TBR Challenge: In Milady’s Chamber by Sheri Cobb South

I am really distinguishing myself for this month’s TBR Challenge. First I thought I wouldn’t make it at all, what with piles of library books to stay on top of. But I accidentally backed into reading an Insomnia Relief Aid (the theme was open this month) and then remembered at the last minute to write it up, so here we go.

“Insomnia Relief Aid” sounds much meaner than my assessment of Sheri Cobb South’s In Milady’s Chamber actually is. I don’t mean it bored me to sleep. One night recently I had that kind of insomnia where my mind wouldn’t get off a hamster wheel of anxiety and overwrought feelings. Finally I gave up and got out of bed, and I was looking for a book that would engage me enough to distract me from my troubles but not grip me so much that I resisted going back to sleep once I felt better. And this book was perfect for that. It helped me calm down and after an hour or so of reading I successfully went to sleep. Eventually I picked it up again to finish but I didn’t feel compelled to do so. 

In Milady’s Chamber is a cozy Regency mystery with a hint of romance that is pretty clearly going to develop over the course of the series. Young Bow Street runner John Pickett is called to the scene of Viscount Fieldhurst’s murder (his lady’s bedchamber). The aristocratic world gossips about Lady Fieldhurst’s guilt, but Pickett, smitten with the lady, is determined to prove her innocence. The Viscount was connected to the Home Office and a letter written in French is lifted from his desk by one of his colleagues. Is spying somehow involved?

I liked the concept of this book–the cross-class romance and Lady Fieldhurst’s backstory evolution from smitten country miss to disappointed society wife. But it felt pretty thin to me. The plot was predictable and sometimes improbable, the characters fairly one-dimensional. The historical setting isn’t egregiously wallpapery, but it isn’t really fleshed out either. I can’t say my own understanding of policing in this era is deep but I didn’t believe in the way Pickett interacted with some of the aristocratic characters. That’s the trick with cross-class historical romance, isn’t it? It requires people to behave in unlikely ways, like chatting with a runner in the drawing room. I think it takes deeper character development than this book has to make me want to suspend my disbelief in such interactions.

In Milady’s Chamber was a pleasant enough way to pass the time and I am very grateful to it for distracting me when I needed it most, but I don’t feel much interest in reading on. If insomnia strikes again, though, the comfortable, familiar setting and not-too-demanding plot and characters might be just what I’m looking for.


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8 Responses to TBR Challenge: In Milady’s Chamber by Sheri Cobb South

  1. lawless says:

    Hee. “Insomnia relief aid” is what some of my mystery/detective novel reading amounts to. Romance is much less reliable on that score. Either something will trip me up and make me ragey or I’ll be so engrossed I don’t want to put the book down.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I love mystery for this because the plot usually keeps me focused. But cozy only! No gore or gripping thrillers. Romance often has too much emotion to smooth me. When I am struggling with my own angst I do not want to read about other people’s.

  2. victoriajanssen says:

    I tend to favor nonfiction for my insomnia reading – MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLES, for example. Just the title is soothing!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      But then I would need to make a midnight snack! Nonfiction is good If it isn’t too dense, but if I have to work to follow it my worries take over again.

  3. lynnaar says:

    I like the description of “insomnia relief aid.” I don’t read lots of cozies, but I could see them working that way. For me, Regency trads can be a good relief aid as long as it’s more a comedy of manners rather than an angst-fest.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Those often work for me too. I think it is partly how familiar I am with the Regency setting as portrayed in these books–I don’t have to work to imagine it.

  4. I’ve read nothing written by this author, and I guess this is not a good starting point. BTW I love your definition ‘a book that would engage me enough to distract me from my troubles but not grip me so much that I resisted going back to sleep once I felt better’. That’s exactly what I need when insomnia strikes.

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