Friday, January 13, 2023

Book Review 2022 #5 - Andrea Penrose's Smoke and Lies

Smoke and Lies by Andrea Penrose
Publication Date: May 15th, 2018
Format: Kindle, 355 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

If there's one thing that Lord Saybrook and Arianna have learned, it's that if they won't do Lord Grentham's bidding then he will find leverage to force them to do his bidding. And his favorite leverage is family. This time it's Sandro's cousin, Eduardo de la Vega. Eduardo has been stationed on Elba, Napoleon's palatial prison, and has gone missing. Therefore it serves "everyone's" interest for Sandro and Arianna to travel to Elba. A gentleman scientist and his wife will be welcomed by Napoleon with open arms while really they will be listening for any concrete evidence that Napoleon has his eyes on his old throne and of course trying to find Eduardo. Lord Grentham though isn't taking any risks with Napoleon and therefore has saddled Sandro and Arianna with two rather sketchy associates. The Baroness Plessy-Moritz seems ill-equipped for espionage, but her friendship with Napoleon's sister is a boon, whereas Count von Wolfram isn't who he says he is. Wolffy is an old associate of Arianna's. He had been the proprietor of the Wolff and Lamb Theatrical Company, where Arianna learned her disguise skills back when she was fighting to survive in the West Indies. But how do his skills apply to this situation? As they all board the Basilisk none of them really know what they are in for. Their assignments are illusive and no one is what they seem and they have become becalmed in pirate-infested waters. Which is when things go from bad to worse as yet another person from Arianna's past emerges. What's even more humiliating than finding her in this situation is having him be the one to rescue her. But she can deal with that another day, because they must get to Elba at all costs, and so far it has cost the captain of the Basilisk his life in a back alley in Gibraltar. Reaching their destination is a miracle in and of itself, but how are they going to navigate the world Napoleon has built around himself when he is the greatest tactician ever? Perhaps by appealing to his sweet tooth?

This adventure is balls to the wall bonkers in the best possible way. It's Clue meets And Then There Were None meets Horatio Hornblower where you're constantly uncertain of your footing but enjoying every minute of it. But then, I've always been a sucker for big boats. There's something so classic yet powerfully elemental about old fashioned sailing vessels. They were their own little worlds and taking that concept and making it into a bit of a locked room mystery just made me giddy. Yes, I spent an inordinate amount of time when young dreaming of my perfect pirate ship, so taking that which I've always loved and the Regency addict I've become and making this wonderful confection just made me want to do nothing but read this book until I'd reached the very last page. What's more this is the first book in the series in its new iteration. For those who read the paperbacks like me, the recipes are gone. I'm of slightly two minds as to this development. As I have previously mentioned I found the recipes distracting as they interrupted the flow of the narrative. Stick them in the back was my initial response. But then by the third book almost all the recipes involved coffee or espresso so I changed my mind to get ride of them entirely. Now some of these recipes I actually want to try, but here's a clue about me, NONE OF THEM will have coffee. I don't just dislike coffee, I detest it. And I hate more than anything the adulteration of chocolate with coffee. Just don't do it OK? But seeing as the recipes are gone so are my gripes. My gripes about recipes. Now I have a new gripe. My new gripe is that since this series moved from a publishing house to being published independently you can see the lack of polish. There are some repetitions with turns of phrases that a good editor would have caught, but more irksome were the straight up errors. Wolffy changes how he addresses Arianna all the time. She's either Anna or Annie. If there had been an explanation as to this I wouldn't have minded him constantly calling her one or the other diminutive. There isn't. Therefore I am annoyed. But the bigger annoyance I had was that in the previous volume Arianna is lamenting her lack of knowledge of the Greek Mythology, which she hasn't had time to fix yet, but somehow she magically knows all these myths? Yeah, I'm not buying it. But I would say buy this book because the errors don't take away from the narrative, they just make you a little peeved every once in awhile. Is it Anna or Annie!?


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