Title: The Lady Jewel Diviner
Publisher: Parkerville Press
Author: Rosalie Oaks
Elinor Avely is a young woman of modest means, but good breeding. In early 19th century England, that means finding a husband (preferably titled and wealthy) and settling down to bear lots of children — not hunting for lost treasure, getting tangled up with a ring of treacherous thieves, and stumbling onto an espionage plot. Or befriending a miniature French vampire. Or a handsome selkie. But, really, Elinor can hardly be blamed for any of this. It’s not her fault that she was born with a magical ability to sense the presence of jewels. Nor is it her fault that she is living in near exile with her family on the Devon coast. No, that is the fault of the too-intriguing Earl of Beresford. If only he would stay out of her way while she was hunting for treasure, tangling with thieves, and exposing an espionage plot ….
I first came across Oaks’ Lady Diviner series when she offered the prequel novelette free to anyone who signed up for her newsletter. It was a sweet and fun story, so I went looking for the rest of the series. With more pages to play with, and a larger cast, and more magic and magical creatures, The Lady Jewel Diviner proved to be highly entertaining and exciting.
Firstly, there’s Our Heroine, Elinor. Austen would approve of her intelligence and determination to live her own life. And then there’s Elinor’s immediate family: her brother Peregrine and her mother, both of whom know about her jewel divining ability, and who worry that it will put her in danger. Then there is Aldreda, a doll-sized French vampire who has been asleep for eighty years and who hardly recognizes the world in which she awakens. (Her size makes sense when one realizes that Aldreda can shapeshift back and forth into a bat.) Fortunately, Aldreda is old enough to remember a world in which magic was still practiced; not openly, perhaps, but at least it was not scoffed at as unreasonable superstition as it is in Elinor’s day. And there is also Jaq, the selkie Prince who flirts outrageously with both Elinor and Peregrine, and who has little concern for human standards of modesty. And finally there is Beresford, the Earl who so confuses Elinor. He is not precisely handsome, but he does have nice shoulders for leaning on. And while he has a tendency to lecture her, he does kiss very nicely, too.
The world that Oaks has created is a delightful mixture of the familiar and the exotic. There’s tea and biscuits and Beresford Plum Jam, but also hidden communities of shapeshifters, lost magic, and ancient treasures to be found.
The Lady Diviner series is now up to four books, plus the free prequel and a special novella focused on Beresford and Jaq. I look forward to seeing what further adventures Oaks has planned for Elinor and her friends.
Recommended to fans of Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis, the Harriet George Casebook series by Patrick Samphire, the Manners and Monsters series by Tilly Wallace, Curse of the Specter Queen by Jenny Elder Moke, and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher.
[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]