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Daughter of Mystery

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Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force. Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force. Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit the Saveze title, and the new baron eyes the fortunes he lost with open envy. Barbara, bitter that her servitude is to continue, may be the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron’s greed—and the ever deeper layers of intrigue that surround the ill-health of Alpennia’s prince and the divine power from rituals known only as The Mysteries of the Saints. At first Margerit protests the need for Barbara’s services, but soon she cannot imagine sending Barbara away—for reasons of state and reasons of the heart. Heather Rose Jone debuts with a sweeping story rich in intrigue and the clash of loyalties and love.


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Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force. Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit Margerit Sovitre did not expect to inherit the Baron Saveze’s fortunes—and even less his bodyguard. The formidable Barbara, of unknown parentage and tied to the barony for secretive reasons, is a feared duelist, capable of defending her charges with efficient, deadly force. Equally perplexing is that while she is now a highly eligible heiress, Margerit did not also inherit the Saveze title, and the new baron eyes the fortunes he lost with open envy. Barbara, bitter that her servitude is to continue, may be the only force that stands between Margerit and the new Baron’s greed—and the ever deeper layers of intrigue that surround the ill-health of Alpennia’s prince and the divine power from rituals known only as The Mysteries of the Saints. At first Margerit protests the need for Barbara’s services, but soon she cannot imagine sending Barbara away—for reasons of state and reasons of the heart. Heather Rose Jone debuts with a sweeping story rich in intrigue and the clash of loyalties and love.

30 review for Daughter of Mystery

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    4 1/2 Stars. This was extremely well written. It was almost like a piece of art. At first your not sure what your looking at, but then all the details unfold in front of your eyes. You realize how much you actually like it, how beautiful it really is. That's the best way I can describe this book. To be honest, I did not care for the beginning. Lot's of names and titles to process, sent my head spinning. But once things become established, you really start getting into the story-line. I also had 4 1/2 Stars. This was extremely well written. It was almost like a piece of art. At first your not sure what your looking at, but then all the details unfold in front of your eyes. You realize how much you actually like it, how beautiful it really is. That's the best way I can describe this book. To be honest, I did not care for the beginning. Lot's of names and titles to process, sent my head spinning. But once things become established, you really start getting into the story-line. I also had some trouble with the "mysteries". It was not easy to understand, with some religion mixed with philosophy that is kind of thrown at you... But all of a sudden it just clicks, I suddenly got it. And the "mysteries" ended up being a critical part of the story. I'm so glad I stuck with it and didn't gloss over the tough(for me) parts, and I was rewarded towards the end. I beg of any new readers, if you feel like me in the beginning, don't give up, get through it, it's worth it. The two main characters are very likeable. The romance is sweet and light, but it fits the story. And there is of course some sword-fighting and intrigue, that is a must for any good fantasy book. I'm not as big on historical fantasy as I am on just fantasy, but Heather Rose Jones won me over. This book really is pretty brilliant. And while I'm a lover of LesFic, I hope fans who aren't, who are just fantasy fans in general, will give this book a shot. Even though there is a lesbian romance, I can not see it bothering even the people with the most sensitive "sensibilities" This book deserves to be read by a large audience. If it just continues to remain only in our LesFic community, well we have a little hidden gem here others are missing out on.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Excellent stuff. Very well realised kingdom with an intriguing magic system, twisty plot, lovely slow burn f/f romance (all closed door), very nice writing. Just what I felt like reading, and thoroughly satisfying. And there are more in the world!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jem

    First thoughts: 5 stars! Didn't think i would like this after the first couple of chapters almost put me to sleep. :) But once I got used to the prose and realized the import of what had initially seemed like pointless minutiae, it was just Wow! simply amazing writing and world building. Loved the incredible attention to detail, logic, language and imagery. All of that plus a gripping tale of impossible love, mystery, intrigues, treachery and even magic! If only all period romances were like this First thoughts: 5 stars! Didn't think i would like this after the first couple of chapters almost put me to sleep. :) But once I got used to the prose and realized the import of what had initially seemed like pointless minutiae, it was just Wow! simply amazing writing and world building. Loved the incredible attention to detail, logic, language and imagery. All of that plus a gripping tale of impossible love, mystery, intrigues, treachery and even magic! If only all period romances were like this, I would not have avoided them like the plague. :) Detailed review later....when I'm done with book 2. Note: Definitely not a lazy afternoon read. One needs to give the book the careful attention it deserves. A dictionary will come in handy too. :) Review Proper: This book is the first of a series set in a fictional principality named Alpennia around the time of 18th century Europe. It is about the struggles of two young women against the traditional gender roles and expectations demanded by respectable society and by their particular social class. All her life, Margerit has dreamed of scholarly pursuits rather than snagging the most eligible man her meager dowry can buy. But being an orphan means she is completely at the mercy of her uncle's financial means and generosity...or lack thereof. And that means a traditional life and future that has already been pre-planned for her--marriage to a respectable gentleman and children. A sudden fortuitous turn of events finds Margerit inheriting a huge fortune which opens doors to unlimited possibilities. But being a minor, Margerit's uncle is still in charge of her financial affairs, and therefore her life. How can Margerit escape her uncle's clutches and the endless parade of husband-shopping balls? And how can she pursue her dream of studying in university and dabbling in the mysteries of the saints? Due to the machinations of Margerit's benefactor, Margerit also inherited an enigmatic bodyguard named Barbra, who seems to have her own agenda and her own dark past to deal with. Surprisingly, the two bond over books, philosophy and a passion for learning. And thus begin their adventures in Rotenek. The author's use of period language lends an air of authenticity to her depiction of the noble and upper class life. The prose is appropriately formal and stuffy which took a while for this contemporary reader to get used to. I admit the last time I tackled a similarly styled work (Gay Pride and Prejudice) I gave up after the first chapter. And I almost did here too. But the unusual and intriguing plot drew me in. The idea of taking traditional religious canon and worship and turning them into vehicles of magical spells is as audacious as it is logical (the author's explanation almost made it plausible). Once you get beyond the first two chapters, you realize the detailed world the author constructed is nothing short of astounding. From the physical settings, to the social structures, to the legal vagaries of inheritance and succession and most especially to the methodical and 'scientific' way of harnessing spiritual power--everything speaks of an intelligent, scholarly, well-researched and expertly-plotted book. There is so much to enjoy here. Aside from the feminist struggle for freedom from traditional gender roles, there is also a more earthly struggle for control of a vast estate, power struggles for control of the throne, a mystery or two for the reader to unearth, and lots of legal and political maneuvering in between. All that plus the archaic prose, and you have a book that requires the reader's full attention to truly appreciate. Definitely not a lazy afternoon read. My only complaint (more of an observation really, because this book is really so much more than just a romance) is that the development of the 'romance' wasn't given all that much attention and as a result felt somewhat rushed. It is not the lack of explicit scenes. I thought the demure intimate scenes were quite appropriate and in keeping with the tenor of the book. But the jump from admiration for a best friend to lust for a lover of the same gender, for someone as conservatively raised and innocent as Margerit, merited more exploration. Also the lack of anything explicit beyond kisses means I never really found out when exactly was it that they actually took the next step. Overall though, the book's most impressive achievement is transporting me to another world and another time, and what a grand time it was too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shira Glassman

