebastian notes in the interview that I linked to above that Courtney Milan’s The Governess Affair was integral to her desire to write Romance, in that it is a consent-driven love story between two ordinary people that focuses on loveliness, not on suffering. This book lives up to those goals while simultaneously doubling down on the class warfare of The Queer Principles of Kit Webb and interrogating Rob and Marian’s habits of hiding their problems or needs, of choosing pride over other things. There is so much this book does, and does exceedingly well. I want everyone to read it and its predecessor with a quickness. I promise you’ll be happy you did.
Bingo Square: Minds (Marian and Rob fall in love with each other’s minds before anything else, what is blackmail if not a mind game, and they use their wits to get their happily ever after.)