Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Craigsmuir Affair by Jen Black

The Craigsmuir Affair.  Jen Black. Orchard Hill Books. July 2015. 259 pp.  ASIN#: B00XXOB7FC.

Daisy is an 18 year-old woman who lives in the aristocratic world of Victorian England.  She dreams of entering art school and developing her already adept skills, but this is a dream clearly frowned upon by almost everyone in her society.  It’s one thing to dabble in painting and drawing, quite another for a woman to have a career outside of being a wife, mother, teacher or governess.  Her dream is challenged by the appearance of Adam Grey, a successful mine owner, who has scrabbled his way upward after being desperately poor as a result of the failed family business.  Initially, he seems like a cold, calculating, even brash young man but he is almost immediately smitten by this out-spoken yet sensitive woman, Daisy. 

Into the mix a series of art and money thefts occurs.  The thief is not evident because so many members of the upper class are always visiting each other for days on end.  When Daisy is invited to paint an entire wall at the home of one of these aristocrats, danger explodes.  An accident in a newfangled elevator, a fall, and more are added to the intense stress.  Adam has taken on the job of detective, as he has nothing to do at the moment, to discover the thief and then the attacker of Daisy. 

Adam and Daisy, however, are definitely attracted to each other and yet their meetings socially and privately crackle with misunderstanding and snapping conversations.  Daisy, however, in spite of being cast in a manner far from her real personality, holds firm to her dream for the future and her dignity when insulted by many.  Her strength is challenged further when a powerful man, Maitland, accosts Daisy several times with clear intentions of sexually possessing her while in his disgustingly perpetually alcoholic state.

This reviewer posted a review of Jen Black’s first novel many years ago and is happy to say that the writing style and plot complexity have significantly grown in this latest novel.  Readers will relish the evolving love affair and the mystery radiating through every page of this pleasing Victorian novel.  Very nicely crafted, Jen Black!

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