Monday, August 20, 2018

Chelsea's Review: The Lady and the Thief

The Lady and the Thief by Megan Derr
Publisher: Less Than Three Press, LLC (June 27, 2018)
Series: Deceived, 5
Genre: Fantasy (Historical?) Romance -- Queer, F/F

Adeline has been at the mercy of others her entire life: the aunt and uncle who constantly remind her she should be grateful they took her in after her parents died of a tragic illness. Her guardian in the city who constantly reminds her that she should be grateful they're giving her a coming of age in the city. The suitors who make it clear she should be grateful they're lowering themselves to even consider her.

The only person who's ever made her feel wanted was Lisette, the maid she once fell in love with. The maid who fled in the night with stolen goods, including the pearls that are all Adeline has left of her mother.

Then, while at yet another ball where she feels alone, out of place, and trapped between choosing happiness or doing what’s expected of her, Adeline encounters the beautiful Lady Wisteria—whom Adeline knows better as the maid Lisette…

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Chelsea's Review:

There is always that little something that gets us to pick up a book. Maybe it’s that flash of beauty on the cover, the well chosen color of a naked spine, a word or two in the summary that hooks us and we’re gonners. For me, on this go around, I was taken by the title and knew there was little else I’d be able to do until I read this book. It’s not a fancy title by any means, but The Lady and her Thief was already, right there on the tin, everything I wanted - a woman, who is a Lady, loved by another lady, who is a thief (okay, the part about the thief also being a lady is in the cover copy, but you know what I mean). What?! When?! Now, you say?! Gimme!

And reader, I devoured this book. Partly because it’s not very long, partly because the small glimpses we get of the larger world surrounding this book are truly fascinating. And I was not let down by the presence of Adeline, our titular Lady, and her flirtatious, romantic, often disasterful run-ins with Lisette the — you guessed it — thief. We watch young Adeline get her heart broken in the prologue, as the ladies maid who has stolen her heart turns out to be there only to rob her blind, and I laughed out loud at the scene a few chapters later where Adeline, suddenly face to face with that same former maid, chases Lisette through the party to tackle her in the gardens. The moments between them truly shone off the page. Which is why it stung so much that they get to spend so little time together over the course of the narrative!

“Stupid Lisette. Stupid her. Played for a fool not once but twice. Well bugger Lisette and her damned lover. That was it; Adeline was finished. The next time she saw Lisette, she’d turn the odious little liar in. Gods, she was a fool. First falling for the sweet little maid act, then the distressed damsel bit at the ball. Never again. She’d finally learned her lesson.”

This book operates in the same framework as so many of your favorite Regency historicals. Adeline is a woman on the marriage market, who for financial reasons is being pressured into a match with a much wealthier, older woman. And while the casual queerness that permeates this book was so delightfully refreshing, the supposed evilness of her family and future bethrothed fell flat for me at several points throughout the book, most likely because we were frequently told of yet not properly shown the nefarious motives they operated under. Watching Adeline find her path to self-assuredness throughout the course of the novel was the emotionally satisfying core I was looking for.

“So marrying Nimbly wouldn’t bring her everything she wanted. She would still have more freedom than she had now. Edith would have children some day. She could dote on them instead. She had her fencing.”

This is the point, though, at which I need to step up and say that the book went a bit off the rails for me. Now, as is usually the case, I will fully cop to the fact that I am coming into a book that is the fifth in its series having read none of the other books. And so some of the responsibility for filling in narrative holes or letting them go without is on me, the new reader.

However, I also think it’s important that any book in a romance series should be at least a serviceable starting point for a new reader. Which, to me, means that while I can cognizantly recognize that there are probably details I’m missing, I should never feel like there are such big swathes of story happening off-screen that I wish I were reading those scenes instead. This is kind a nebulous benchmark, I’m aware, but for me, Lady and the Thief completely failed here for me.

Any time Lisette disappeared, I wondered where she was, narratively, and she was often gone for so long (and Adeline’s plotline was so intrinsically wrapped up in Lisette’s) that the resulting tension in the book fell flat. It’s possible to read a book that comes much later in a series and not feel like that’s what’s happening. To me, The Lady and the Thief felt like the fifth book in a series, and it needed to be read as such. Because of all that, it ended up being a two-star read for me.

Obviously, to those of you who are long-time readers of Derr’s work, this last little bit will have no bearing on you, and I encourage you to go forth and revel in this low-heat delightfully queer adventure! For everyone else, though, a word of caution: you might want to get caught up on your Derr backlist, first.


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Source: Bought

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Thanks for the review, Chelsea! 


Until Next Time,

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