    Jane Austen and Charlotte Brönte never wrote about 19th century German lesbians having adventures with swordfighting and religious magic, and we have been the poorer for it until Heather Rose Jones came along. At its core it takes the "marriage of convenience" trope into the constrictive world of upper-class women who haven't reached the age of majority--Margerit winds up legally responsible for her godfather's bodyguard, Barbara, upon his death or else her legacy from him is forfeit. Barbara, i Jane Austen and Charlotte Brönte never wrote about 19th century German lesbians having adventures with swordfighting and religious magic, and we have been the poorer for it until Heather Rose Jones came along. At its core it takes the "marriage of convenience" trope into the constrictive world of upper-class women who haven't reached the age of majority--Margerit winds up legally responsible for her godfather's bodyguard, Barbara, upon his death or else her legacy from him is forfeit. Barbara, in turn, must protect Margerit from the wrath and conniving schemes of the man who had wanted to inherit. Picture your average Jane Austen book with the balls and the "I can't talk to you until we're introduced" and "mixed groups are scandalous unless chaperones are present and every young man has been Approved, even if we're literally studying college-level theology." Then superimpose upon it a young woman who comes to understand that the religious visions she's been having in church since she was little are not only real but rare. Margerit devotes her life to developing her gift, while Barbara tries to solve the mystery of her own identity and why it might bring her unknown enemies. The love story is woven expertly with complicated political and legal games, about who will inherit the Alpennian throne, about why Barbara's identity was kept from her, and how two women of differing social status can form a deep attachment despite convention with ruining reputations, which as Brönte taught us is a currency a woman of that era could not easily afford to lose. It's made clear when the women become physically intimate, but beyond kissing the sex scenes are fade to black just as the straight literature it's imitating would, and I think that's a very wise choice. Not everyone likes reading sex scenes, it feels more in the mood of the period to skim over it, and personally as a queer woman I feel more dignity by having a choice just like straight people do over having plenty of books with sex and books without sex to read in which people like me get a happy ending. I appreciated a read where I got to spend time with queer women who had positive feelings about religion, where I got to play in a historical setting without being too too drenched in homophobia (mostly just from tutting aunts, and it's only a few isolated bits), and something set in Central Europe where my immediate ancestors are from. And I loved the complicated tricks and turns of the story, which unfolded like some kind of paper flower with layer after layer of plot twists. Very well done. I paused in my read about 40 pages before the end once the big conflict was resolved in every bit as satisfying a way as the buildup deserved, and couldn't stop squeeing about the book. After my rehearsal I came home and read the rest, and that was the only part I didn't like! That's a very personal quibble, though, because what happens there is the natural growing pains of any relationship that's had to adjust to major changes and the book would be less deep and less well-written if she hadn't included it. The ladies have a 100% happy ending and life together by the end; I think I just don't like being reminded of that sophomore stage of love where all the "if we're going to be a permanent couple we need to resolve some stuff" gets hammered out. Daughter of Mystery is set in the early 19th century in the high society of a made-up German principality called "Alpennia"--this is primary-world fantasy in which Latin, Italy, Austria, France (and Napoleon's wars), and Catholicism are all real, but the specific cities of the book's tiny nation are invented much as "Pontevedra" was invented for the operetta The Merry Widow (although closely based on Montenegro.) As far as this book focusing on Catholicism and having an extended "let's hide in a convent for a while" scene, the religious magic and devotional scenes are focused far more on the saints and to a lesser degree on Mary; Jesus is brought up only rarely. This book is NOT preaching to the audience about what they should believe or practice, so if you're nervous about the mention of religion, don't worry. (And if you like the idea of Catholic magic involving saints, come on in!)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Agirlcandream

    Amazing world building and a slew of courtly intrigue. I struggled to keep the honorifics and families straight. Many layers to this political landmine along with the worthiness of titles and estates, inheritances and beliefs. A complex book but nothing complex about the romantic attraction between Margerit and her armin or duelist Barbara. As much as it made my brain hurt at times I fell under an Alpennian spell. Throw a few rogues and social climbers amidst the pure and innocent scholars seeki Amazing world building and a slew of courtly intrigue. I struggled to keep the honorifics and families straight. Many layers to this political landmine along with the worthiness of titles and estates, inheritances and beliefs. A complex book but nothing complex about the romantic attraction between Margerit and her armin or duelist Barbara. As much as it made my brain hurt at times I fell under an Alpennian spell. Throw a few rogues and social climbers amidst the pure and innocent scholars seeking to advance their knowledge and you know someone is going to seek vengeance.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Just a man's point of view

