I am really enjoying this series. It has so many things that I love: Lonely people falling in love, hijinks, magic, secrets, murder mysteries, an overarching plot that advances while leaving each book to be satisfying on their own, a fun Georgian England setting, queer representation in a historical time period, cheeky humor (there is a runner in here about pornography), benign and helpful ghosts, and I could keep going but that would be a bit much. And this one’s set on a boat! I love a story on a boat. They can’t go anywhere!
Our two main characters are Maud (sister of Robin from the first book) and Violet, an actress (scandalous) turned heiress on her way back to England after years in New York City. Maud had traveled to NYC due to the events of the previous book, and now she is escorting one of the three women who did the spoilery thing I can’t talk about back to England in the guise of her lady’s companion. However, the first night on the ship, her employer is murdered, and not just murdered, but murdered with magic. She begins to investigate the murder, thinking that the murdered woman’s secrets, the ones that Maud is involved with, were the reason. Violet, a companion at Maud’s table, becomes involved after some shenanigans, and they start investigating together. Investigating turns into friendship turns into flirting, and then whoops! sexytimes.
I’ve seen some people call the relationship instalove, but I really don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Besides the fact that shared trauma and forced proximity can foster intimacy in a much shorter time than circumstances in the normal world, the two girls do not instantly fall in love. They are pretty immediately attracted to one another, though, and then feelings lead to love, even if the timeframe of all of that is truncated. I thought their emotional arcs were handled with care and made total sense.
I am super excited to see how book three turns out, especially since it’s going to be about Hawthorn, the fabulous crank we met in book one and who the girls clash with and then partner with in their boat adventures in this book, and Alan, a lower class man of disreputable origins who we meet this book, and watch as he and Hawthorn butt heads the entire time. It’s going to be so great.