Review: India Black and the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr

Saturday, October 27, 2012
Title: India Black and the Widow of Windsor
Author: Carol K. Carr
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Series: Madam of Espionage #2
Pages: 309 (paperback edition)
Published: October 2011
Source: sent from author for review
Rating: 4.25/5

Black is back! Her Majesty's favorite spy is off to Scotland in this new adventure to ensure the Queen doesn't end up getting killed.

When Queen Victoria attends a séance, the spirit of her departed husband, Prince Albert, insists she spend Christmas at their Scottish home in Balmoral. Prime Minister Disraeli suspects the Scottish nationalists plan to assassinate the Queen-and sends the ever resourceful India and the handsome British spy, French, to the Scottish highlands.

French will take the high road, looking for a traitor among the guests-and India will take the low road, disguised as a servant in case an assassin is hiding among the household staff. India is certain that someone at Balmoral is determined to make this Her Majesty's last Christmas...

India Black returns for a second outing - true to form, and full of the same humor and wit that made her so memorable and damned fun in the first novel. While I found this second in the series to be just slightly below the level of the first, India Black and the Widow of Windsor is still a highly entertaining, genuinely fun, and interesting new historical mystery.  Here in round number two as a madam of espionage, India must once again go under covers (but not under the covers!damn and blast) with the charming but mysterious French as her ally in a fight to save the English Queen from angry, violent Scottish nationals. Full of the same voice, tone, and adventure as the first book in the seriers, fans from the original novel will find more of the same to love in this romp from talented author Carol K. Carr.

A strong followup to a wonderful first escapade, India Black and the Widow of Windsor is more focused on the mystery aspect of the plot, rather than the sheer adventure that took over the latter part of the first novel. While not a detriment to the novel as a whole, as the mystery is strongly constructed, hard to suss out, and full of red herrings to keep readers guessing, I missed the sheer audacity of the turns of events from the first novel. India lost none of her charm in the journey from book one to two, and her attempts to ferret out a spy within the castle of Balmoral are just as fun and witty as I had come to expect from the madam of many talents. My friend Audra compares her to a Victorian Bond Girl, and that is so appropriate it's ridiculous. Just as suave, if not as subtle, India is a joy to read during her travails to save Queen, Country, but herself above all. The plot may edge on the goofy side of things occasionally, but India herself is again the star of the show and with help from her alluring foil French, keeps India Black and the Widow of Windsor from falling victim to uneven sequel syndrome. 

New, laugh-out-loud characters, old familiar faces, new villains and motives help to round out the 300+ novel with ease. I obviously could always do with more French on the page, but the new additions melded well with the frame and plot created for this. Like the first, though this is obviously India's vehicle, the secondary and tertiary characters are more than able to hold their own. I found the antagonists harder to suss out than in the first; I loved the interactions between India and the Marchioness; I loved the mentions of Disreali, the Queen, John Brown, etc. Weaving factual figures with such vivacity is one of Carr's many adept turns as the author of this inimitable series. The characters were and continue to be one of the many standouts of these books, and I love that each new novel has revealed more (if not much!) about the principal players.

India Black and the Widow of Windsor is a fine follow-up to its predecessor, if not quiiiite as much of an off-the-walls madcap adventure. Like before, the characters, the mystery, the adventures are top notch and finely tuned making for a fast, breezy read full of wit and humor. The wait for the e-short and the third book will surely kill me. India Black is not a heroine to forget and her most recent adventure with companions French and Vincent left often much about each character, all the while teasing with ever more hints about the pasts/presents? of the two very compatible adults. Not one to dole out immediate answers, Carol K. Carr sure knows how to dangle a hook and catch readers in her vivid imaginations and nuanced characters. I for one can't wait to see what else we learn about this daring duo in the forthcoming India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy. I can only hope it's as excellent as the first two so wonderfully crafted by this lawyer-turned-author.

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