My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Trusting Miss Trentham marked book 3 of Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series and I must admit, this series is getting better with each installment! From the storyline to the characters, there’s always something new to expect!!
The Baleful Godmother is a Regency-set series based on female characters who have special “gifts” or powers. But if you want to start from the very beginning, you can with The Fey Quartet. These are a set of novellas listed as “prologue” to this series. Set in Medieval-era England, this series explains exactly how our unique heroines come to inherit their “gifts”. I found The Fey Quartet absolutely delightful, couldn’t wait to find out how the protagonists’ descendants deal with their gifts, bestowed by a Fey in exchange of a favor done to her.
Books 1 and 2, Unmasking Miss Appleby and Resisting Miss Merryweather had something common in them apart from Bale Tongue, our dubious Fairy Godmother. Heroines of both of these books, Charlotte and Anne AKA Merry (respectively), 1. Were bestowed their gifts at the age of 25, which I thought was THE age they were supposed to have their wish fulfilled and 2. They were cousins so the stories were linked that way.
Charlotte had no idea about her gift because she became orphaned at an early age, so Bale Tongue took her by complete surprise. She was living quite miserably with her mean uncle’s family and this gave her the opportunity to get out of there and earn money on her own. She chose shapeshifting and transformed herself into a man to get the lucrative job offered by Marcus, Lord Cosgrove, our H, in a newspaper advert. Merry, on the other hand, wasn’t introduced in book 1 but she was already aware of her Fey inheritance. She knew she’d be visited by Bale Tongue but was ever unsure what to choose. She was also an orphan by the time her story began so she was living with Charlotte and Marcus when she met Sir Barnaby, who is also Marcus’s closest buddy. Well, at that time, they had a falling out but book 2 helps mend that bridge bit by bit. His visit also brings Merry and Barnaby together. Something closer to a tragedy later in the story prompts Merry to choose the gift of healing to save people’s lives. By the time Trusting Miss Trentham begins, both girls were happily married and expecting.
I mentioned the above because Trusting Miss Trentham isn’t connected to the first 2 books for various reasons. First of all, unlike Charlotte and Merry, Letty Trentham had had her gift of hearing truth and lies in people’s statement at 21, long before the story even began. Her mother was alive at that time to explain her inheritance to her. She also seemed like a descendant wasn’t directly connected to Charlotte or Merry. She actually thought she was the only one with such a gift! So, in that sense, this book can be read as a standalone because it doesn’t connect to the first 2 books, but I would still recommend that you read all the books AND the prologues for full enjoyment. I also think this book was longer than the other two and had more layers in it in the terms of relationship building between the H and the h. There was no straightforward or easy love-at-first-sight here for sure!
Letty Trentham is the richest heiress in all of England. But she’s also too plain, too thin, too tall...too everything that a man wouldn’t find attractive. Had it not been for her enormous inheritance she’d not see any suitors. Hence, she’s been in the marriage mart for the past 5 or so years. Because, for the unfortunate fortune hunters, Letty debuted after she received her gift (her inheritance being the deciding factor in her gift choosing) and immediately knew every single lie those men told her to get to her money. Result, she’s still single, still waiting to find the right man, even though every day she’s a little close to giving up. Letty would rather not marry being so disillusioned in men but her eldest step-brother won’t let it pass. Barnard want to get rid of her ASA he can, a fact Letty was well aware of. But what can she do? There was no way she was succumbing to those liars just for the sake of a marriage!
It was in one of those balls where she’d just rejected her latest suitor is where she meets Icarus Reid, a tall, gaunt looking soldier who seemed a bit touched in the head. Who knew about her “trick” (as others thought her gift was) and wanted help. He was investigating something that happened when he was a soldier, could use all the help he can have. I did wonder how many people know of Letty’s “trick” and why no one questioned anything but I guess money made everything possible for her, except for the type of marriage she wanted; something made of love and passion. I gathered as much because she asked the question of fidelity to every suitor and came off disappointed hearing them lying through their teeth.
