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Every now and then I need to pick up a book that doesn't have an ounce of romance in it, and so when I saw the gorgeous cover (yes, I'm one of *those* people) and read the synopsis, I knew this was a book I had to read. The funny thing is that you can infer romance if you want to, since the two main characters are a man and a woman around the same age who just so happen to be single. And there is a bit of chemistry. But honestly, what you're reading this book for are the colorful descriptions, intriguing characters, and the deadly mystery that has you constantly changing your mind about who done it! I'm so glad to see that this is the first in a series, because I definitely want to read more Merriweather and Royston mysteries.
Merula Merriweather wants very little to do with high society, unless it involves showcasing her zoological discoveries to the men who dominate the field. Since she is a woman, all credit goes to her uncle, however, and that's where the trouble begins. While displaying her newly discovered butterfly to a room of scholars and ladies, it becomes an instrument of murder, and since her uncle is believed to have discovered it, he is also the one believed to be the murderer. Knowing neither she nor her uncle killed anyone, she flees the scene, dragged away by Lord Raven Royston, a bystander who means to keep her safe. Having lost his mother at a young age to a situation beyond his control, he's determined that this time he will save a young woman in distress. Off on an adventure to discover the real murderer, Merula and Raven discover that many people have something to hide and secrets have a way of getting out if you know where to look.
Merula was wonderfully refreshing for that time period! While she knew how society worked and acknowledged her part in it, she also refused to stop doing work that she loved. And her family was so supportive, which was really nice. Orphaned at a young age and taken in by her uncle and his family, she has found a haven with them, and in a world where female intelligence is seen as an oddity, she needed that. Raven was a puzzle - a dark, brooding, I-hope-there-is-a-romance-soon hero who just wanted to keep Merula safe, even at his own expense. His background was told with so much emotion and detail, that the reader feels like they are experiencing it with him. You can't help feel how close the two become once their pasts are revealed. Raven wasn't intimidated by Merula one bit and she wasn't scared of him either, so their pairing as friends and detectives meshed well.
I can't wait to read the next book in the series! It's sure to be an exciting mystery full of adventure. And hopefully, a teensy bit of romance?
**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**