Salutations bookish companions, your friendly neighborhood BookShark is back! Today, I’m partnering with the publishers of SparkPress to review Kari Bovée’s latest novel, Peccadillo at the Palace. This book marks the second installment in the An Annie Oakley Mystery series. Take a gander at my review below, learn more about the book and author, and don’t forget to add Peccadillo at the Palace to your to-read list, if it piques your fancy!
About the Book
Peccadillo at the Palace
by Kari Bovée
Release Date: May 7th 2019
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
It’s 1887, and Annie and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show are invited to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration in London, England. But their long journey across the Atlantic takes a turn for the worst when the queen’s royal servant ends up dead and Annie’s husband, Frank Butler, falls suspiciously ill. Annie soon discovers that the two events are connected―and may possibly be precursors to an assassination attempt on the queen.
In London, it becomes clear there is rampant unrest in the queen’s kingdom―the Irish Fenian Brotherhood, as well as embittered English subjects, are teeming in the streets. But amid the chaos, even while she prepares for the show, Annie is determined to find the truth. With the help of a friend and reporter, Emma Wilson, the renowned poet Oscar Wilde, and the famous socialite Lillie Langtry, Annie sets out to hunt down the queen’s enemies―and find out why they want to kill England’s most beloved monarch.
It should come at no surprise that women of the 19th century endured many restrictions and horrors throughout much of their lives. (Women seem destined to struggle against opressive forces from both men and other women indefinitely.) From limitations on what they are allowed to say and whether what they say is taken seriously or not to which careers they are allowed to pursue, if any.
Amidst this backdrop, historical female figures like Annie Oakley, Queen Victoria, and Lily Langtry shine brightest in the Western world1 as some of the more progressive and liberated women of their time, place, and stations in life. These women and others inspire a tale that begins with the Bibighar massacre of 1857 and culminates in a race against the clock to intercept a would-be assassin willing kill anyone and everyone who crosses their bloody path to the queen.
With clear and concise writing, Bovée skillfully draws us back in time into a remarkable blend of the Gilded Age and the Victorian era. Detailing the fashion, food, and traditions of the period, Bovée summons images of the past, immersing us in a time of corsets, steamships, and dramatic reenactments of the Wild West. She handles the clash between cultures across the pond with the eye of a seasoned traveler of time and place. Here Boveé places our iconic heroines, their loved ones, and enemies and puts on a performance to remember. Though overly detailed subplots disrupt the pacing a bit, Bovée manages to hold her audience captive with a slew of suspects, misdirection, and a threat most won’t see coming.
In Peccadillo at the Palace, Bovée corrals together a colorful cast of characters. Eighteen-year-old Annie Oakley is a Western reimagining of Jo March, quick tempered and boyish (by the standards of her time). Only her obsessions are honing her shooting skills, caring for Buck (her beautiful and clever buckskin horse), and solving mysteries as a burgeoning amateur sleuth. Unfortunately, Annie’s too-often careless disposition (she does things most reasonable people wouldn’t), and indifference to the safety and well-being of some of those she claims to love and care for is irritating and makes her difficult to connect with fully.2 Nor does this demeanor truly resonate with the caring and empowering woman historical accounts describe.
Hulda, Annie’s 13-year-old sister, is a regular Amy March–the artistic and more conceited younger sibling. Hulda is preoccupied with her craft as a seamstress, the latest fashion trends, male attention, and appearing more mature than her years. Like their literary counterparts, Annie and Hulda often clash over issues of Hulda’s morality and propriety and Annie’s overbearing nature, sometimes at the most inopportune moments.
Emma Wilson, Annie’s reporter friend, is bound to be a favorite among readers. Confident, charismatic, and career-oriented, Emma supports and protects Annie the way a best friend should, demonstrating a healthy concern for Annie’s safety while still giving her room to spread her wings. (To his credit, Frank Butler, her husband behaves similarly.) Through Emma, her bold actions, and her quick wit, we learn much about their world (current events, histories, civil unrest, and so on) and the mysteries surrounding the murder of Mr. Bhakta (the queen’s royal servant) and an assassination plot against the queen.
In Peccadillo at the Palace, Bovée wrangles a promising combination of female empowerment, bloody histories3, conspiratorial plots, and mysteries of royal magnitude to create story of vengeance, heroism, and loss and the many ways we experience it. Bovée’s historical mystery explores the many facets of injustice in society and the consequences they bring, how far we are willing to go for justice and retribution, and what compromises we are willing to make to acquire them.
1In this Annie Oakley mystery, Bovée focuses more on the Western perspectives of the events covered in the book, including some Americans and Europeans’ take on historical events and culpability, their struggles (the British at Cawnpore and in England, the Fenians, etc.), the prejudices they harbor toward East Indian civilians as well as Native Americans, their cultures, and their beliefs. Much of which is necessary for the mystery involved to determine potential motives behind the attacks (excepting their regard for Native Americans), but leaves the gaps in the overall history for enthusiasts like myself. Readers are left to wonder about the perspectives of Native Americans and East Indians during this era, the motives behind their behaviors.
2I truly appreciate Bovée’s inclusion of Annie’s religious beliefs throughout the story–how it affects her views and drives her behavior. But I struggle with Annie’s reaction to others’ disregard for her Native American “friends”. For instance, a character refers to them as savages and she neither says nor feels anything (or, if she does, it isn’t described), but she gets angry and corrects another character when he refers to them as red.
3Some suggested trigger warnings for this book include mass murder, abuse, racial slurs, and miscarriage.
I received a free copy of Peccadillo at the Palace from SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Empowered women in history, horses, unconventional characters, and real-life historical events fill the pages of award-winning writer Kari Bovee’s articles and historical mystery musings and manuscripts. Bovée is an award-winning writer: She was a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the 2012 LERA Rebecca contest, the 2014 NTRWA Great Expectations contest, and the RWA 2016 Daphne du Maurier contest for her unpublished manuscript Grace in the Wings. She was also honored as a finalist in the NHRWA Lone Star Writer’s contest in 2012 with the unpublished manuscript of Girl with a Gun. Bovée and her husband, Kevin, live in New Mexico with their cat, four dogs, and four horses. Their children, who live happy lives as productive entrepreneurs and professionals, are their greatest achievements.
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