by Cindy Anstey
Published on April 17, 2018 by Swoon Reads
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance, Young Adult
Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father's approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.
Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother's intended.
But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of "accidents," it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .
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I’m not sure if it was intentional, but Suitors and Sabotage reminded me a bit of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To be fair, it’s referenced in the book as the play the characters put on at one point so perhaps there was more intent there than I initially thought.
The third of Anstey’s historical romances, I’m at odds with how I felt about this one. I’ve enjoyed her previous two titles well enough, though wouldn’t say that either was mind-blowing, and the same applies to Suitors and Sabotage.
As a tale of four young people spending the summer together and going on an assortment of small adventures, this book is great. I loved the dynamic between Imogene, her friend Emily, and the brothers Ernest and Ben. Throughout this, Ernest is supposed to be wooing Imogene as their families believe a marriage proposal is imminent, but Imogene isn’t so sure they’re a good fit when Ben enters the picture.
Here is where the Midsummer’s comparison comes in, with Imogene crushing on Ben, Ben on her but also spending a lot of time with Emily, who thinks he’s falling in love with her, and Ernest developing feelings for Imogene and thinking they’re reciprocated. . . you get the picture. Lots of FEELINGS all around and making a mess of things. And yet, the romance just wasn’t quite working for me due to the pacing. I liked Imogene and Ben, how their relationship develops from friendship to something more, not just an insta-lust or insta-love. There was something substantial to it and you bet I shipped them hard from the beginning.
The problem is that it took an awfully long time for anything to happen and when it finally did. . . the book ended. And because it was so drawn out, I never really felt the romance in this historical romance. Sure, I wanted certain characters to end up together but that was it, and more wishful thinking — hoping for something to happen — on my part.
Suitors and Sabotage also lost me with the whole mystery element. Throughout the story, bad things happen and the group tries to figure out the source. But the mystery wasn’t clear in a way that you (as a reader) could follow the random occurrences very far and while I understand that the author doesn’t want to give away the BIG REVEAL until the right moment, the reader needs something to work with. It came to a point where those “accidents” felt like plot fillers rather than a necessary part of the story (and ultimately, I really didn’t think they added much).
Now, to be fair, it wasn’t a bad book. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Love, Lies and Spies (my favorite of Anstey’s 3 books) and Duels and Deception, but it was entertaining enough. I’ll certainly pick up future books by the author and will buy this one for my shelves.