Merrimon Book Reviews

The Radical's Arms by George Cruikshank, 1819
Satirical cartoon lampooning the excesses of the Revolution as seen from England

François Rabelais
(c. 1494 – 1553): Major French Renaissance writer, doctor and Renaissance humanist. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, and both bawdy jokes and songs.

Alexander Pope
(1688 –1744) regarded as the greatest English poet of the eighteenth century. Painting: Jean-Baptiste van Loo

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Counterfeit Guest
The Counterfeit Guest by Rose Melikan
by Rose Melikan

Wonderful sequel

Now a year later in 1796, Mary Finch has inherited the estate of White Ladies.  A school teacher before this change in her fortune, Mary now turns her attention from her own predicament to her friend Susannah and her marriage to Colonel Crosby-Nash.  Is she truly happy in her new marriage?  Adventure seems to find Mary Finch wherever she goes, and her trip to the Crosby-Nash estate is no exception.  With the revelation from spymaster Cuthbert Shy that her friend's husband is a traitor, Mary sets out to discover the truth.  Danger mounts as her contact to Shy is suddenly disrupted and she draws suspicion to herself.  Meanwhile, Captain Robert Holland seeks to uncover a mutinous plot that might endanger the realm.  Troubled by Mary's change in financial position, Captain Holland breaks off contact with her.  As danger mounts on all sides, each longing for the other, will adventure and espionage bring the two together?  Will they be able to stop the plans that threaten friend and realm?

Following the previous novel THE BLACKSTONE KEY chronologically, THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST revisits the delightful world of Mary Finch and Captain Robert Holland.  Like her previous novel,
Rose Melikan's THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST has a delightful combination of period dialogue, manners and mores as well as suspenseful action that hinges on an intriguing historical detail.  Rose Melikan does an excellent job at detailing the political and social atmosphere in England as the French Revolution haunts the imagination beyond France.  The details of the mystery bring to light a lesser known but fascinating aspect of English history.  Best of all, history itself is at the center of the plot denouement.  Mary Finch's character is true to the times and yet, her spirited, daring nature reaches beyond the typical position of women, thus making her a delightful character for today's historical fiction lover.  Intelligent, practical, gutsy, and above all filled with an imagination, Mary is also an adventuress.  Her character leads the story, and yet in this, the second novel, Rose Melikan integrates Captain Holland more fully into the focus as she shifts scenes between the two.  Seeing him through his own internal thoughts is a wonderful development in this series.

Fans of the series will find a delightful continuation and development in the series in this the second book. 
Whereas THE BLACKSTONE KEY focuses more on Mary Finch and her thoughts, creating the setting through characterization and historical detail, THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST is rightfully more action and plot focused.  Readers familiar with the series will feel right at home and appreciate being able to jump right into the world without slow, cumbersome rehashings of the first striking, memorable novel.  The first book is still so memorable a year later that fans simply do not need a long refreshment of details.  Although THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST can be read as a stand-alone, this reader recommends reading both and reading the series in order.  The author builds such a delightful portrait of Mary Finch in the first book that missing this introduction to her would be a shame. THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST flows so naturally from the first, not only in terms of plot but also in terms of writing style.  Rose Melikan brings the period to life in her language, characters and fascinating historical detail.  THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST is a very fine example of the best of historical fiction.  This reader anxiously awaits the third book in the series, with the hope that Mary Finch and her adventures will continue long after the next installment.

Publisher: Touchstone (August 2009)
Author website

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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