Plots are afoot, as are nefarious smugglers and crafty, highly placed traitors in Michelle Griep’s new Regency era novel, The Innkeeper’s Daughter. Ordered to “ferret out” the traitor, Bow Street officer Alexander Moore is sent undercover as the gambling rogue Alex Morton and ordered to reside at the Blue Hedge Inn, perhaps the most run-down of respectable inns in Dover. Much to his chagrin, he learns that he will have to share a bed with one Mister Lucius Nutbrown. But to his delight, he finds that the young scamp who kept that detail of his lodging a secret also has an attractive older sister, Johanna Langley.
Johanna (Jo) is working hard to keep the Blue Hedge Inn operating, and like Alex is ready to take whatever measures are necessary no matter the cost to achieve her goal. So long, of course, that she and her family’s inn remain respectable. Ten-year-old Thomas, however, does not yet have the same moral compass and is forever getting into scrapes. His efforts to fill the inn, as he is sent out by Jo to do, result in a band of musicians with questionable skill taking up residence in exchange for playing music to attract customers during Oak Apple Day.
While Jo and Alex are both admirable in some ways, they are fallible in others, and though I found myself rooting for them, I did not find myself really connecting with them as a reader. But the action, adventure, and the cast of secondary characters more than made up for this. What seemed at first to be throwaway characters all became something more. Even Jo’s mother, sickly and very much in the background at first, comes into her own and reveals hidden depths. But in particular, I found a certain Mr. Nutbrown increasingly endearing as he tries to find his way in a world of manipulating, nefarious characters. And it was his character arc that truly touched me the most as a reader.
If, like me, you are not a fan of Charles Dickens and have seen other reviews likening Michelle Griep’s work to his, do ignore the comparison (though it does bear out, but in the best possible ways for fans of Historical Romance) and give her Regency novels a try. I know I’ll be reading more, as I discovered that this is connected to her novel, Mr. Brentwood’s Ward, and at least one character from it makes an appearance in The Innkeeper’s Daughter.
The storyline trots along at a good pace, and has the feel at times of a novel from a bygone era. Romantic conventions, like a hero saving a heroine from falling off a ladder, are predictable but no less enjoyable for it. And the climactic action sequence is just spot on. This is only the second novel I have read by this author and so far she is a new Historical Romance favorite. Highly recommended.
The Innkeeper’s Daughter by Michelle Griep | Shiloh Run Press, March 2018 | paperback or ebook, 320 pages
This review refers to an e-galley read courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
From the publisher:
A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown
Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.
All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.
Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.