Goodreads: Suitors and Sabotage
Published: April 17, 2018
Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.
Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.
But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .
Minor spoiler warning. I’m not revealing anything that’s not pretty obvious, but if you like to read books completely blind, you should probably avoid this review.
I enjoyed Cindy Anstey’s first two novels, Love, Lies and Spies and Duels and Deception as light romantic reads, so I was excited to pick up her third Regency-inspired novel (and requested my library purchase it just so I could read it!). Unfortunately, I think Suitors and Sabotage is significantly Anstey’s weakest work, despite the implication that it would be both a mystery and a romance; my primary emotion while reading it was boredom.
I haven’t checked if Suitors and Sabotage actually is longer than Anstey’s other novels, but it certainly feels like it. The plot is centered around the pending engagement of Imogene Chively and Ernest Steeple. The problem: When Ernest comes to visit Miss Chively and her family to cement the relationship before the proposal, he brings his charming younger brother Ben, who starts to steal some hearts. The second problem: Someone seems to have it out for Ben by playing dangerous pranks.
This sounds as if it should be interesting, but it’s not. There are also allusions to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which should make the book deep, but it doesn’t. I just felt awkward through most of the book, feeling really bad for Ernest as everyone fell in love with his brother, which made it difficult for me to find the book romantic. Additionally, Imogene and Ben spend the whole book trying to not be attracted to each other, because Ernest is supposed to be wooing Imogene, so there’s not a lot of room for romance.
The mystery part of the novel also falls short and simply doesn’t play as large a role as one might expect.
Finally, the characterization is lackluster. Imogene, Ben, Ernest, and Imogene’s friend Emily are well-developed, but the side characters seem like tropes, cardboard cutouts filling a role. I wasn’t even sure Imogene’s older brother and his friend Jake were going to have actual dialogue for a large portion of the book, or if they were just going to be incurable pranksters flitting about in the background. (And, honestly, I did not buy that these people were nineteen! The younger protagonists were more mature!)
Suitors and Sabotage just didn’t work for me. I like Anstey’s other books, so I’ll keep an open mind about future novels, but I can’t recommend this one.