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The Lady Plays with Fire by Susanna Craig

The Lady Plays with Fire

by Susanna Craig

I am a sucker for an interesting premise and this book certainly has one. In this series, the female leads write for a newspaper for women, by women. Specifically, young women. In this book, it is the reviewer who takes centre stage.

Julia Addison works as a companion to a sort-of related aunt-in-law. On the side, she secretly pens her reviews of plays put on in London under the nom de plume Miss On Scene. The subject of one of her reviews, Ransom Blackadder (the alias for Lord Graham Dunstane), takes offence at something she says in her review. Graham decides to retaliate by writing a play called ‘The Poison Pen’.

Right, but how do the two real people meet? Julia’s employer/aunt-in-law hires a box at the theatre for the season. Only when they arrive, it is occupied by Graham. The box manager, thinking to make a quick buck, hired out Graham’s box because it is so rarely occupied. Graham reluctantly accepts the aunt-in-law’s suggestion that they share for the evening. While their alter egos might be engaged in a war of sorts (although all the anger really comes from Ransom), their true selves are intrigued by each other.

While this is book two in the series, I had no trouble following the story despite not reading book one. I did have other troubles though. Several times, especially towards the end of the book, I found myself going huh? Some things aren’t explained fully (like Graham’s proposal) and other things seem to come out of nowhere. I couldn’t quite relax into the story because I kept being bounced out of it.

Julia is a difficult character to get a read on because she’s supposed to be this wide-eyed innocent, but she drops these saucy, worldly remarks. I suppose in real life that wouldn’t be so odd. People contain multitudes. But in the book world it meant that I felt I never quite got to know Julia all that well because I was often surprised by what she said. Graham is the grumpy, surly type which I usually enjoy reading, but in this instance it really brought home to me that if I had to interact with such a person in real life, I would cheerfully chuck him in the bin. At least for the first half of the book, the grumpiness came from a place of anger, which I don’t love. But also, the grumpiness seemed to be his sole defining characteristic for the first half of the book until he falls in love.

One final red flag for me. There are some transactional kisses in this. Graham agrees to let Julia watch the rehearsal if she kisses him. That she wanted to kiss him anyway is by the by. For me, I have no tolerance for transactional kisses no matter how teasing and sexy they’re supposed to be.

Based on this review, you’re probably surprised that I read the book in its entirety, but I did and I finished it in a couple days. Overall, it’s an okay read. If you’re needing an interesting premise inside a historical romance, I think this book might scratch that itch.

– Lara

In this Bridgerton era You’ve Got Mail, the clever, popular, and deliciously shocking ladies’ periodical Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Misses only employs women who are equal to the challenge—and for one biting theatre critic, that challenge happens to include romance. 

A fast-paced, innovative, sexy historical romance with a modern twist that readers of Sabrina Jeffries, Sarah MacLean, and Julia Quinn will adore.

As the daughter of a clergyman, Julia Addison knows she’ll never be able to fulfill her lifelong dream of acting on the stage. But writing forthright reviews of the Season’s most popular plays for Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Misses, popularly known as Goode’s Guide to Misconduct is surely the next best thing. Even better, she’s got a ticket to Ransom Blackadder’s latest irritating satire about English society. Best of all, she’s sharing a theater box with the gruff but handsome Lord Dunstane, which is enough to make Julia call for an encore . . .

Graham McKay, the Earl of Dunstane, rarely leaves his home in the Scottish Highlands. Why would he? Nothing about London has ever held his interest—until he meets Julia. But when Graham realizes she is the critic who panned his last play—and she discovers he is in fact the man behind Blackadder’s wicked pen—will it bring down the curtain on their romance—not to mention the magazine that published the humiliating review? Or can an unexpected collaboration set the stage for a scandalous love affair?

Historical: European, Romance
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