I can’t be anything other than delighted to find romance authors with established reputations and readerships venturing out into the field of f/f historic romance. Courtney Milan has tackled not only same-sex romance but a later-life discovery of love, as well as tossing our two protagonists into a “burn down the patriarchy!” (literally) adventure. I admire the enthusiasm and cheerful fury of the non-romance plot, but certain aspects of this historic setting fell a bit flat for me.
I mean: servants. Where are the servants? I don’t care how eccentric a rich elderly woman is, she doesn’t flit off to London for an unspecified period of time without at least one lady’s maid. And even the impoverished property manager whose plight she comes to address would be expected to have at least a part-time maid-of-all-work to do the heavy labor. Erasing the servants may be a convenient way of allowing your protagonists privacy to explore their new-found attraction, but it inevitably gives a novel a very modern feel for me.
The story is far more focused on the logistics of Mrs. Martin’s crusade of retribution against her Awful Nephew than on the romance itself. The women seem to get together on the basis of little more than bonding over “isn’t it awful that the world thinks old single women are of no value?” Their romantic attraction never really clicked for me. The revenge plot is a delightful wish-fulfillment story but the very over-the-top nature of the actions made it harder for me to sympathize with the women (or at least with Martin). Deliberately setting fire to buildings in the heart of mid 19th century London is not a harmless prank but the act of a psychopath.
So...mixed feelings on this one. It’s solidly written and the plot is well structured. I’m cheered by the existence of the book and its reception, but it didn’t really hit the spot for me either as a historic novel or as a romance.