Goodreads: Harbor for the Nightingale
Series: Stranje House #4
Published: September 20, 2019
Maya brings the mystery of India with her…
With her friends’ lives in deadly peril, Miss Maya Barrington, one of Miss Stranje’s unusual girls, must serve as a double agent. To do so, she gains entry into Napoleon’s duplicitous game on the arm of the enigmatic Lord Kinsworth. She can read almost everyone; not so with this young rascal. Quick with a jest and armed with lethal charm, Kinsworth remains just beyond her reach. Can she trust him?
With Britain’s future at risk and those she loves in deadly peril, Maya questions everything she thought she understood about life, love, and loyalty.
Fans of genre-blending, romance, and action will love this speculative history Regency-era novel filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains–fourth in the Stranje House series. Don’t miss the first three books: A School for Unusual Girls, Exile for Dreamers, and Refuge for Masterminds.
This is a tough book for me to review because, although I’ve been championing the Stranje House series since A School for Unusual Girls was released in 2015, I didn’t connect with Harbor for the Nightingale as much as I did with the first three books. I enjoyed seeing more of Maya (and Sera, as her best friend at the school), and the book does feature more escapades and plotting against Napoleon, as well as well as a new romance. However, things felt a bit rushed to me, and the romance was flatter than I have come to expect from Baldwin.
Part of my difficult might be that Maya’s talents seem so abstract. I thought I would struggle in book two with Tess’s talent for prophetic dreams, but Baldwin made them seem real. Maya’s primary talent is changing the cadence and tone of her voice to influence people, and her second is hearing the “music” of other people and the world. Baldwin clarifies in an ending author’s note that Maya’s voice modulation is based on a real art, and that part does work for me. Her ability to constantly hear “music” from everyone and everything around her was more difficult for me, for two reasons. First, this imbued the book. Literally everything was described as sound and notes and instruments, and it seemed a bit overdone to me. Second, I think it was used as shorthand for the romance, which made that relationship more compelling.
In Harbor for the Nightingale, the love interest is someone new to readers, though there are indications that he and Maya have been in proximity and working/singing together for a bit. However, Maya’s knowing him is different from readers knowing him, so the relationship feels as it comes a bit out of nowhere. Furthermore, a lot of is based on Maya’s sense of his inner music and her sense that there’s something mysterious or charming about it or something that matches her own music. This, I admit, means very little to me. Saying you like someone because of his inner violincello is just not quite the way to help people/readers understand your romantic chemistry. So while the love interest seems like a genuinely nice guy, Harbor for the Nightingale definitely has the least swoonworthy romance in the series, in my opinion.
I did, however, enjoy seeing Maya’s relationships with the other characters, including the other girls (especially Sera, who is quiet and therefore a bit of a mystery as a character) and with her father. I think the book really shines here, as well as with getting readers into Maya’s mind in general.
There’s also a tightly focused plot, which I think is useful at this point in the series. Stopping Napoleon has always been the goal, but that can be so broad. In Harbor for a Nightingale, we get a clear sense of what Maya is going to do to help that happen.
I still love the Stranje House series, and I am certainly going to be reading the next installment (focused on Sera). There just seems to be a bit of a fourth book slump here.
*Also it’s worth noting that this book, unlike the previous three, was published by an indie press rather than Tor Teen, so the pricing is a bit different if you’re looking to purchase it, and it might not be as readily available in some libraries (although mine recently did get the ebook).