A few of us got into a Twitter discussion of Kate Ross’ Regency-set mystery series, and that led to a group (re)read of the first book, Cut to the Quick. This post is mainly meant to provide a space for more expansive discussion than Twitter allows, so the comments will be spoilery. If you’ve read the book, feel free to join in!
I also wanted to recommend the series if you haven’t read it, because I loved Cut to the Quick just as much this time as when I first read it about 15 years ago. There are only four books in the series, so it’s not too big an undertaking–I wish there were more, but I remember feeling that it ended with Ross’ hero, Julian Kestrel, in a satisfying place. Here’s my sales pitch:
- If you like Georgette Heyer and/or traditional Regency romance, you will probably like this.
- If you like Regency-set mysteries like C. S. Harris or Ashley Gardner, you will probably like this.
- If you wanted to like Heyer but didn’t, you might like this too: there is much less Regency slang and endorsement of aristocratic prejudices in Ross. One of the interesting themes of the book is the way honour and justice are sometimes at odds.
- Ross’ historical world is richly drawn and convincing; this is no Almackistan. The book is set mostly at a country house and I thought things like the master-servant relationships and the non-aristocratic locals were well done.
- There’s no over-arching romantic arc in the series, but Julian Kestrel, Ross’ hero, is a romantic figure: a man with a mysterious past who hides his sharp mind behind a dandy’s immaculate façade, a man with a streak of knight-errantry driven to uncover the truth and see justice done.
- The plot twists and turns are engrossing and surprising–a little way in, I thought I remembered the solution to the mystery, but it turned out I was fooled by the same red herring as last time I read it.
- There are echoes of other books I love–Heyer, Dorothy Sayers (the dandy pose)–but this doesn’t feel derivative or fannish. Ross’ creation is her own.