    Wonderful reading. Masterful universe creation and wrapping. Deep characters, a well matched couple, I really loved both, the reflective and sweet Margerit and the fiery, passionate Barbara. A dystopian universe with a hint of original, unusual magic. My only regret is that there's not more action. Because when Barbara springs into action it's pure fun! Wonderful reading. Masterful universe creation and wrapping. Deep characters, a well matched couple, I really loved both, the reflective and sweet Margerit and the fiery, passionate Barbara. A dystopian universe with a hint of original, unusual magic. My only regret is that there's not more action. Because when Barbara springs into action it's pure fun!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Heather Rose Jones is a master and in building Alpennia, she delivers a world that feels authentically European of a time gone by. Her use of language makes it feel like we’re reading something by a 19th century author (with, of course, more magic), much like Susanna Clarke does in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I also appreciated that while Daughter of Mystery has a romance, it is NOT a romance novel. It’s historical fantasy at its finest, with enough action, adventure, and mystery to keep th Heather Rose Jones is a master and in building Alpennia, she delivers a world that feels authentically European of a time gone by. Her use of language makes it feel like we’re reading something by a 19th century author (with, of course, more magic), much like Susanna Clarke does in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I also appreciated that while Daughter of Mystery has a romance, it is NOT a romance novel. It’s historical fantasy at its finest, with enough action, adventure, and mystery to keep things exciting. Full joint review (TLR): https://www.thelesbianreview.com/daug... Full review (SBTB): https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/r...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    This is really fun, a quasi-period historical fantasy centering a lesbian romance. I see the genre romance readers saying this doesn’t quite meet expectations for a romance novel, but for the rest of us I think that’s what it is: while there is other stuff going on, the romance is the backbone of the plot. Fortunately I found it well-done, a nice slow burn featuring engaging and sympathetic characters. Barbara is a young woman in service as a bodyguard and duelist to an eccentric baron. Upon his This is really fun, a quasi-period historical fantasy centering a lesbian romance. I see the genre romance readers saying this doesn’t quite meet expectations for a romance novel, but for the rest of us I think that’s what it is: while there is other stuff going on, the romance is the backbone of the plot. Fortunately I found it well-done, a nice slow burn featuring engaging and sympathetic characters. Barbara is a young woman in service as a bodyguard and duelist to an eccentric baron. Upon his death, he unexpectedly leaves his fortune—and Barbara—to his goddaughter Margerit, a reluctant debutante of the landed gentry who really just wants to attend university. The fortune gives Margerit the freedom to pursue her dreams—assuming she can evade her guardians’ attempts to marry her off, and the baron’s vengeful nephew, who plans to claim the fortune by any means possible. Fortunately she now has Barbara’s protection, but Barbara also has problems of her own, including trying to figure out her mysterious parentage while pursued by menacing creditors. If that all sounds a little pulpy, well, this book is on the higher end of that. The pacing is somewhat stately, taking the time to develop situations, but the story kept me hooked throughout—and good thing too, because while the page count may look normal, they’re full pages and it isn’t the fastest read. The writing quality is good; at first Jones’s comma avoidance irked, but soon I’d classified that just as part of her style, and having a distinctive style does give a book character. The romance is enjoyable, and I liked guessing at the answers to Barbara’s mystery (I did figure it out before her, but with the advantage of knowing she’s in a novel). Margerit’s family drama is also engaging, though it took awhile for me to get invested in her study of religious mysteries. It’s fun and different to have magic based on, essentially, Catholicism (prayers to saints can have very tangible effects), but it took a long time for this thread to gain stakes, and in the meanwhile it felt like a lot of exposition. It all ties together well in the end, though. The book rotates chapters between the two leads, and they’re both sympathetic (including when at odds with each other; I understood where they were both coming from) and fairly well fleshed out, though there isn’t a ton of depth or complexity, and both underreact to some seemingly pretty traumatic events. I found the secondary characters intriguing, with some apparent depths beyond what this novel has space to explore. And I am definitely interested in the book about Antuniet (though I’ll need some convincing on her choice of love interest). I also appreciated some choices rarely seen in fiction, like the antagonist who, when (view spoiler)[Barbara challenges him to settle their differences with a duel, responds with “Nope, I’d rather trust in the justice system, thanks” (hide spoiler)] (there’s less action and swordfighting here than you might expect), and the lingering mystery about (view spoiler)[Margerit’s tutor: the only answer the book leaves us with is the baron’s “I don’t remember sending her and I don’t know what a girl would do with Latin, but I guess I must have,” which would absolutely happen in real life but which in fiction I assumed to be a clue. Since it’s fiction, I still wonder if Margerit somehow manifested that letter without realizing it). (hide spoiler)] Meanwhile, it’s evident that Jones has read history and has a love of period novels; she takes some definite liberties, but these generally seem in line with setting the novel in an invented country, somewhere in the ambit of France and Germany. (The time period isn’t explicitly stated, but from reference to a character’s birth year and a few other context clues, it appears to take place from 1816-1818.) It’s always nice to read a historical fantasy that feels grounded in the setting, rather than a generic fantasyland. Finally, on the Political Dumb-O-Meter, this one isn’t too bad, though the actions of the political figures in the succession crisis subplot don’t bear up under scrutiny. (view spoiler)[The ruling prince’s daughter from his first marriage was promised in her mother’s marriage contract that the succession would pass through her line. She then apparently neglected to even think about securing that for decades after her marriage, suddenly being blindsided once her kids were adults by the fact that her father was old and she had a younger half-brother with an ambitious mother. And the older daughter is supposed to be the savvy one? Please. In real life the appropriate grandson—presumably the eldest since a principality is usually more prestigious than a duchy—would have been earmarked for the throne from birth, and if not entirely raised there, at least sent to the country to be educated, rather than the whole family sleeping on their prerogatives while allowing others to woo his future subjects. (hide spoiler)] Fortunately the politics are a small element of the book, and the intrigue scenes are reasonable; I particularly liked that the princess judged to be not a particularly smooth operator is in fact not a smooth operator by politician standards, rather than coming across like a drunken sailor. The book’s dumbest moment, however, is when Margerit apparently has no idea who her own monarch has married and who his kids are. Puh-lease, find an excuse for exposition that doesn’t make your protagonist look like a moron. In the end though, I enjoyed this book a lot, and would be interested in reading more in the series. It’s worth noting, however, that this functions very much as a standalone—it does not read as if any sequels were planned—and the sequels feature different protagonists.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Imrie

    Sometimes I think about the great women of history, and how terrible it is that so many of them were cut down in their prime or prevented from acheiving more by poverty or family duties. How different would things be if those women had had the resources and freedom of men? In Daughter of Mystery, Margerit receives a surprise inheritance from a previously uninterested godfather, and promptly sets about acheiving her dream of escaping the marriage market and going to university. After the initial e Sometimes I think about the great women of history, and how terrible it is that so many of them were cut down in their prime or prevented from acheiving more by poverty or family duties. How different would things be if those women had had the resources and freedom of men? In Daughter of Mystery, Margerit receives a surprise inheritance from a previously uninterested godfather, and promptly sets about acheiving her dream of escaping the marriage market and going to university. After the initial excitement of the inheritance and Margerit learning how to play the game, gaining her freedom without losing her reputation, the story slows down. The middle third of the book progresses so slowly that I almost thought I was bored. Although I like stories about bookish nerdy girls being bookish, I could have done with fewer long library sessions and more swordfights! When the pace picked up again for the final third of the book, I saw that there had been more than I realised in all those slow college scenes. The details and the clues for the final political denouement had all been so cleverly laid that I hadn't even realised it. All the loose threads were brought together perfectly and tied up in a quite gripping denouement. My affection for Margerit and Barbara kept me going through the slower scenes, and the love story is the strength of the book. It was an absolutely heart-warming romance. Especially as Margerit and Barbara were both fundamentally good people. It is their determination to do the right thing - for themselves, for their families and for each other - that creates misunderstanding between them. Their love (and some well meaning shoves from friends!) overcomes it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Arien

