25 February 2013

Review: Flora's Wish by Kathleen Y'Barbo

Fatal Flora Brimm has buried four fiancés, and is waiting for Will Tucker, fiancé number five, to join her in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for their wedding. But the arrival of Pinkerton detective Lucas McMinn (and his case full of clever gadgets) might place her plans in jeopardy. McMinn is planning to arrest Tucker for theft, and threatens to arrest Flora as an accessory if she doesn't cooperate with his investigation. While Flora has no feelings for her fiancé, she is sure he is innocent, so agrees to help McMinn. After all, she stands to lose her home if she doesn't marry and beget an heir--and soon.

This mysterious Mr Tucker is very much an offstage character, with the plot being driven by Flora and McMinn and their developing relationship. It is fast-paced and sometimes amusing, with an underlying hint of mystery and an interesting twist revealed at the halfway point. But I found the faith aspects very understated for a Christian novel, I never really understood how old Flora was, and I found her to be rather irritating in the blind trust she had in Tucker, a man she barely knew.

I did have an issue with the product description provided by the publisher, which says “Pinkerton detective Lucas McMinn is hot on the trail of Will Tucker, the thief who broke his sister's heart”. I’m of the opinion that the book blurb shouldn’t disclose anything that isn’t in the opening chapters of the book (with the exception, in historical fiction, of famous historical events. The Titanic sank. We know, so that’s not a spoiler. Anyway, back to Flora's Wish).

Will's sister isn't mentioned well in to the story, and we don’t actually find out about the link between Lucas and Tucker until almost the end. So while Flora is busy worrying about the identity of the mysterious Mary-Margaret, the reader already knows she’s Lucas’s sister, because the blurb told us.

This is the first book in a new series, The Secret Lives of Will Tucker. That, in itself, is annoying because it must be another spoiler. If the series is about Will Tucker… then he’s hardly going to be found guilty of theft and thrown in jail, is he? (I’m writing this after reading only the first third of the book, so this is purely assumption.) But having the title character in jail doesn’t generally make for a convincing Christian historical romance. (Although I’ve just watched the first episode of Downton Abbey Season 3, and aren’t those scenes of Anna visiting her prisoner husband, Bates, sweet?) And I have read some very enjoyable series where the villain in the first book becomes the hero by the third, so who knows?

There was also an amusing scene where Flora and Lucas are discussing her love of detective novels, particularly The Female Detective series, first published in 1864. Lucas says “the books were written a full fifty years before the London police force admitted women” (which is mostly correct--according to Wikipedia, London's volunteer Woman's Police Service was founded in 1914, and women were first admitted into the Metropolitan Police Service in 1919). But Flora's Wish is set in 1887, so how does Lucas know London will have women police in 1914? Is one of his secret inventions a TARDIS? Hopefully this will be corrected before publication.

The cover is lovely, the writing is good and I really liked Lucas McMinn, but overall, Flora's Wish was only okay. Not bad, but just not that enjoyable. It would have been better without the spoilers in the blurb and the series title. And without the time travel.

Thanks to Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Kathleen Y’Barbo at his/her website

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