MILLSTONE OF DOUBT, by Erica Vetsch, Kregel Publications, Sept. 20, 2022, Paperback, $16.99 (young adult/ new adult/ adult fiction)
A police detective and London debutante join forces in Millstone of Doubt, the second book in Erica Vetsch’s Thorndike & Swann Regency Mysteries
Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot — but no sign of the killer.
Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can, because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage — and his job as a runner — comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.
Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.
When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case — and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out. —Synopsis provided by Kregal Publications
In The Debutante’s Code, author Erica Vetsch introduced readers to Lady Juliette Thorndike, newly returned from finishing school, and Daniel Swann, a Bow Street Runner (the first professional police force in London). Together, they work to save her parents and complete their last mission.
Millstone of Doubt picks up where its predecessor left off. Though it is the second book in the series, Millstone of Doubt is a standalone story and can be enjoyed separately. That said, it’s definitely worth reading both books in order, especially with the twist that comes at the end of the second novel.
Millstone of Doubt is an engaging mystery and chaste romance. This combination works well within the world Erica Vetsch has imagined. Of particular note is Juliette’s ability to move beyond social conventions. Her spy training not only helps the country on a large scale but allows her to feel useful and fulfilled on a personal one.
Both Daniel and Juliette are likeable characters. Again, the spy craft elements allow them to move beyond social norms and form a friendship that would never be possible otherwise. In them, Vetsch has developed two strong characters that work as well apart as they do together.
Millstone of Doubt is a fairly quick read with plenty of twists and turns to spark interest and just the right amount of slow-burn encounters to keep the romance fresh.
*Though not written specifically for a young adult audience, there’s nothing objectionable in Millstone of Doubt. And it should appeal to teen readers who enjoy Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance series.
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