    4.2 stars. Saying this was not a light read would be an understatement of the century. The paragraphs are often the length of a page and the language used is heavy and archaic at times but with intent of course since it is a historical novel with light fantasy elements. The so called mysteries are in the center of attention yet for two thirds of the book it never really is clear what exactly a mystery is. It involves a lot of jargon related to Christianity and what I understand to be an original 4.2 stars. Saying this was not a light read would be an understatement of the century. The paragraphs are often the length of a page and the language used is heavy and archaic at times but with intent of course since it is a historical novel with light fantasy elements. The so called mysteries are in the center of attention yet for two thirds of the book it never really is clear what exactly a mystery is. It involves a lot of jargon related to Christianity and what I understand to be an original fiction in the way how they are construed. And I can't say I understand it fully even now after finishing the book. Everything about it was quite esoteric and perhaps that was the intent but I was confused for most of the book which was not ideal as you'd imagine. This book definitely requires patience, fortunately characters pulled me through so I kept reading wishing to know what will happen to the girls next. The romance is underdeveloped and therefore feels unnecessary. I didn't really feel chemistry between them, they were thrown together by circumstance and that's pretty much it, no development towards love was described, they were friends for sure but I didn't see how they went from that to love. But the overarching story line was great - the inheritance, the mystery around Barbara's parentage, the political subterfuge, everything was top notch. I enjoyed it all. I usually avoid historical novels like a plague, never was a fan of history and I thought this would be a work of fantasy but I'm glad I gave it a chance. Truly a good read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    This was an amazing book. I'm not one for mysticism and religion, but there were so many other plot elements that I do enjoy - mystery, political intrigue, family dynamics, the law, romance. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. This was an amazing book. I'm not one for mysticism and religion, but there were so many other plot elements that I do enjoy - mystery, political intrigue, family dynamics, the law, romance. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Para (wanderer)

    Daughter of Mystery has been this month's pick for one of the bookclubs I sometimes participate in. Historical fantasy f/f romance seemed amazing, it has been recommended to me before, plus it's pride month, so I thought why the hell not now? Except...this is not really romance. It calls itself one, but there's 1) less of it than in most regular fantasy books not billed as romance, 2) it literally all happens only in the last quarter of the book, and 3) the ending is abrupt, unsatisfying bullshi Daughter of Mystery has been this month's pick for one of the bookclubs I sometimes participate in. Historical fantasy f/f romance seemed amazing, it has been recommended to me before, plus it's pride month, so I thought why the hell not now? Except...this is not really romance. It calls itself one, but there's 1) less of it than in most regular fantasy books not billed as romance, 2) it literally all happens only in the last quarter of the book, and 3) the ending is abrupt, unsatisfying bullshit. How do I approach reviewing a book where the first three quarters are solid, enjoyable historical fantasy intrigue with religious magic and good worldbuilding, but where the ending to the "romance" part of it left me feeling angry and disappointed and betrayed instead of satisfied? The main premise is this: Margerit Sovitre suddenly inherits a huge fortune from her uncle, and along with it also his bodyguard, Barbara. She has to face the ever-incresing pressure to marry that conflict with her wish to be a scholar, people who see her as a walking purse, rigid societal and gender roles, political intrigue, and the realisation that she can see and work mysteries. Barbara, on the other hand, is bitterly disappointed that she's not going to be a free woman after the death of her...well, owner, but has to server Margerit for two more years until they both reach majority. She is educated as well, and far more savvy of the two. As historical fantasy, it's very solid. At the beginning, I had a bit of trouble getting into it because of rigidity and excessive politeness of the Alpennian society that also reflected in the writing style and glacial pacing, but once Margerit got to the capital and the book picked up I started enjoying it a lot. It's slow-paced and subtle all right, but all of that fit. It has one of the most unique takes on the "MC wants to study magic" trope that I've ever seen - the obstacles Margerit faced (women aren't technically allowed to study at the university...but they find ways) and the way she and other women overcame them are not something I've seen before. It felt quite realistic. The worldbuilding, also good. Alpennia is an imaginary European country somewhere near Austria, Switzerland, and France. It neatly gives the author license to make some stuff up, but still feels historically grounded in the way most fantasy isn't. The magic is also pretty great. It's heavily based on religion, which is Christianity (not even renamed) centered more on various saints, where certain people can see or hear when prayers were heard, and form their own prayers so that they are heard. The only problem is...the label romance carries certain expectations. I knew it was a slow burn going in, but I would have expected at least more than the vaguest signs before the (view spoiler)[75 (hide spoiler)] % mark when they finally confess their love. (view spoiler)[Then there are endless obstacles, from society's expectations, to their own blunders, to the change in the power dynamic, to plot preventing them from being truly together for the rest of the fucking book. There are a few chaste kisses and that's it. I don't even mind the lack of sex, but we never get to see them together. It ends on a promise that they will make their relationship work and nothing more. This is the last paragraph: Like many eccentrics, she never married, preferring the company of her own kind—and in her day that resulted in a number of very odd friendships indeed. The oddest was the one she shared lifelong with Margerit Sovitre, the scholar, who came to be called Fil’misitir, Daughter of Mystery. (hide spoiler)] ...and I'm fucking sorry, but what's the point of calling a book romance if (view spoiler)[we don't ever really get to SEE the main couple being together? How do they make their relationship work? What happens to Margerit? (hide spoiler)] There's at least half a book's worth of material summed up in the sorry excuse it calls an epilogue. Okay, I thought, there are sequels, perhaps it continues there, but I went to look and it does not. They are all from the POV of other characters. (view spoiler)[It's not romance when it dangles the promise of a relationship like a carrot, then abruptly goes "yeah okay I guess they are together now END BOOK" in the last half of the last chapter. (hide spoiler)] Sure it's technically HEA but for fuck's sake, it's the sort of thing that should be shown, not told. For a slow burn, it ends far too rushed. I wouldn't be nearly as angry if the first part of the book and the plot weren't as good as they were. If it wasn't labelled romance. But this is a load of bullshit. Enjoyment: 3/5 in the beginning, 4/5 in the middle, 1/5 in the end Execution: 3.5/5 for most of the book, 1/5 in the end Recommended to: those looking for historical fantasy with minimal romance and unique worldbuilding Not recommended to: romance fans, those looking for f/f, fans of fast-paced books, content warning: sexual assault More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Corrie

    Wow! Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery has left me speechless. Such intruigue, such superb world building, such great characters, so many twists and turns, so many players, such an elaborate plot to puzzle together. I can’t begin to write down my feelings about this book and do it justice. If you want a really in dept and well worded review, please take the time to read what Shira Glassman had to say about it because she mirrors my thoughts perfectly (I’m not being lazy here, just overwhel Wow! Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery has left me speechless. Such intruigue, such superb world building, such great characters, so many twists and turns, so many players, such an elaborate plot to puzzle together. I can’t begin to write down my feelings about this book and do it justice. If you want a really in dept and well worded review, please take the time to read what Shira Glassman had to say about it because she mirrors my thoughts perfectly (I’m not being lazy here, just overwhelmed!) f/f Themes: Austen and Brontë eat your heart out! 5 starzzz