Anyway, when Letty heard that Icarus was investigating a possible traitor, she decides to help right away. After all, lives were lost in Vimeiro (allusion to the Battle of Vimeiro is also made throughout the story). But that wasn’t all. Letty was instantly drawn to this haggard looking man for some reason and wanted to help just more than the investigation. She wanted to help him. But for any type of help, they needed elaborate plans to avoid Letty’s watchdogs AKA her chaperons and other people that Barnard has employed to check on her so she’s not found missing and no one starts looking. IF Barnard figures out, Letty knows she won’t be able to do anything.
The first leg of the investigation was pretty easy, where Letty invites Icarus to a house-party to interview Tom Matlock, one of the soldiers on Icarus’s list. He didn’t think Tom was the one but he had to be thorough. While talking to Letty, he finds out she knows Tom very well. Letty, Julia and Lucas, Julia’s twin brother, had grown up practically together. They are cousins, though not related by birth but her mother’s marriage. Tom is Lucas’s closest friend, who had also known them since his boyhood so that bond is there. The whole setting works, where we get to know new characters including Tom and Lucas. Unfortunately, Julia, who was very wild and tomboy-ish, had passed on a year ago from a riding accident, something that still haunts them all.
I specifically need to mention Lucas and Tom specifically as they’re the couple of the next book. While investigating Tom, Icarus finds that he was correct about him. But anyone who knew Lucas intimately, they could see that he was still hurting from Julia’s death. Letty was very sympathetic towards everything but she hardly had any idea how to help him. Only Tom was his constant companion, would drop by whenever he could to keep Lucas company, only no knew the nature of their relationship. No one obviously suspected anything seeing they were buddies since boyhood. It’s all revealed to Letty in such a fashion that it left her quite dazed and confused in her innocence. Icarus was also present when it happened but neither Tom not Lucas knew they’d been found out. However, Icarus knew the importance of keeping the whole business a tightly-kept secret. That, how much of a trouble they’ll be in if they’re ever found out by someone else. Having that, and Letty’s innocence in mind, Icarus repeatedly asks her to ‘forget what she saw’, refusing to explain anything about Lucas and Tom’s relationship to her.
By then, Letty and Icarus had this very complicated thing going on. Letty was even more attracted to Icarus and was quite forcing him to eat more because it seemed liked he’d forgo eating completely if he could. If not investigating, he was always in his own world. And he did tell Letty he’s dying. Only he won’t tell her of what; a question that has been rebuffed by him no matter how many times she asked. Letty is nothing if not tenacious, but she fails to get a clear answer out of him. He seemed quite angry at her most of the times so she was sure he hates her, a fact hurt her a lot. I admired Letty’s strength and what she was doing for Icarus even if he disliked it and struck out by being rude. Someone had to put their foot down if that man was to be saved. Letty, it seemed, made it her life’s goal to see that Icarus Reid was fed well, if nothing else.
After their first stop, Letty makes plans to accompany Icarus wherever the investigation was taking them, posing as “Mrs. Reid”. She knew the dangers to her reputation but in truth, she didn’t care. She wanted to be around, taking care of him. On their way through the planned destinations, they meet more people. A girl named Eliza who was raped, then turned out from a house where she was working. Letty immediately takes the girl under her wing, making her a temporary lady’s maid until something can be done later. Icarus also finds a boy named Green who was working for one of the soldiers related to this case, now serving his sentence in prison (whom they met up with the first thing after Icarus approached Letty). He makes the boy his valet. Then they rescue Private Houghton from an abysmal living. Icarus liked the man and was glad when Letty confirmed he was not guilty. He also explains most of it to Houghton, offering him a job of sort then asking him to accompany them.
