This week, The Lady Jewel Diviner is:
- A fast-paced cosy crime mystery
- A cute nod to Regency romance
- Obsessed with cream teas
The Lady Jewel Diviner (2021) by Rosalie Oaks
This is the first of a series of cosy crime with a Regency Fantasy twist.
The Lady Jewel Diviner is set in a Regency England wherein magic exists and strange creatures abound.
Miss Elinor Avely is the heroine of the story and she has the magical ability to divine any jewel nearby. At the start of the story, she believes she is the only person to have such an ability.
However, when she meets Miss Zooth, a vampiri, she learns that there are other types of magical creatures and magic-workers known as Musors.
This is mainly about Elinor learning that she can develop her powers and getting to know the magical world around her as she becomes embroiled in uncovering a smuggling ring off the Devonshire coast.
Having fled London society after a scandal involving a jewel – she was accused of stealing it instead of returning it, as she had intended – Elinor, her mother, Mrs. Avely, and brother, Perry, all retire to what they suppose will be quiet country life in Devon.
Obviously, that’s not to be.
There are a large number of players in this book and I’m not certain I kept up with who they all were.
What I know is that, for some reason, smugglers have taken the jewels which French aristocrats have been bringing with them across the channel as they flee the Revolution.
Elinor, being able to divine jewels, sets about finding them.
The first thing she finds is two aristocrats, hiding in a cave, having just made it across to England. They have been double-crossed by the people who helped smuggle them out of France and Elinor’s family takes them in.
This is a fast-paced mystery with new information popping up all over the place. I found it enjoyable and read on, wanting to know who the real culprit was.
There is also a romantic sub-plot: Elinor and Lord Beresford, who tried to come to her aid when she first became the talk of London, but who did it in such a high-handed way that it backfired. Naturally, he appears and his whole family is mixed up in the smuggling affair.
This had huge potential to be a fascinating new magic system but it didn’t quite deliver. It was hinted at but didn’t become an integral part of the plot.
The most interesting worldbuilding is the various creatures which inhabit the Devonshire coast. Notably, there is a selkie and a vampiri.
The selkie is introduced and has his part to play in the unfolding of the mystery, but we don’t learn much about him or his world. I feel that will come in one of the later books.
The vampiri, Miss Zooth, is interesting, since she can turn from a bat into a woman of bat-size. She is a tiny spinster lady, which is a brilliant twist on the legend.
She is also the mentor (or, in Regency terms, chaperone) figure but she doesn’t reveal very much information. Again, I suspect we will eventually get more in later books.
The fact that she cannot retain her clothes when she shifts between forms leads to some (slight) amusement.
There are eight types of magic (I believe there is a ninth to be revealed), of which Elinor has one. She learns that she should be able to develop her power, and begins to do that under the guidance of Miss Zooth, but it doesn’t come to much in the story.
Overall, I feel that there were many missed opportunities here, which is a bit disappointing.
I liked that the main character was a young woman (of unspecified but presumably marriageable age).
She was forthright and determined, which leads to a lot of her scrapes and adventures.
It’s difficult to blend feminism with true Regency manners and decorum. However, with Regency Fantasy intended as a light read, I can totally forgive modernisations and hot-headed heroines.
The Lady Jewel Diviner nods to the social conventions of the time in things like needing a chaperone, but doesn’t let it stand in the way of Elinor going off searching for a cache of hidden gems in the dead of night.
At least she had her tiny spinster companion with her. You know, for decorum.
It’s written in a pseudo-Regency style that hints at being Jane Austen without achieving that actual style, rhythm or wit. It’s more modern (and that’s not a criticism, just an observation) and uses some formal dialogue to achieve the strictly hierarchical, repressed tone of the Regency.
There is very little description, including of the characters. The main character was just a blank in my mind, waiting to be filled in.
In fact, most of the characters gave the impression of existing on the page and not beyond. We never learn of them doing anything else. There was a lot of potential for back-stories and character development that never happened.
Perhaps because it was so fast, but the conclusion of the mystery is a little confused. There are a lot of people doing things for reasons that I didn’t fully understand. That is either a fault with me and my ability to understand plot (entirely possible), or it is a fault with the writing not making motivation clear.
The thing that annoyed me most was the fact that Elinor kept allowing her brother into the adventure. He was a complete liability and little more than a plot device to bungle things up. Why she kept bringing him along at all is the real mystery.
I recommend this as a light read if you enjoy mysteries and letting the plot wash over you. It’s quite interesting and easy to read.
If you are looking for something pulpy and fun, with detailed worldbuilding, then I’d suggest you check out Manners and Monsters by Tilly Wallace.
If you are more into Austen-style romance with realistic world-building, then I thoroughly recommend Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.