Monday, May 12, 2014

Spotlight Review: OTHERWISE ENGAGED by Amanda Quick

OTHERWISE ENGAGED – Amanda Quick 
G.P. Putnam's Sons 
ISBN: 978-0-399-16514-6 
April 2014 
Historical Romantic Suspense 

From the Caribbean to London, Late Nineteenth Century 

Miss Amity Doncaster travels extensively and writes popular pieces about her adventures for the Flying Intelligencer . She and her widowed sister, Penny, keep a modest household in London. Amity's last venture abroad has a profound affect upon their lives. 

Walking back to her ship docked at the Caribbean island of St. Clare, Amity hears someone obviously in distress calling out for help from an alley. The intrepid lady goes to investigate and finds a wounded Englishman. She quickly gathers help and gets him back to the Northern Star where she cleans and stitches his wound and nurses him through a fever. (Her father had been a doctor, and Amity had watched and even helped him care for patients.) The Gentleman's name is Benedict Stanbridge, and he is a scientist and engineer. He was also on a spying mission for the Crown, though he doesn't divulge that little item to Amity. Amity and the recovering Ben become friends on the voyage to New York, where Ben disembarks to take the train to California. 

Gossip travels fast, and it seems that as soon as Amity gets home to London it becomes known that she spent time alone on a ship with Benedict Stanbridge. And then one day, she hails a carriage and gets aboard what she thinks is a public conveyance. Not so. There is a man inside, a man with an upper-class accent, fine clothing…and a mask. He attempts to kidnap Amity, but she carries a secret weapon and manages to fight him off. This, too, soon makes news in the clubs and papers. Amity is now even more notorious; it's suspected she was to be the next victim of the monstrous murderer dubbed the Bridegroom…he cuts the throats of ladies soon to be wed. Benedict learns all this when he arrives back in London. 

What follows is a lively, well written mystery that Amity and Ben set out to solve. They pretend to be engaged so that he can keep close to her to protect her, and also to ameliorate the damage to her reputation. How will this propinquity affect them? Read it and see. The two have help from Penny and a Scotland Yard detective, plus a servant or two. The characters?sweet, quirky, snobby, or vicious, nasty or nice?are fully delineated. Told largely with dialogue and a minimum of narration, the story moves right along…leaving space for some lovely romantic moments, of course. 

Jane Bowers

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