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.