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was reading a book that was super dark and heavy, and I realized that I needed something lighter instead. Scrolling through my Kindle, I found Daughter of Mystery. It seemed like it’d be just perfect for the moment. And it was. Daughter of Mystery is a historical fantasy novel with a romance between two women. Margerit Sovitre is an orphan girl whose guardians are anxious to see marry well, even though she has no wish to marry. Her future changes for ever when her wealthy godfather, Baron Savez I was reading a book that was super dark and heavy, and I realized that I needed something lighter instead. Scrolling through my Kindle, I found Daughter of Mystery. It seemed like it’d be just perfect for the moment. And it was. Daughter of Mystery is a historical fantasy novel with a romance between two women. Margerit Sovitre is an orphan girl whose guardians are anxious to see marry well, even though she has no wish to marry. Her future changes for ever when her wealthy godfather, Baron Saveze, decides to leave his entire fortune to her. However, his bequest comes with a stipulation — Margerit must take on the services of Barbara, a young woman who served as his bodyguard and duelist. Margerit’s new wealth puts a target on her, and she’ll need Barbara by her side. Meanwhile, Barbara starts attempting to unravel the mystery of her parentage and the secrets Baron Saveze was keeping from her. My big concern with Daughter of Mystery is that I tend not to like romance, and this looks like it would be heavy on romance. Just look at that cover! Thankfully, this proved not to be an issue. While the burgeoning relationship between Margerit and Barbara isn’t insubstantial, it’s not the only thing happening of the book. Daughter of Mystery compares fairly well to some of the other historical fantasy novels I’ve enjoyed, such as Sorcerer to the Crown. And I actually did like the romance this time. Possibly it helps that it was f/f, but I also liked both of the characters involved. It could have easily ventured into some iffy territory re: power differential, but it mostly avoided it. Also, there was no sex, which is good for my bookish tastes. At this point, you might be wondering what are the fantasy elements in Daughter of Mystery. The answer is, they’re the mysteries referred to in the title. In the world Heather Rose Jones has created, miracles are a common part of daily life. People petition saints for miracles, and sometimes they are answered. But there’s an almost scientific underpinning to it — what saints do you invoke? With what language? It’s sort of like building formulas to produce miracles, and it’s fascinating. Margerit has always had a knack for getting the ear of the saints, but she’s just starting to realize her full potential and create miracles of her own. The story is well written and felt appropriate to the time period. I enjoyed the political intrigue and the mystery of Barbara’s parentage. Even if I did figure out some of the plot points fairly quickly, Daughter of Mystery left me with plenty of twists I didn’t foresee. I fully intend on reading the sequel. Review from The Illustrated Page.

  15. 4 out of 5

    LG (A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions)

    Daughter of Mystery is set in the fictional European country of Alpennia, sometime in the early 19th century. Chapters alternate between Barbara’s perspective and Margerit’s. Barbara knows she’s of noble birth but has no idea who her parents are. Her father lost everything due to his gambling debts and sold her to Baron Seveze when she was only a baby. She is now the baron’s armin (formal bodyguard/duelist). Margerit Sovitre is the baron’s goddaughter, although he generally hasn’t been in her lif Daughter of Mystery is set in the fictional European country of Alpennia, sometime in the early 19th century. Chapters alternate between Barbara’s perspective and Margerit’s. Barbara knows she’s of noble birth but has no idea who her parents are. Her father lost everything due to his gambling debts and sold her to Baron Seveze when she was only a baby. She is now the baron’s armin (formal bodyguard/duelist). Margerit Sovitre is the baron’s goddaughter, although he generally hasn’t been in her life much. Margerit is an orphan who was taken in by her aunt and uncle. She has no interest in attending balls or getting married, but that’s the direction in which her life seems to be going, until Baron Seveze dies and everyone learns to their shock that he has left her his entire fortune. He also left her Barbara, despite his promise to free her, and made it so that Margerit cannot free her before she (Margerit) comes of age without most of the baron’s fortune going to the Convent of Saint Orisul instead. Margerit is willing to do this, but her uncle, who still controls her life, isn’t willing to let her. However, Margerit’s efforts win her Barbara’s loyalty. With Barbara at her side, Margerit pursues her heart’s desire: studying philosophy and theology at the university in Rotenek. Meanwhile, Barbara digs into the mystery of her own past. I hate writing reviews of things I actually enjoyed. I came very close to just pushing out three bulleted lists: What I Liked, What I Didn’t Like, and Things That Didn’t Fit Into the Other Two Categories. ::sigh:: I adored the first half of this book. Sure, it was slow, but in a good way. It reminded me strongly of Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, if that book had been written from the perspective of its women. There was Barbara, who usually dressed as a man and was a skilled bodyguard and duelist. And there was Margerit, who, like The Goblin Emperor’s Maia, was abruptly thrust into the limelight by her changed circumstances. She was expected to find a husband, manage his household, and bear his children, and instead the baron’s money opened up a path to all the things she’d really wanted (plus at least one thing she hadn't even considered). The setting had a definite sense of weight and depth to it, and the politics was intriguing, if occasionally confusing. I was fascinated with the way religion and magic seemed to be intertwined, even as I worried that Margerit was happily and blindly heading towards being declared a heretic. Even though Barbara spent more of the book in on-page danger than Margerit, I tended to worry more about Margerit than her. Barbara was cool, competent, and definitely more politically savvy. The pacing occasionally got too slow for my tastes, especially in the second half. There were times when I wished some of the political details and Margerit and Barbara’s analyses of religious mysteries had been tightened up a bit. To be fair, many of the things that looked unimportant or unrelated did eventually tie together in the end, it just took longer than I expected. Barbara and Margerit’s relationship was one of those things I both enjoyed and had issues with. I liked that it took a while for them to go from bonding over shared interests to mutual secret attraction, and finally to discussing how they felt about each other. Considering the difference in their positions - after all, Barbara was technically Margerit’s inherited property - it would have felt weird if things had progressed more quickly. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t occasionally get frustrated with how long everything took. For the most part, Barbara seemed to be more acutely aware of the difference in their positions than Margerit...up until a scene late in the book when Margerit told Barbara “You forget your place” during an argument. I was horrified, Barbara felt like she’d been kicked in the gut, and Margerit immediately regretted it. I kept waiting for them to talk about it. Margerit mentioned the scene once, a little, when she voiced her fear that she’d lost Barbara for good, and they talked more about some related issues near the end, but I still felt like the author brushed that one scene aside a bit too much. Despite my issues with the pacing and my slight dissatisfaction with the way Margerit and Barbara’s relationship was handled, I really enjoyed Daughter of Mystery and am looking forward to reading the next book. I wish I'd purchased the whole series while it was still on sale at Kobo. (Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    Reviewed for The Bibliophibian. It took me ages to get round to reading this, but it turned out to be pretty delightful once I finally did, and I want to read more set in the same world. (Good thing there is more!) It’s basically around (I think) 18th century Europe, only with magic, and it’s set in a Ruritania-like fictional European country, with mixed European elements to the language and culture. The two main characters are two rather different girls: one girl from a well-off but not noble fa Reviewed for The Bibliophibian. It took me ages to get round to reading this, but it turned out to be pretty delightful once I finally did, and I want to read more set in the same world. (Good thing there is more!) It’s basically around (I think) 18th century Europe, only with magic, and it’s set in a Ruritania-like fictional European country, with mixed European elements to the language and culture. The two main characters are two rather different girls: one girl from a well-off but not noble family, and one girl with no family name who serves the nobility as a swordswoman. The general cultural attitude toward women is somewhat straitlaced, and Margerit is headed for a dancing season and then marriage as quickly as possible, despite her scholarly tendencies — while Barbara is an oddity and not exactly socially acceptable, though protected by the patronage of the baron she serves. Of course, the Baron has it in mind to meddle, and the two girls are quickly thrown together after he dies, leaving his title to an annoying relative but all the non-ancestral lands — and his wealth — to Margerit, his goddaughter… along with Barbara, who remains in service and thus can be more or less given to Margerit through the terms of the will. As the story unfolds, it slowly becomes apparent that there’s a deeper game going on, with political implications — and also that Margerit is more remarkable than those around her thing, as she’s able to see and manipulate the ‘mysteries’ by petitioning the saints. There’s a solid and satisfying story there even without the relationship that develops between Margerit and Barbara. In itself, the romance is a fairly slight story, with the standard impossibilities and misunderstandings and lack of communication: it kept my attention because of the larger story within which it plays out. It’s a fascinating take on the usual ‘medieval European fantasy’ type setting (although not quite medieval, I know), and I enjoyed it. It mostly steers clear of tarring any character with too black a brush, though I found it weird that Margerit’s cousin is quickly forgiven by her for attempting to sexually assault her, and I wasn’t entirely keen on how often the threat of rape and abduction arose (often just to explain why Barbara would need to stay so close to Margerit, I think). Some of the side characters are fascinating, and I’ll be glad to see more of them in the other books, particularly Antuniet. Overall, as a fantasy novel alone it’s not groundbreaking, and as a romance alone it’s probably too focused on the other plot. Taken together, and with the fact that it’s a lesbian romance, it turns into something quite absorbing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    AnnMaree Of Oz

