In this cell of unknowns, only the dagger stood out. It swung from hand to hand, side to side. Words accompanied each movement, but the roar of panic obscured them.
All but the dagger ceased to exist.
I received this historical fiction or Regency mystery book from Netgalley and Swoon Reads in exchange for an honest review. As always, I appreciate the chance to read!
The Hummingbird Dagger
by Cindy Anstey
Published Date: April 2019
Read Date: April 2019
Format: ebook ARC
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, YA?
Rating: 2/5 Moose
Lord James Ellerby stumbles across a horrific carriage accident, the worst of which includes an injured young woman. While she does survive, everyone quickly realizes she cannot remember anything of her past. Choosing to go by “Beth,” the woman is graciously brought into the Ellerby home, where mysterious accidents and deaths keep occurring that lead her to think she might be somehow responsible.
“Beth Dobbins” – The young woman who has lost her memory after a carriage accident. She is now plagued by nightmares and potentially men out for her death.
James Ellerby – Recently new Lord of the family, shortly after his father’s passed. Oldest Ellerby sibling
Caroline Ellerby – Middle Ellerby sibling, she takes Beth in as a companion until they can figure out what she is running from, if anything.
Walter Ellerby – Youngest Ellerby sibling, who also caused the carriage accident.
Dr. Brant – Physician friend of the family, set on helping Beth figure out her memories.
Rants, Raves, and Thoughts
Okay. I’ll be honest, I was incredibly torn about writing this review. I don’t really want to focus on negative books, and honestly, if this book hadn’t been an ARC, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. So I am going to get all my negativity out first, then talk about some of the things I liked.
I think my enjoyment of the book truly suffered because of the format of the ebook. There are so many leaps around from character to character, time changes (it’ll be night and immediately breakfast?) that made the writing seem incredibly choppy and confusing, especially as the person the book follows shifts. That being said, I did pull out a hardback copy at B&N on Monday (even though this book was released on Tuesday?) and took a look – there are markings in between to show the break in shifts. I am incredibly glad I figured this out before the climax of the book, as it is incredibly difficult to read in the ebook ARC I have. None of that is the author’s fault, but it does make me wonder if it can be seen as good writing if I have to reread several passages to get the time/character/whatever shift.
My second issue with the book came from the characters. None of them are interesting to me. We are told that there is a romantic relationship between James and “Beth,” but it felt incredibly forced. In fact, I think the romances that aren’t confirmed – does Walter also have a crush on Beth? Is there something going on between Caroline and Brant? were more fascinating to me as we aren’t specifically told anything, but rather are left to wonder. Another instance is when a character, a maid, dies early on in the first half of the book. The death shakes up Beth, but honestly – if she didn’t have the same name as a Downton Abbey character I love, I don’t know if I would have remembered her. There is no build up of their relationship to warrant the sadness we are supposed to feel. No, overall the only character I had any interest in was Walter, and even that was fleeting at best (he is brutally underutilized and under developed, which is saying a LOT considering his role in the book.)
I don’t read a ton of historical fiction, and I do expect inaccuracies. However, this book took me out of the time period too much. The book takes place in 1833, which is just outside the Regency era but not quite in the Victorian era. And yet at one point, the physician uses a word from the late 1800s?
Miss Caroline or Lord Ellerby certainly would. There would be a brouhaha – a loud…terrible brouhaha.
And men and women just wonder in and out of each other’s bedrooms or just hang out without a chaperone? It’s too much for me.
The first night, her screams brought Lord Ellerby bursting through the door [of her bedroom]. He glanced around the room as if he expected monsters to be hiding in the shadows.
He literally went into her bedroom. At one point Walter is just chilling in her bedroom “keeping her company” while she stays in the servant’s quarters – so not while she’s in a sitting room. She’s in bed. This…would cause scandal. Which sometimes they seem to care about? At the most random times?
The mystery is decent, and would have been a pleasant read had the characters had more shape or details. There are some moments I do thoroughly enjoy — a man comes claiming Beth is his sister and won’t take no for an answer, for example. But the action scenes are short and over burden with conversation and TALKING about what happened. I did figure out most of it fairly early on, but that is common for me. I can see how readers will enjoy the climax of the story, and I did tear up a few times towards the end.
If I am being honest, I was blinded by my love of this cover. It is gorgeous, and for some reason spoke to me of a woman who …would fight Jack the Ripper. It wasn’t the book I ended up reading, and part of that is very much my fault.
If you like your mystery books light on action but heavy on conversation, give it a try! Maybe a bigger fan of Regency era historical fiction books will enjoy this, and maybe I am being a bit too persnickety with my feelings. If you’ve read the book, I would love your thoughts!