by Sarah M. Eden
Series: Proper Romance Victorian
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (September 3, 2019)
Elizabeth Black is the headmistress of a girls’ school in 1865 Victorian London. She is also a well-respected author of “silver-fork” novels, stories written both for and about the upper-class ladies of Victorian society. But by night, she writes very different kinds of stories—the Penny Dreadfuls that are all the rage among the working-class men. Under the pseudonym Mr. King, Elizabeth has written about dashing heroes fighting supernatural threats, intelligent detectives solving grisly murders, and dangerous outlaws romancing helpless women. They contain all the adventure and mystery that her real life lacks.
Fletcher Walker began life as a street urchin, but is now the most successful author in the Penny Dreadful market, that is until Mr. King started taking all of his readers. No one knows who King is, including Fletcher’s fellow members of the Dread Penny Society, a fraternity of authors dedicated to secretly fighting for the social and political causes of their working-class readers. The group knows King could be an asset with his obvious monetary success, or he could be the group’s undoing as King’s readership continues to cut into their profits.
Determined to find the elusive Mr. King, Fletcher approaches Miss Black. As a fellow-author, she is well-known among the high-class writers; perhaps she could be persuaded to make some inquiries as to Mr. King’s whereabouts? Elizabeth agrees to help Fletcher, if only to insure her secret identity is never discovered. What neither author anticipated was the instant attraction, even though their social positions dictate the impossibility of a relationship.
For the first time Elizabeth experiences the thrill of a cat-and-mouse adventure reminiscent of one of her own novels as she tries to throw Fletcher off her scent. But the more time they spend together, the more she loses her heart. Its upper-class against working-class, author against author where readers, reputations, and romance are all on the line.
The excellent first line drew me right in!
Fletcher Walker has crawled his way up from the gutter with just his swagger. He goes wherever he wants, acting like he belongs, and no one questions him. Fletcher is a different kind of a hero who is very vulnerable. Now that he is successful writing Penny Dreadfuls, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from, and he gives back to those who need it.
Elizabeth Black is all prim and proper in order to keep people interested in her school. However, that is just a facade for her adventurous spirit.
Fletcher and Elizabeth both write Penny Dreadfuls and the chapters switch between their points of view as well as the Penny Dreadful stories themselves.
I’ve never been in to over the top, exaggerated novels, but Elizabeth’s story was fun and interesting. Fletcher’s was interesting as well, but it was sad, and real, and raw. Especially because it came from a place he knew from growing up in the slums. I liked how the Penny Dreadfuls intertwined with the overall story.
Even with their success, Fletcher and Elizabeth are drawn together with their desire to educate those who are often overlooked like females and the poor.
Historical fiction is my favorite, and I love learning new and interesting things during different time periods. I love that Eden drew inspiration from real life author Elizabeth Caroline Grey who was rumored to write Penny Dreadfuls and Silver Fork novels.
There was an overall mystery throughout the book that I really enjoyed. The ending is very cute, but I still wish I had answers to some questions.
I have read almost all of Sarah M. Eden’s books, and she is one of my favorite authors. This book seemed a different style than others I have read from her, but I really liked it and completely recommend it.