Author: Leah Scheier
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Source: Disney/Hyperion via NetGalley
Description from Goodreads:
Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin's ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits--and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective--to save her cousin's reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.
Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.
First Sentence: "Cousin Adelaide and I were traveling to London to choose from the latest fashions of the season."
What a fun read this was! It's chock full of things that I like, such as a spunky heroine, romance, literary references and a mystery. I went into this one without any expectations and was definitely pleasantly surprised to find what a joy it was. If you enjoy period piece dramas and mysteries, you will not want to miss Secret Letters.
My favorite part of the book was definitely the two main characters Dora Joyce and Peter Cartwright. Dora is a regular firebrand. Despite being a lady of quality, she constantly ignores what a woman in her station is supposed to do, which may not be super believable (at least her getting away with it) but is definitely fun. Definitely not faint of heart, Dora is a powerful heroine, willing to get her hands dirty, clever and sassy.
Dora came to London to help her cousin enlist the aid of Sherlock Holmes in catching a blackmailer, but Dora also has a plan of her own: to tell Sherlock that he is her biological father. Unfortunately, he has been killed elsewhere and she will not get to do that. Actually, the Sherlock Holmes connection was the one part of the book I wasn't really cool with. I love literary references and books about books, but I thought that this fell into the unclear border where it doesn't quite make sense. In this world, Sherlock Holmes is a real detective, BUT the novels about him also still exist. Did he write them? Did Watson? If it was Watson, where is he? Anyway, since this was really only the inspiring idea and not a huge part of the story, I just got over it.
Anyway, her cousin enlists the aid of young Peter Cartwright and his boss in her case, and Dora, unable to stop researching, becomes inextricably bound up in the case. Peter and Dora have totally awesome chemistry. I love the way that they interact, flirting by making fun of one another and trying to one up each other with their sleuthing skills. They definitely felt like they had a real connection, and it was super charming.
Another aspect that I really loved was when Dora went undercover as a maid in a giant estate in an effort to solve the mystery. This part definitely had a Downton Abbey feel to it, so I was ALL OVER IT. There's even an unscrupulous butler, who I totally pictured as Thomas even though he's blonde and straight. The drama and scandal of life above and below stairs was great, and definitely satisfying.
The mystery parts weren't bad, although the guilty party was all kinds of not surprising. For me, this was definitely more about the setting and characters than the plot points. Watching the two detectives try to ferret out clues, though, was definitely entertaining, especially when things would go a little bit awry.
If you're looking for a fun read with an inquisitive heroine, look no further! The ending definitely seems like Scheier could write more books in this world at some point if she wanted to. I'm up for that or whatever Scheier does next!
Favorite Quote: "But then—we all had our personal mysteries, I suppose."