It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Fallen Woman of good family must, soon or late, descend to whoredom.
Sarah Tolerance is a Fallen Woman of good family—instead of making a proper marriage she ran away years ago with her brother’s fencing instructor. She doesn’t want to be a whore, so she makes a living as a private investigator in a Regency London that’s just a little different from the Regency London you think you know.
The very idea is delightful—noir detective crossed with Georgette Heyer.
Point of Honor (2003) and Petty Treason (2004) follow the adventures of Sarah Tolerance as she solves her cases in the Queen Regent’s England. They’re charming, with just the right degree of mystery, adventure, period detail and romance. The mysteries are mysterious enough to keep the plot going as Sarah moves between the underworld and the upper classes. They’re more reminiscent of Kate Ross than anything else I can think of.
Madeleine Robins makes surprisingly few flubs for an American setting a story in England, and most of them can be attributed to the changes in history—though I do have trouble swallowing the idea that a change in regent would have altered the way parliamentary democracy works. (You have to accept that a change in monarch would mean a change of government. What?) As with Anathem, I was considering what these books gained by not being in our world, and unlike Anathem I think I’d like them better if they were further away, if they were set in a different world and were outright fantasy rather than just a fantasy of female agency.
They’re great fun though.