Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Foreign Affair: Review

A Foreign Affair by Caro Peacock is a remarkably good debut novel. Set at the beginning of the Victorian era (in fact, it begins just as Victoria is about to be crowned), this novel blends history with adventure and mystery. It follows Liberty Lane who travels to Dover, expecting to meet her father as he returns from France. Instead, she receives a brief note telling her that her father has been killed in a duel in Calais and that she should stay where she is until someone comes to her. Being a somewhat independent and headstrong young woman, she goes to France to discover the truth of her father's death--for she knows his principles and that he would never have fought a duel. Her adventures lead her to well-bred horse, a mystery woman, and members of a secret society. Soon she finds herself acting as a spy in Mandeville Hall in a bargain meant to help her find her father's killer. But nothing at the hall is exactly what she expects and there are perils and secrets everywhere. Liberty doesn't know who she can trust and slowly begins to realize that plot is bigger than one man's death in a foreign land....there is a threat that reaches even to the new young queen.

Peacock has a remarkable command of the history of the early Victorian period. She manages to pack a lot of historical detail into her writing without boring the reader. The details never overshadow the story. Liberty is a believable character and I found myself just as indignant as she when when characters who seem to know details of her father's fate refuse to tell what they know. A writer that can involve their readers that closely in the story is rare and it's even rarer for them to have that kind of control in their first novel. It was a later book in the series that first caught my eye, and, hating to jump into a series in mid-stream, I went to find the first book. I look forward to following Liberty through her future adventures. Four out of five stars.

*Read as part of the Holiday Read-a-thon (Dec 2-5)

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