Austenites, I have one for you today! Let's start with my disclaimer: I cannot, by any means, call myself an Austenite. I've only finished two Austen novels (I know, I know -- I'm hoping to remedy that this year) but I adored both of them and find Austen's quick wit to make for the most humorous of reads. Cindy Anstey continues the Austen tradition with Duels & Deception, her latest novel, which releases on April 11th. You won't be surprised to hear that the cover caught my attention first -- I'm always drawn to typography -- but Anstey's strong female protagonist (an obvious homage to Jane Austen) is what hooked me on the story.
Duels & Deception gives us a clever heroine in Lydia Whitfield, heiress to a rather large fortune and outspoken source of reason when it comes to controlling the family estate. Since her father's death, Lydia has had a firm hand in the dealings of Whitfield Hall, and when we meet her, has employed the help of a solicitor's clerk in further securing her own future and that of the estate. Despite her rather unusual desire to control her own future and fortune (she is a woman, after all), the solicitor's clerk finds Lydia simply irresistible. It helps that he also happens to be charming, educated, understanding, and also a member of the peerage. Though Lydia had called upon him to draw up her marriage contract, she suddenly finds herself in a predicament of emotions vs. logical thinking. Before the feelings between Miss Whitfield and this clerk can grow too deep, Lydia is kidnapped and both her reputation and her carefully-laid future plans are endangered. Fortunately, she's not really the damsel-in-distress type. What ensues is a humorous, suspenseful, and yes, romantic adventure.
Things I loved: the characters were intelligent, developed, and personality shone through on each page. The plot was interesting -- though really, I was paying more attention to the tension between our two main characters than the kidnapping -- and I was surprised by the reveal (an added bonus). I'm also one of those readers that loves to learn the facts behind historical fiction novels, and that curiosity was satisfied with an extra section in the back detailing some of the traditions and societal expectations of the Regency era. I believe that this book is being marketed in the young adult fiction category, but I would recommend it to Jane fans of all ages. Anstey's first book, Love, Lies, and Spies is not one that I've read yet but looks equally charming. My only complaint is that Duels & Deceptions is a stand-alone novel, and I would love to revisit these characters again in another story.
This title will be released on April 11, 2017.
Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5 Stars
Title: Duels & Deceptions
Author: Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads, 2017
Price: Pre-order for only $8.00 (paperback)
Source: Net Galley
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this novel by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!