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Book Review: A Malevolent Connection

It’s never a dull moment in the Matlock household as the former Beatrice Hyde-Clare discovers. Not only does she have to deal with pineapple in her beloved rout cakes, but apparently her life is in danger from her husband the Duke of Kesgrave’s Uncle. The deliverer of this news is none other than her former nemesis, Mrs. Norton nee Broughton… the woman who labeled Beatrice as drab and doomed her to wallflower status. Now Beatrice not only discovers that Kesgrave has more family than just his grandmother, that apparently they’re murderous as well. But before Beatrice can even put her plans into motion, she finds her husband standing over his uncle’s cooling corpse with a bloody candlestick in his hand… a situation which feels oddly familiar.

Stop! This book will spoil the endings of ALL of the previous books in the series. So if you don’t like to be spoiled, then you can’t pick this book up and go. If you can’t, then I recommend going back and at least reading the first, fifth, and seventh books in the series. The events in those books are very relevant to this book and while the author tries to summarize them they come off as infodump-y and very “as you know.” You’ll thank me for this later. Seriously, this book spoils everything from the previous books. And it’s something I don’t love because it means that you spend approximately the first 10% of the book summarizing the events of the previous books. It’s annoying and it’s one of the reasons this book loses a star. When I skim the entire first 10% of a book, there’s a problem.

Additionally this book needs the following trigger warnings: parental death, parental neglect, child abuse, attempted child murder/endangerment, childhood trauma, period appropriate sexism, period appropriate classism, colonialism, period appropriate xenophobia, and ableism. Please make sure you’re in a good place before reading.

I have been following the series for a while, but hadn’t had time to read some of the more recent books. That was a mistake. When I started reading the ARC of this book, I quickly realized that I needed to go read Flora’s book and that I probably should read the book immediately preceding this one if I didn’t want to be fully spoiled for the conclusions of those books. If you like this series, then I suggest you do the same. This isn’t a book you can just pick up and go… Agatha Christie this is not.

It’s nice to see Beatrice and Kesgrave interacting. Yes, Kesgrave is emotionally constipated but that’s part of his character arc as is Beatrice still learning to find her voice in situations that don’t involve corpses. Their relationship is still one of my favorite things about this series and there are lots of closed door/implied sex scenes in this, but nothing is shown on the page.

On to the other characters! I did like one of the suspects of the murder quite a bit, he’s a bit of a gentleman rogue and I have a thing for those. LOL I’m not totally fond of Flora… I wasn’t a fan of her book and I’m not a fan of her now. She’s incredibly self-centered and self-serving to the point of brow-beating others to get her own way. She’s remarkably similar to Mrs. Norton who is Beatrice’s “Nemesis” and another character utilized in this book. While I liked the depth and intelligence that she displayed in her one scene.. she really was a one-scene wonder in this book. I wanted a better conclusion with her than just the handwave acknowledgement at the end. I also really didn’t like the portrayal of one of the suspects of Kesgrave’s uncle’s murder who had a speech impediment. This is the first person in the series who has a disability and they are an antagonist/suspected killer. This is not a good look. In addition, his stutter was portrayed haphazardly and true to life he was discounted because of his disability in the story. It just rubbed me the wrong way and felt like a misstep. Disabled people of all kinds all too often are cast as either the victims or the perpetrators of crimes… it’s much like how villains for a long time (and still to this day) are coded as LGBTQIA. It’s a harmful trope.

Additionally, a major plot point… that the murder victim’s son not the murder victim himself will inherit the dukedom didn’t make any sense. While it didn’t change the outcome of the story, it was a huge inaccuracy. The Uncle would have inherited the dukedom if Kesgrave died without issue… it wouldn’t skip to the uncle’s son. He can’t be disinherited like that. It was something that bugged me… a lot.

That said, once the story got going it was fun until the end which left me feeling a bit… “is that it?” about the whole thing.

It’s not one of the stronger entries in the series.

So because of the need to have to essentially read all of the books or risk being spoiled and because of the infodump and because of the iffy treatment of a few characters… particularly one with a disability as well as the huge historical inaccuracy. I’m going to give this…

Two and a half stars rounded up to Three Stars

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

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I received an ARC of this book Via NetGalley.

Note: I do like this series. I’ve read all the books up until this one. This is just one of the weaker entries into the series. You’ll see what I mean when I get to the reviews of the other books… it’ll just be a while. LOL I’ve read over 200 books so far this year and I’m trying not to spam you on reviews. LOL

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