Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Review: Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M.C. Beaton AKA Marion Chesney

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime Cover Book 2 of the Poor Relations Series

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime (The Poor Relation Series #2) by M.C. Beaton AKA Marion Chesney

Reading Level: Adult Historical
Release Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Length: 216 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

This is the second book of the Poor Relation Series. It is recommended to read the books in order, as they feed into each other. Book 1 lets us know how six impoverished "poor relations" of wealthy, aristocratic families find each other and, together, attempt to alleviate the near starvation conditions under which they had been living, on their own, as they strove to keep up appearances among their social peers while living in genteel poverty. In the first book these six friends established the Poor Relation hotel, which became quite successful, but by the time that this book begins, their improvident money management has brought them to the point of being in danger of losing the hotel and being plunged back into extreme poverty.

In the first book, two members of their group, Lady Fortescue and Sir Philip, had stolen valuable items from their rich relations, which Sir Philip pawned. In this book, it is decided that someone else must take a turn filching from rich relatives, and by the drawing of straws, timid, elderly spinster, Miss Letitia Tonks, is nominated to rob her rich sister in order to replenish the depleted coffers of herself and her friends.

While visiting her selfish snob of a sister, the intrepid Miss Tonks is inspired to dress up as a highwayman and steal her sister's massive, diamond necklace and matching tiara. But as she bravely attempts the daring deed, she mistakenly holds up the carriage of handsome Lord Eston. Fortunately, he not only takes pity on her, he gallantly dons her highwayman mask, successfully pilfers the diamonds for her, and on impulse, claims a kiss from Miss Tonks's lovely, young niece, Cassandra Blessop.

Thus begins the madcap adventures of Miss Tonks and Cassandra, who opts to flee to London with her aunt to escape the callous cruelty of her grasping mother.

This Regency-era, six-book series reminds me very much of another six-book Regency series, A House for the Season, by M. C. Beaton, both of which were originally published under the pseudonym, Marion Chesney. Each book in both of these series has an overarching "comedy of errors" plot and a secondary romance plot between a young set of lovers who are not part of the main ensemble cast, who appear in each book of these series. The romance subplot in these books, including this one, is always enjoyable, but inevitably rather perfunctory and rushed, because relatively little page time is allotted to develop it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if one enjoys Georgette Heyer's Regency romps with a similar formula, primary emphasis placed on a comedy of errors and secondary focus on a romance.

Chesney has a very unique voice in her books, which provides a slightly macabre window onto the often brutal demands of daily life in the Regency period, a coarse reality that historical romance novels normally tend to gloss over.

All in all, this book, like many other Chesney Regencies, has quite a few humorous moments, and her strong suit in achieving that goal is her quirky ensemble cast. Of all of these main characters in this particular series, in my view, Sir Philip absolutely steals the show. His incessant ability to come up with outrageously amoral plots in support of his adopted family of fellow poor relations is a frequent source of outright belly laughs. In this book in particular, the hair-raising things he does to the villain of the book, the dastardly Monsieur Bonnard, are well deserved and outright hilarious.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine Miss Tonks: 4

Ensemble Cast: 4

Romantic Subcharacters: 4

Historical Setting: 4

Comedy: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

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