    DNF I'm afraid I was quite bored to tears of it. So many others have loved it and reviewed it favourably, so please try it yourself. DNF I'm afraid I was quite bored to tears of it. So many others have loved it and reviewed it favourably, so please try it yourself.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I loved everything about this book's Jane Austen-comedy-of-manners-in-a-Central-European-fictional-world scenario. I loved the robust, intelligent writing, the palpably furnished natural and architectural spaces, the skilful simulation of a distinct linguistic universe, the persuasive evocation of an archaic social structure with a deeply sophisticated cultural heritage, the romance. Yes, there was nothing explicit (the principal characters were too well-mannered to jump one another's bones when I loved everything about this book's Jane Austen-comedy-of-manners-in-a-Central-European-fictional-world scenario. I loved the robust, intelligent writing, the palpably furnished natural and architectural spaces, the skilful simulation of a distinct linguistic universe, the persuasive evocation of an archaic social structure with a deeply sophisticated cultural heritage, the romance. Yes, there was nothing explicit (the principal characters were too well-mannered to jump one another's bones when the opportunity arose, but isn't that why Jane Austen-like exchanges are so intensely romantic, indeed erotic?). The plot tracks the new world of opportunity (and danger) that opens for Margerit, a brilliant girl of middling social station, when she unexpectedly becomes a great heiress. The inheritance includes a highly trained female body-guard, fully her match intellectually, and possibly the real "daughter of mystery" for whom the book is titled. Barbara is a powerful swordswoman, and her contained physicality--joined to her exquisite attention to social forms--is crucial to the maturing of Margerit's own powers, which are not merely intellectual. Beyond the mystery of Barbara's parentage and its relation to Margerit's (they are both orphans) a world of political and religious intrigue is fleshed out as the stage in which the two young women will finally emerge as equals. I'm guessing that many of the 4-star reviews come from readers better steeped than I in a certain type of historical genre lit. I was completely satisfied by both this book's ambitions and its lovely prose.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Oh man I so wanted to love this book. It has so much of what I want! And it was written well, so I pushed my way past my initial stumbling block with it, hoping that it would get better, but nope! After our heiress character finds herself with a new fortune, her cousin tries to rape her so that she will be forced to marry him to save her reputation. His father, her guardian, tries to say it is all a mistake that will be forgotten about. She says absolutely not and moves out of the house. She nev Oh man I so wanted to love this book. It has so much of what I want! And it was written well, so I pushed my way past my initial stumbling block with it, hoping that it would get better, but nope! After our heiress character finds herself with a new fortune, her cousin tries to rape her so that she will be forced to marry him to save her reputation. His father, her guardian, tries to say it is all a mistake that will be forgotten about. She says absolutely not and moves out of the house. She never reacts emotionally to what happened outside of those first few moments, even when another person tries to abduct her in a park. So, not loving how rape is used as a plot point so far but hey, do you see a lot of queer lady regency fiction with magic? Nope! I kept going. I regret that now. The heiress later tracks down her cousin and makes sure to invite him for dinner because ‘one mistake shouldn’t ruin a family’. Fuck that garbage. I’m out. Oh, also the bodyguard character only learned how to sword fight and defend herself because someone attempted to rape her a couple times in her past. Because you know, women can’t grow and become things in their life without a little fear motivation. It’s shitty to use rape as a plot point and it’s fucking lazy to use it for both main characters. Gah why give me the thing I want and then make it shit. I’m pissed

  20. 4 out of 5

    Isis

    Part (lesbian, not explicit) romance, part swashbuckling court intrigue, part magical fantasy, this delightful book reminds me a bit of the Deryni series mashed up with the Prisoner of Zenda, as the magical elements are tied to religion, which is a type of fantasy I've always enjoyed, and the invented country of Alpennia is basically a Ruritania. The romance between a bookish accidental heiress and her bodyguard with a mysterious past is not the main focus, which as I'm not a romance fan suited Part (lesbian, not explicit) romance, part swashbuckling court intrigue, part magical fantasy, this delightful book reminds me a bit of the Deryni series mashed up with the Prisoner of Zenda, as the magical elements are tied to religion, which is a type of fantasy I've always enjoyed, and the invented country of Alpennia is basically a Ruritania. The romance between a bookish accidental heiress and her bodyguard with a mysterious past is not the main focus, which as I'm not a romance fan suited me fine. Instead I was charmed by Margerit's attempts to thwart her family's control and become a scholar rather than a wife, and by Barbara's life as a duelist, and by the various machinations and intrigues that all come to a predictable, but satisfying, conclusion.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sharkie

