BLAINE’S PREFECT AND THE GOLDEN SAMOVAR
Publisher: Felony & Mayhem Press (January, 2018)
Kindle edition: $4.98
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Librarian Shona McMonagle is very proud of being an alumnus of Marcia Blaine’s School for Girls, where she got the best education in the world. She had excelled in all the academic fields and in the arts, including martial. She seems cool, calm and collected but that is deceptive. Only one thing really gets her goat: a popular book set at a girls’ school in Edinburgh, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, was supposedly modeled on her alma mater. Shona considers it a travesty, a distortion, a mockery.
When a customer comes up to her desk and asks for that very book, Shona does all she can to dissuade her. Finally the woman reveals herself as Marcia Blaine, the founder of the school. Not a ghost, but the real, living, breathing lady herself. She looks pretty good for being over two hundred years old. She has come to recruit Shona for a special time-traveling position, and that suits Shona just fine.
Miss Blaine is sparse with the details: There will be an assignment to fix something. You will know what that is when you see it. Proceed accordingly. You have one week. If you miss the deadline – well, you don’t want to do that.”
Soon after that encounter, Shona begins to feel a tingle that turns into a torrent of tingles. She finds herself lying on a polished wooden floor, in a room that to all indications is in a fine Russian home in the nineteenth century. She figures it’s Russia because of the large golden samovar on the table above her head. She is dressed in period finery. That, and her skills in Russian and French allow her to fit right in.
That night she attends a lavish party celebrating Lidia Ivanova’s coming out to society. Poor Lidia and her family had been banished from the city twenty years ago because of some family tragedy that no one will discuss. The other socialites scorn her and gossip behind her back and in front of her face, and the poor girl is miserable. Shona has her eye on a gorgeous blond Adonis named Sasha, who is gazing longingly at the lovely Lidia. Ahah! Quick as that, Shona knows that her mission is to get the two together. The first step is to liven up that party and make Lidia popular. She trains the orchestra on the fly to play Scottish dance music, and demonstrates Scottish dancing. Soon the party is rocking and Lidia is the belle of the ball.
From the start, the reader sees that Shona is hilariously wrong. Ignoring all warning signs: Sasha’s popularity with ladies of a certain age, Lidia’s reluctance to get with the program, the occasional murder, she blithely proceeds full steam ahead.
This is the first book in a new series, and what a delight it is. Shona is a hoot, and the other characters are unique and well-drawn as well. Her driver, footman and major domo, Old Vatrushkin, is multi-talented and is devoted to her. His only problem is that she wants to emancipate him from his serfdom. The cast of elderly, randy generals, portly, bejeweled, countesses, a fake Beethoven and more make for a lively story.Highly recommended.
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