But at night, when Icarus would cry out shuddering from his never-ending nightmares, Letty would make sure to be by his side. She also tries her best to track down a better sleeping drought for Icarus so he could sleep a little better. At daytime, Icarus seemed unhappy at her interference with his life, but at night, cold and shivering, weak and unstable from his nightmares he’d not utter one caustic word. Letty knew something was very wrong with him, that he’d also suffered something terrible but she couldn’t make Icarus say anything on this matter. This was the reason why he was so dark and brooding, so gaunt, wouldn’t eat. The man was barely living at all.
Letty was already half-way in love with Icarus for his integrity, and his kindness to the fellow soldiers. The plans he was making to help the destitute and physically unable soldiers to be able to do something with his own money...but always as if he won’t survive this year. It terrified Letty but she had no idea how to reach him because Icarus would close himself off. It’d try the patience of a saint but Letty was still pushing through, trying to find a way to get through to him. At one point, she realized Icarus thought himself already dead from whatever happened to him in Vimeiro, which is the reason why he had no intentions of living. It was becoming clearer that he planned on taking his own life! When the realization struck, Letty couldn’t have been more horrified. She was desperate to change it.
But for now, Icarus was bend on finding the traitor of Vimeiro. The incident ended in the deaths of 4 of his men. He was a man possessed, to bring justice before his supposed death. He also, privately, deeply relied on Letty’s company to push on. Especially at night when she’d be in his room to wake him up and give him his sleeping drought. Then she’d read to him........in a few days, they were also kissing and holding each-other until he fell asleep. But Icarus never quite expected it to escalate to full on sexual exploration until Letty initiates something that took him by stunned surprise. I get that seeing Lucas-Tom together gave her ideas, though it wasn’t the right way to start things of. But she just wanted to see Icarus a little happy and would’ve done anything in her power to make that happen. Anything to make him feel alive again. Icarus couldn’t say ‘no’ even if he felt bad cause it looked like he was taking advantage of Letty to forget his woes. But Letty was pretty determined and Icarus wanted it AND her and whatever comfort she could bring in his bleak world quite bad.
But in the light of the day, none of them had any idea how to handle this budding but quite intense relationship between them. Icarus didn’t expect to live, Letty had no intentions of letting him die so, yeah, it was quite the battle of wills. And it seemed despite all the odds stacked against them, despite Icarus’s super disinterest in living, he begins feeling like he wanted to. He was eating a bit better each day, sleeping much better since Letty started sharing his bed. He had FINALLY also opened up to her about what exactly happened in Vimeiro and why he was so depressed, which helped of course. He felt jealous when Letty was so jolly and open with Sergeant Houghton FGS!
I’d say, at times, Icarus looked so morose and literally someone who wasn’t living in this world as far as his psyche went, I felt rather hopeless. But Letty continued to fight for him until the day the real traitor was found. She did her utmost best and made Icarus see that there’s a life waiting for him here, in this world and that he doesn’t need to end it needlessly. In the end, thankfully, Letty succeeds in bringing Icarus back into the world of the living.
Letty does meet Merry in this story when both couple of books 1 and 2 drop by in one of the inns they were staying at. This visit also brings forth some revelations, including the fact that she’s, in fact, not the only one. Having cousins, however distant they are, made Letty extremely happy. Excited beyond words, she confides in Icarus, who initially finds the whole story complete nonsense, it showing quite clearly on his face. It kinda hurts Letty but it couldn’t have been avoided I guess. However, when she continued to separate the truths from lies accurately, he somewhat gives in. Not a complete believer but somewhere in the middle. Phew!
Before starting Trusting Miss Trentham, I wasn’t sure I’d like to continue with Claiming Mr. Kemp since M/M is not a genre I generally prefer to read. But now, I definitely wanna find out what happens! Ms. Larkin tells me we’d be seeing more of Letty and Icarus there so, yesss! Meanwhile, I’d recommend this one because Trusting Miss Trentham was probably the best read this series so far. I loved it. 4.25 stars.
Complimentary copy received from the author, thanks Ms. Larkin!