    This. Is not. A romance novel. It's okay historical fantasy. A bit boring at times, I'll admit, but not bad. The romance doesn't happen till the last fifth of the book, and even then it's unsatisfying. I always like a good F/F romance, and it being pride month makes it the perfect time to read it! But it just wasn't there enough. At all. I just needed more! The historical aspect was good! There were lots of balls, manners, and rules to abide by, and this kept me reading the book till the end (and, This. Is not. A romance novel. It's okay historical fantasy. A bit boring at times, I'll admit, but not bad. The romance doesn't happen till the last fifth of the book, and even then it's unsatisfying. I always like a good F/F romance, and it being pride month makes it the perfect time to read it! But it just wasn't there enough. At all. I just needed more! The historical aspect was good! There were lots of balls, manners, and rules to abide by, and this kept me reading the book till the end (and, since I bought the box set, might keep me reading the series). The fantasy aspect was subtle, and something I'd really like to explore more. It just seems so interesting! So basically... I guess I just wanted more. More is never a bad thing!

  22. 4 out of 5

    XR

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book took a lot longer for me to finish. I liked learning about Barbara and Margerit, but I got quite bored with the story until I hit the 75% mark. I enjoyed the whole “magic” of Margerit being the Daughter of Mystery and the things learnt about Barbara’s past and in turn her future, the drama with the jealous and vindictive Estefan as well, but everything else was kinda boring. I’m on the fence about purchasing the next book... I wasn’t impressed with Antuniet’s character in this book, but This book took a lot longer for me to finish. I liked learning about Barbara and Margerit, but I got quite bored with the story until I hit the 75% mark. I enjoyed the whole “magic” of Margerit being the Daughter of Mystery and the things learnt about Barbara’s past and in turn her future, the drama with the jealous and vindictive Estefan as well, but everything else was kinda boring. I’m on the fence about purchasing the next book... I wasn’t impressed with Antuniet’s character in this book, but since she’s a main character I’m inclined to think she may redeem herself. We’ll see...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    “The two of you stand too closely to be able to see each other’s hearts.” In this fantasy novel, young Margerit Sovitre is shocked to discover she'll inherit a fortune per her godfather Baron Saveze's will. Score! The downside is the new Baron expected said fortune to go to him, and he's none too pleased to have the title and none of the monies. Like most whiny men, the new Baron will stop at nothing to get what's "rightfully his." Sigh. Lucky for Margerit, per the will she'll also inherit a pers “The two of you stand too closely to be able to see each other’s hearts.” In this fantasy novel, young Margerit Sovitre is shocked to discover she'll inherit a fortune per her godfather Baron Saveze's will. Score! The downside is the new Baron expected said fortune to go to him, and he's none too pleased to have the title and none of the monies. Like most whiny men, the new Baron will stop at nothing to get what's "rightfully his." Sigh. Lucky for Margerit, per the will she'll also inherit a person - Barbara - the previous Baron's duelist. At first Barbara isn't exactly happy to be Margerit's duelist, as she thought the Baron's will would set her free. But once she realizes how kind, smart, charming, etc. Margerit is, her heart goes a pitter-patter and the job of protecting Margerit goes from being a chore to being something she can't imagine NOT doing. Throw in some stalking, questions about Barbara's origins, religion that's tangentially related to Catholicism with a fantasy novel twist, a sick prince, a set up, and some other stuff I've forgotten since I read this book a few weeks ago and you've got Daughter of Mystery. This book was okay but I was definitely not intrigued enough to care to pick up book #2 in the series. The writing was well done and the world building was decent, but man did the story move along slowly. It took me forever and a day to get through because I never really felt compelled to pick the book up to see what would happen next. And maybe it's just me, but I was a bit perplexed about the various religious rituals that were performed. At first I thought a "mystery" was a legit religious practice that I was unfamiliar with... but it turns out it's something Rose Jones invented. Which is fine! I just wish she would have invented a new word to describe this practice instead of using the real word "mystery." Why she did this is a bit of a... mystery to me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Frogqueen

    So the short form is - a fun adventure novel with a sweet more-or-less-historical (1830s/1840s imaginary middle European) fantastic romance. Or at length.... It pushes my Sabatini/Orczy/Heyer buttons nicely. There are lovely mysterious plots and counter plots, mysteries of birth and motive, a few cinematic fight scenes, and some lovely drawing room and court room maneuvers. And, of course, the course of true love never did run smooth.... Bonus that the young women are the heroines and in charge of So the short form is - a fun adventure novel with a sweet more-or-less-historical (1830s/1840s imaginary middle European) fantastic romance. Or at length.... It pushes my Sabatini/Orczy/Heyer buttons nicely. There are lovely mysterious plots and counter plots, mysteries of birth and motive, a few cinematic fight scenes, and some lovely drawing room and court room maneuvers. And, of course, the course of true love never did run smooth.... Bonus that the young women are the heroines and in charge of all derring-do. Sort of made me want to re-read the good bits of Privilege of the Sword, though this is very much its own thing with a quite different feel. Qua romance novel (which is how it was billed when I bought it) it's very sweet. I like the characters and that they had some chance to develop and work on their relationship. Honestly, they've got a lot to sort out to make their relationship work long term, but then don't we all. There were a few times when it did feel a bit as if crucial emotional stuff were going on off stage, with only the odd messenger sent back to give a quick summary, but... it worked for me. If you care, the physical aspects of their relationship are pretty low key and fade-to-black. I think it feels very appropriate to the style of the novel. Similarly, the ways Alpennian society accepts and rejects their relationship are plausible in context. I enjoyed the scholarly detective work that goes into deriving the magical theory. I like that the research serves the dual purpose of setting up some of the external plot as well as allowing Margarit and Barbara to interact as peers and friends. As it happens, this sort of magic system has the advantage of blending pretty seamlessly with a lot of IRL folk magic - enough so that I can recommend this obviously fantasy novel to a couple of my non-fantasy-reading relatives. In some ways, the book's structure and themes have a curiously period feel. Some of that is the recurring motif of characters struggling to line up custom and law, birth and wealth (or lack thereof), family and social obligations and norms... [So Stendahl and Gaskell got drunk together and ...] It's not that the problem doesn't resonate for me (it absolutely does), but that it is also baked into Alpennian society - and inescapable for people like these characters, who are edge cases to start with and keep finding the rug has been pulled out from under their assumptions. I also liked that the ending wasn't a quick tada! The resolution of one crisis has ripples that take a bit to sort out and sets up a great scene between the heroines at the end. And... anything more I have to say about why I would normally hate one of the ending subplots but actually liked it would be too big a spoiler. Alas. There, however, one big gotcha for me. In the book, (view spoiler)[Barbara is inherited (with a status somewhere between chattel and indentured servant AFAICT) by Margarit. (hide spoiler)] This point is handled rather as if the author had remembered it only at odd moments. Perhaps it really only impinged on the characters' consciousness at odd moments? Anyway, it feels a bit like it needed a little more context and maybe a little more room for Barbara and Margarit to sort out that complication. Granted, this is NOT a psychological novel. It's a romance/adventure in the grand old style and the matter was handled well enough that it didn't spoil my pleasure. Just worried me a bit. The other, lesser grouse is the bit with Barbara's potential creditor which sets up a couple of good scenes but is a bit... The point is, I really enjoyed Daughter of Mystery and expect to find it on my frequent re-read shelf.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ambyr

