Having finished The Mistaken Wife, by Rose Melikan, I must say that it’s not as good as the first two books in her series about Mary Finch. In the first two books, The Blackstone Key and The Counterfeit Guest, I got a sense of Mary in accidental danger, of secrets hidden and discovered without intention, of danger blundered into. This is not to suggest that Mary was an idiot or prone to taking too many risks, but rather that Mary seemed an innocent young woman who had a talent for finding secrets and tumbling into danger. I enjoyed this sense of accident, and felt that anyone could have Mary’s adventures. Ms. Melikan also did a superb job of setting the scene in the first two books, and dropping little hints to help the modern reader feel at home in the eighteenth century.
But in this third book, I feel cheated. Ms. Melikan’s specialty is eighteenth century England, and English law of the same period. The Mistaken Wife is set almost entirely in France, and Ms. Melikan’s lesser familiarity with that country shows. The book is still researched in depth, but not to the same exhaustive degree as the first two books.
And even worse, the plot of this book feels contrived. Mary does not accidentally step into danger, but willfully accepts it, even if she is pushed into it slightly by her spymaster friend, Cuthbert Shy. It’s all explained well enough in the book, but I think that sending Mary to France at the height of the Napoleonic Wars smacks of an author’s desperation to find another hair-raising situation for her heroine.
The other books had a grace to them, a sense that the whole thing had an over-arching beauty to it with a form that the author, at least, understood. But this one lacks that grace, and feels more pushed together and plodded through.
Still an excellent book, but only 3 out of 5 stars.