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Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden…
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Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Olga Wojtas (Author)

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436403,100 (3.43)14
Member:richardderus
Title:Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar
Authors:Olga Wojtas (Author)
Info:Felony & Mayhem (2018), 264 pages
Collections:borrowed, Reviewed
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

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Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas (2018)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Rating: 3.8* of five

Shona McMonagle, whose life as a librarian is spent attempting to expunge [The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie] from the world's...okay, from Scotland's...make that Edinburgh's shelves for its heinous, unforgivable insults to her Revered Preceptress Marcia Blaine of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. You will not be surprised to know that Miss Blaine, though more than 274 years old, accepts this tribute to herself and her educational precepts, her centuries-old vow to make all her girls the crème de la crème in all their fields of endeavor, by inviting (in a more commanding than inviting way) Miss McMonagle to undertake a delicate mission for her. That mission will involve time travel to Tsarist St. Petersburg at some point between the Decembrist Revolution of 1825 and the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. (Running joke that gets forgotten a lot. You'll see.)

What can one say to a 274-year-old that hasn't been said many times? Shona accepts the brief and, hey prestwick...I mean presto!...after some thoroughly unpleasant pains she awakes in a peculiarly unsurprised and complaisant version of the capital of paranoid, isolationist, status-obsessed Imperial Russia, where she is Princess Shona Fergusovna. Or so she decides, being rather forced to take a title as her own despite her egalitarian and feminist principles. She does not, however, go so far as to pooh-pooh her Russian home from home's accoutrements:
I wandered back into the brightness of the salon and saw at the far end of the room my second samovar of the evening, vaster than the first, big enough to hold boiling water for the largest tea party I could host. It was golden, the pinnacle of the craftsman's art. It had whorls, it had curlicues, it had scallops, it had convolutions, it had involutions, it had dimples, it had excrescences, it had gibbosity, it had indentations, it had crenellations—it was utterly spectacular. And most magnificent of all was the design of the spigot. It was shaped like a ferocious eagle, its wings outstretched, its beak—I was about to run my fingers down it when I backed off. Its beak was razor sharp. I couldn't help tutting. It was an accident waiting to happen. I would have to remember this was an era before health and safety, and treat the samovar with extreme caution.
Charming litany. I quite like Princess Fergusovna. I also like her complete willingness to lust ever so discreetly after handsome young buck Sasha, whose beauty she first appreciates from beneath a sofa:
The young man's voice was light and attractive, the sort that you could listen to for hours on the radio. I wondered whether he had a face for radio as well.
He most assuredly does NOT have a face for radio, in that he is the protégé (pronounced by Shona, then all those who hear her, in the manner français, this reliably sends the Russians into fits of giggles for slightly obvious reasons) of a dreadful, lustful, stout, snobbish, evil-hearted countess. Her designs on his corpus delectable are strictly dishonorable, as are those of every other woman in St. Petersburg:
"I shall be waiting for you tomorrow afternoon," {a randy old widow} was saying.
"And I shall be counting the minutes until then," Sasha replied.
He was such a sweet guy. When he married Lidia, she would have to be careful that he didn't exhaust himself doing good works, and left some time for her.
You see, Miss Blaine wants Shona to infiltrate society's upper echelons to make sure beautiful, naive heiress Lidia gets her proper mate in this life. So Miss Blaine, through means undisclosed, gives Shona a house, a serf, and a lot of money. No one in St. Petersburg questions this apparition, it seems, accepting her story of being a Scottish peeress without question. And Shona, for her part, is a late-middle-aged matronly sort with peerless language and ninja skills, preternaturally acute hearing, and not one shred of common sense. Who cares who Lidia marries, especially a twenty-first-century feminist? Why go to all this trouble for someone who simply isn't that interesting, except that there needs to be a plot? And Shona's highly lusty crush on Sasha means she sees him as the proper mate for delectable little Lidia (who couldn't possible care less about him) in spite of a zillion unsubtle clues that she's got that wrong. (When she does get the right man for Lidia all set up, it's pretty much anticlimactic.)

But the journey's the thing, not the destination, right? I found trotting alongside Shona as she falls flat on her assumptions, picks herself up and carries on assuming (despite her new-found fondness for the aperçu "Never assume, it makes an ass of (yo)u and me" about which ::facepalm::) everything is about value of face as well as face value, to be a chuckle.

Not, however, a major one. This is a first novel and it is clear that the author hasn't quite got her hands around the neck of this clue-dropping thing just yet. She's quick with the witticism, johnny-on-the-spot with the dry double entendre, a dab hand with the mildly amusing misunderstanding and/or malapropism. All are inherent in slamming a bog-standard fiftysomething Scottish lady librarian (how Shona would *hate* that description!) into a culture much more patriarchal than the present Western one, and even though she endows Shona with amazing skills though without any solid explanation for them, the joke of the fish out of water works pretty well. For a while. By the end of the 250-page book I was really, really ready for the story to be wrapped up, and the couples (plural) to embark on their Russian lives, and Shona to get the heck back home. The throwaway bit at the very end about the blue paint made me guffaw, and sent me off away from the read with a much happier frame of mind that I would have been in otherwise.