    I will admit I found the prose here a struggle, particularly the author's aversion to using commas between independent clauses (and complete abhorrence of semi-colons). It's neither standard contemporary style nor (at least to my eye) a successful pastiche of 19th-century prose. But clearly the story worked for me, because after the first 20% or so I stopped wanting to cover my Kindle with scrawls of red pencil. The characters are vividly drawn, each with their own agendas, sympathies, and under I will admit I found the prose here a struggle, particularly the author's aversion to using commas between independent clauses (and complete abhorrence of semi-colons). It's neither standard contemporary style nor (at least to my eye) a successful pastiche of 19th-century prose. But clearly the story worked for me, because after the first 20% or so I stopped wanting to cover my Kindle with scrawls of red pencil. The characters are vividly drawn, each with their own agendas, sympathies, and understandable flaws. (I found Margerit's naiveté frustrating at times, but I can't argue that it wasn't logical or consistent.) The religious-based magic system fascinated me. And the politics, though not particularly complex, provide fertile ground for scheming. The romance . . . well, it felt more like teenage infatuation than love to me, which is fair since the women are teenagers. The protagonists are going to have an uphill battle if they want to build a relationship that lasts. But it was very sweet, and I'm rooting for them anyway.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Darlene Vendegna

    This book was a lovely surprise. Yes it's published by a press that publishes novels written by and for lesbians, and yes the romance that very subtly develops is between two women, BUT it is not the main focus of this story by any means. It is a novel of chivalry, intrigue and betrayal. Anyone who enjoys well written historical fiction with a strong female protagonist will enjoy this. Ms Jones creates a realistic country with believable characters and an element of magical alchemy that enriches This book was a lovely surprise. Yes it's published by a press that publishes novels written by and for lesbians, and yes the romance that very subtly develops is between two women, BUT it is not the main focus of this story by any means. It is a novel of chivalry, intrigue and betrayal. Anyone who enjoys well written historical fiction with a strong female protagonist will enjoy this. Ms Jones creates a realistic country with believable characters and an element of magical alchemy that enriches the story. I understand there is a sequel in the works and I, for one, can't wait.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Flowerscat

    4.5 stars. A slow start and many family names to keep track of, but once I got past the first half of the book, I really started to enjoy the story. I like that we get POVs from both the female leads. No explicit scenes, everything is suggested rather than shown. This book reminds me of cooking with a slow cooker - initially you only see the ingredients and hope for the best, but a few hours later the raw materials turn into the most delicious meal :) hard to put down!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara Norja

    A charming comfort read. Historical-inspired fantasy with a queer relationship at its centre? Yes please! The story started out a bit slow - although that's rather in keeping with novels of the time period Jones emulates here - but it picked up and I was really into it by the end. I would've liked more descriptions of the setting and some other stuff. But I'm looking forward to reading the next books! OH and I forgot to say that the religious magic was extremely cool, I hope there's more of that A charming comfort read. Historical-inspired fantasy with a queer relationship at its centre? Yes please! The story started out a bit slow - although that's rather in keeping with novels of the time period Jones emulates here - but it picked up and I was really into it by the end. I would've liked more descriptions of the setting and some other stuff. But I'm looking forward to reading the next books! OH and I forgot to say that the religious magic was extremely cool, I hope there's more of that in the next books. Also: YAY for female scholarly types! Plus there was a nice emphasis on archives and manuscript material and books, which are among the things I love the most. (view spoiler)[I would've liked there to be more moments of longing and visceral UST between Barbara and Margerit, and sometimes I felt like Margerit was being silly with her suppositions (which is kind of understandable due to her sheltered upbringing). But they learnt how to talk to each other! Yaaay! And it was joy enough to know that yes, in this book the (originally) servant and heiress will become lovers, it's not just me imagining things. :) (hide spoiler)]

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cat M

    I LOVED this book and I'm definitely looking forward to the next two books in the series. Barbara and Margerit are both fantastic characters and watching them grow and change over the course of the book was a delight, as was the slow, difficult progression of their love for each other. The obstacles to their relationship - maturity, class differences, societal expectations- never felt artificial or contrived, but instead were integral to the larger plot. And that plot was excellent. What starts a I LOVED this book and I'm definitely looking forward to the next two books in the series. Barbara and Margerit are both fantastic characters and watching them grow and change over the course of the book was a delight, as was the slow, difficult progression of their love for each other. The obstacles to their relationship - maturity, class differences, societal expectations- never felt artificial or contrived, but instead were integral to the larger plot. And that plot was excellent. What starts as a very domestic story gradually expands to become one of court intrigue and magical treason. And i am completely in love with the magic. It's a system built on Christian mysticism and rituals and Mysteries meant to garner the protection and influence of the saints. The setting is an entirely believable fictional European country, a few years after this universe's version of what are never explicitly called the napoleonic wars, and the small after-effects of that war are woven throughout the plot. All-together one of the best books I've read this year. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bryn (Plus Others)

    A queer Ruritanian novel of manners and romance; enjoyable but it never caught fire for me, in part I think because novels in which the tension is provided by 'When will the villain act and what will they do?' are not my favourites -- too much like real life, in which pleasant people are attempting to live reasonable ordinary lives but always braced for the axe to fall and things to be destroyed. The worldbuilding is excellent, the characters are good and interesting, the writing smooth and easy A queer Ruritanian novel of manners and romance; enjoyable but it never caught fire for me, in part I think because novels in which the tension is provided by 'When will the villain act and what will they do?' are not my favourites -- too much like real life, in which pleasant people are attempting to live reasonable ordinary lives but always braced for the axe to fall and things to be destroyed. The worldbuilding is excellent, the characters are good and interesting, the writing smooth and easy to read -- so I will definitely look to the next novel in the world and see if the stakes are more to my liking.

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