Hello, all! I am thrilled to have gotten the chance to review Sarah Eden’s new book The Gentleman and the Thief, second in the Proper Romance Victorian series. I reviewed the first book, Lady and the Highwayman, back in April and can honestly most of my (minor) issues with the first book have been resolved in this one. So thank you, Netgalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing, for this amazing ARC!
From The Publisher:
From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.
Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.
When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.
When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?
What I Loved:
- The Mystery. In Gentleman and the Thief, there is a mysterious string of robberies by children who are all too afraid of their handler to name him, and a rich man’s gambling den that no one can pinpoint and leaves men destitute. The Penny Dreadful gang knows there is something up, but can’t get their finger on it because of the society. Enter Hollis, the one of their order who is of higher birth and can get them in. I thought the mystery was pretty compelling, and tied in a lot of the great elements from the first book (social justice, access to education, etc). It also showed a different side of the society we came to enjoy in Highwayman.
- Hollis and Ana. While a lot of other reviewers were disappointed by the lack of romance and build up from Hollis and Ana, I thought Hollis’ love for her from the very beginning to be really sweet, and I enjoyed that the mystery and their personal lives were just as important as their budding romance. Ana, a thief trying to steal back her family’s wrongfully taken possessions, is a flawed and compelling character, and Hollis’ yearning to fit in and dry sense of humor make both of them relatable and fun to read about. They also have a very different dynamic from Highwayman’s mains Fletcher and Elizabeth, but I liked that.
- The Higglebottom’s School for the Dead Interlude. The penny dreadful that Hollis is writing under nom de plume Lafayette Jones was really fun, about boy ghosts learning how to haunt properly who stumble upon a living boy. Unlike Elizabeth’s Mr. King story, which is much more parallel to the story at hand, this was light and unrelated to the rest of the plot. While the format is inconvenient (see below), Higglebottom’s was good in its own right.
What Didn’t Work So Well:
- The Broken Format. I touched on this a little with the last book, but I really don’t love the way the penny dreadful stories are interspersed with the main body of the book. Both Mr. King and Lafayette Jones stories seem to begin right at a “cliffhanger” in the middle of the main story, and it ends up just being a distraction. I personally think the reading would be easier if the stories were at the end as an excerpt, but I know other readers enjoy the parallels made in the King penny dreadful.
That is really all as far as overarching complaints. I have some minor complaints about the pacing, but overall, Gentleman and the Thief exceeded expectations for the second book in this series.
All in all, I am so happy with how Gentleman and a Thief turned out! I think a lot of issues other readers had with it was (a) the lesser romance than in the first book, Lady and the Highwayman, and (b) the fact that this wasn’t really properly marketed as a sequel to Lady and the Highwayman. So, as someone who read both, I highly recommend reading Lady and the Highwayman first (order here, or here since it has been out for a little while now, and on discount from Bookshop!) Also, this gives you time to read this summer on the beach before getting The Gentleman and the Thief (or here for a discount from Bookshop) on November 3! because who doesn’t need a pick me up on election day? A high four waves out of five!