Will I read the next one, assuming there is one? Maybe. I might. I could be persuaded. I will not, however, be waiting with bated breath for it to arrive. There are other, more deft, whimsical mysteries for me to read while the wait goes on. ( )
  richardderus | Aug 14, 2019 |
What a shame. I picked this up because I thought the concept was interesting, but it goes horribly wrong.

The protagonist, Shona McMonagle, is a librarian and a graduate of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, snitched from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. But this connection goes nowhere, so what was the point?

She finds herself on a time traveling mission to tsarist Russia,but has not been told where she's going, what year it will be (she never finds out), or what her mission is, which is a strange way to go about things. And this, naturally, contributes to her idiotic behavior, behavior that one would not expect from a theoretically intelligent woman, one who comments that being wrong was a new experience for her. She is ridiculously dense, missing things that anyone with an ounce of common sense would realize immediately.

A note at the end of the book suggests that there will be more books featuring this woman. I will not be reading them.
  lilithcat | May 16, 2019 |
This book had such a good review in Publisher’s Weekly that I preordered it from Amazon. The publisher is new - Felony & Mayhem - and I want to support new talent. The question is - was the book worth reading? I found it average. This is meant as a comedy and as such it falls a little bit short. In this novel the author twists and plays with every literary trope to be found. As a result it is over-the-top in many ways. Here is an example. The Prime Imperative from Star Trek does not apply to her. She brings all of her 21st century ideas and ideals into her mission. To make matters worse, the heroine is obtuse and full of herself. She is a terrible detective and time traveler. I am sure that the author means that to be funny - but at times it fell flat and it got old.

The book needed serious editing. It was at least 50 pages too long.

The novel has some really good ideas and twists on old tropes that could be funny. Some better editing would have a profound effect for the better on this novel. I think it would have made a great novella, but as is, it fell short of the hype. The big question is would I read another in this series? The answer is no. Even though there was a spark of a good novella here, I ended up not caring about Shone McGonigle enough to read about her again. ( )
1 vote benitastrnad | May 11, 2019 |
It's been a long time since I've wanted to throw a book against the wall. Normally I've stopped reading and chosen a different book long before that feeling arises. I just don't have time to waste on books that infuriate me.

But I did this time.

It might be because I was in the mood for a book that featured a little time travel, but something tells me that wasn't really it. How Shona got from present-day Edinburgh to Tzarist Russia was never explained, and how she conducted herself was one of the things that infuriated me the most. She was given absolutely no instructions when she arrived. She had a house and a servant at her disposal, a wardrobe full of appropriate attire as well as a pair of Doc Martins and a drawer filled with "multiway bras." She was told, more or less, that she would know what she was supposed to do when she saw it. I've been told that it's unladylike for a female to snort, but I did it anyway. More than once.

Shona proceeds to flounce about from place to place, spraying 21st-century opinions about like a machine gun. She quickly decides that a beautiful young heiress recently returned from exile needs to be married off to a beautiful young man and immediately begins working toward that goal. In almost no time at all, it seems that a tidal wave of elderly, filthy rich women begin falling down staircases and dying. Yes indeed, every time Shona and the beautiful young heiress visit, an old lady dies. Within a few pages, the identity of the killer is obvious, yet Shona never considers it for a second because... it's inconceivable that anyone who's so beautiful could be a homicidal maniac. (I think it's this assumption of hers that infuriated me the most.)

It didn't take me long to realize that I was undoubtedly supposed to read this book as a farce. That in itself is dangerous because farce is pretty hit-or-miss with me. Would my reaction have been more favorable if I had knowledge of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie? Perhaps, but I'm not in the mood to take the time to find out. The real question is: why did I keep reading all the way to the bitter end if the book infuriated me? I did want to find out if Shona ever got any sort of message from headquarters, or if she ever learned what year it was there in Russia. (No and No.) The more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that I was actually enjoying the way the author was saying what she was saying-- and she does have a wonderful sense of humor. There you have it. It's all Olga Wojtas' fault.

The final question is: Do I ever want to meet Shona McGonagle again?

Not on your life. ( )
  cathyskye | Dec 15, 2018 |
Delightfully witty and thoroughly entertaining! A tenacious Scottish woman, an erudite librarian, travels through time - two centuries back, into Russia of 1800s, to solve a mystery... A new author to certainly take note of. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Dec 14, 2018 |
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Shona McMonagle may look bookish and harmless, but her education at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls has left her with a deadly expertise in everything from martial arts to quantum physics. It has also left her with a bone-deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the novel that spread scandalous untruths about the finest educational institution in Edinburgh. These skills make Shona the perfect recruit for a new and interesting project: Time-travel to Tzarist Russia, prevent a gross miscarriage of romance, and - in any spare time - see to it that only the right people get murdered.

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