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A Breach of Promise (William Monk Novels) (original 1997; edition 1998)
by Anne Perry
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0804118558, Mass Market Paperback)The promises that are breached, broken, and never born in Anne Perry's rich and resonant new William Monk mystery all have to do with the roles and positions of women in Victorian society. At the center of the book is a rousing courtroom drama, as young Zillah Lambert--daughter of a wealthy, well-meaning northern businessman and his socially ambitious wife--sues an immensely gifted architect, Killian Melville. Melville, Zillah argues, failed to live up to his promise of marriage and thereby ruined her chances of making any sort of acceptable match. Private detective Monk is brought into the case by lawyer Oliver Rathbone when his client (Melville), facing financial and social ruin, still refuses to offer any reason for his dastardly conduct.
Monk's attentions are occupied elsewhere, too. Hester Latterly, the courageous nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, and whose favors Monk and Rathbone both desire, is looking after a British officer, Gabriel Sheldon, who was badly wounded and disfigured in India. Gabriel's wife, Perdita, is having trouble adjusting to her husband's broken body and spirit. "It was not Perdita's fault that she was confused and frightened," Monk muses. "She had been protected all her short life. She had not chosen to be, it was her assigned role." Monk has also promised a housemaid in the Sheldons' service that he will look for her two little nieces--deaf and deformed from birth--who were abandoned by their mother almost 20 years before. As the cases tangle and combine (perhaps a tad too coincidentally for some tastes, but, then again, real life is full of coincidences), Perry manages to show us the many ways in which women were made to pay for their place in a male-dominated society. She also delivers a touching and surprisingly suspenseful story. Other Monk books in paperback: The Silent Cry, Cain His Brother, Defend and Betray, Weighed in the Balance. --Dick Adler
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:47 -0400)
Killian Melville is probably the most brilliant architect of the age. Young, intelligent, he is liked by everyone and despite his talent, he maintains an honesty which endears him to Victorian society. So when he visits Sir Oliver Rathbone, in need of the best lawyer there is to represent him over an alleged 'breach of promise,' Rathbone agrees despite his misgivings.
(summary from another edition)
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