Book Review: A Change of Fortune by Jen Turano

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Lady Eliza Sumner is the daughter of an English Earl and in the lap of luxury. Or she was. After her father passed away and the title passed to her cousin, she discovered her father’s man of business stole the entirety of the family fortune and her fiancé disappeared when the money did.

Determined to get back her family’s money and bring the blackguard of a money manager to justice, she tracks him to New York where he and his wife are parading around in society using a false English title. Since she has no money and would like to maintain the element of surprise, Eliza drops her honorific and takes a job as a governess in order to track the movement of her own personal nemesis through society. When she gathers enough information on his comings and goings to move-in, she runs head first into trouble.

Hamilton Beckett is a widow with two small children and a railroad business to run. He’s a busy man who wishes that maintaining business relationships didn’t involve having eligible daughters thrust in his path at fancy dinner parties. Especially since he has bigger problems to deal with, like catching the man who keeps sabotaging his business transactions.

When he gets word that the man he’s tracking is in a shady partnership with an English lord, he decides to do a little snooping around in Sir High and Mighty’s mansion. Unfortunately, before he can find much he collides with destiny.

Eliza and Hamilton find that their interests align. They reluctantly begin to work together to save his business and her money. If they can learn to trust one another they could get everything they crave, but they might just lose their hearts in the process.

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This book had a lot of potential. A heist. A period piece. A clean romance. And while there were cute elements to the story, I found that it fell short for me.

Hamilton’s children are used as more of a plot device than as real characters. The precocious little girl and her baby-ish younger brother who instantly love their father’s new friend. Because of the way they are treated in the storyline you know what will eventually happen to them within a few pages of their first appearance.

As so many of the stories I’ve read lately have done, Eliza’s beauty is so directly tied to her tiny waist that when she is trying to remain inconspicuous she wraps wads of linen around her midsection. The only other thing she does to disguise herself is to wear glasses. That’s it. Glasses and a padded waistline and suddenly she’s Little Miss Frumpy who easily hides in the background. But the minute she’s thin and takes the glasses off–poof–she’s the belle of the ball who catches everyone’s eye. At one point she’s told that she can’t possibly go along on a reconnaissance mission because she’s so lovely she stands out in a crowd. Even though a couple of chapters back nobody even glanced at her because of an old pair of spectacles and a thick waist. It’s insulting on several levels.

Eliza and her friend Agatha maintain over and over in the story that they don’t need a man to do things for them, they are equals and should be treated as such. The only problem with this claim is that they are both constantly getting in trouble and the men of the story are coming to their rescue. Even if they manage to start finding a solution on their own, the scene never finishes without men coming to help them get to safety. It’s such a contradiction to the tone that the author seems to want to set with the independent nature of the female characters that it becomes campy.

It has a few other failings, but if these haven’t yet turned you off, I doubt any of the others will. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate this book. I just couldn’t make myself like it either.

Book Review: The Watchmaker’s Daughter (Book One of the Glass and Steele Series) by C.J. Archer

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India Steele’s father just died and the only good thing about her ex-fiance stealing her family shop out from under her is that he’s her ex-fiance. When she goes to the shop to tell him off, because someone has to, she arrives just in time to ruin his interaction with a would-be customer. The customer, however, doesn’t take India’s dressing down quite the way she expected.

He offers her a job.

He’s looking for a specific watchmaker to fix his very special watch, but he doesn’t know the man’s name, where he works, or even if he is still in London. He hires India, who has intimate working knowledge of the clock industry in London to help him find the man. Since she is without employment, prospects, or a place to live, she accepts.

The mysterious man and his special watch intrigue India; especially when she discovers him using the magical watch to heal himself of some undisclosed illness! On the same day she discovers that a man, possibly matching his description, has just arrived in London from America and is an outlaw on the run.

He’s only in town for a week. Perhaps if she can manage to not get distracted by his handsome countenance, his charming manner, and his motley crew of friends, she can survive the week and claim the reward on his head.

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I love the chemistry between the two main characters in this book. The supporting cast is varied and endearing. It was a quick, fun read that left me wanting to find out where the story goes from here.

Having said that, I do have to say that I think the story suffers from pacing issues overall. There is a subplot that, while it becomes more relevant through the series, feels superfluous in this book. Also, not being a sensitivity reader and coming from the background that I do, I cannot speak for how anybody else will interpret a couple of the characters, but I will say that each of them gets stronger and more developed throughout the series.

As you can see, there are ups and downs, but I liked it. What I considered flaws in the structure didn’t keep me from enjoying the book as a whole, nor will they stop me from desiring to read the next book in the series. It is a good example of a story not needing to be perfect to be captivating.