The Curious Case of Lady Latimer’s Shoes, by Stephanie Laurens (review)

August 28, 2014 Stephanie Laurens 10


With her husband, amateur-sleuth the Honorable Barnaby Adair, decidedly eccentric fashionable matron Penelope Adair is attending the premier event opening the haut ton’s Season when a body is discovered in the gardens. A lady has been struck down with a finial from the terrace balustrade. Her family is present, as are the cream of the haut ton—the shocked hosts turn to Barnaby and Penelope for help.

Barnaby calls in Inspector Basil Stokes and they begin their investigation. Penelope assists by learning all she can about the victim’s family, and uncovers a feud between them and the Latimers over the fabulous shoes known as Lady Latimer’s shoes, currently exclusive to the Latimers.

The deeper Penelope delves, the more convinced she becomes that the murder is somehow connected to the shoes. She conscripts Griselda, Stokes’s wife, and Violet Montague, now Penelope’s secretary, and the trio set out to learn all they can about the people involved, and most importantly the shoes, a direction vindicated when unexpected witnesses report seeing a lady fleeing the scene—wearing Lady Latimer’s shoes.

But nothing is as it seems, and the more Penelope and her friends learn about the shoes, conundrums abound, compounded by a Romeo-and-Juliet romance and escalating social pressure…until at last the pieces fall into place, and finally understanding what has occurred, the six intrepid investigators race to prevent an even worse tragedy.  (Goodreads)


Um. Well.  Frankly, I wish Stephanie Laurens would stick to writing romance with a touch of mystery, instead of mystery with a very little touch of romance. This book fell really flat for me. The mystery isn’t all that compelling. The exclusivity of Lady Latimer’s shoes (a type of shoe, not a single pair), their utility in snagging young ladies a husband, and the jealousy they evoke — enough to lead to murder — all seem far-fetched. The murder victim goes from being a sympathetic character at the beginning to almost unregretted by everyone at the end, and a long-time friendship makes little sense in light of what we eventually learn about her.  And the mystery’s solution is unsatisfactory in several ways.

None of that would matter quite so much if the mystery were incidental to the romance, but it’s the other way around. The romance is tiny and gets very little page time – which may be just as well, given that it’s not all that interesting, either. The romantic couple aren’t even the main characters! Contrasted with a book like Laurens’ All About Love, where a compelling romance takes center stage and the murder investigation lends tension, danger, and suspense, The Curious Case of Lady Latimer’s Shoes is curiously lackluster.

The only upside for me was spending some time with Barnaby and Penelope Adair, and to a lesser extent Stokes and Griselda, and Montague and Violet. They’re familiar to me from earlier books, and I’ve always liked the first four; the last two I’m still getting to know. But a short story could have served the same purpose and kept more of the focus on those couples.

I really hate to give a Stephanie Laurens book a bad review — I’ve been a fan of hers for almost 15 years. But if you want to read any of her work, read the first few Cynster books instead. This is one I wish I’d skipped.

*   *   *

Rating: 2 stars, barely

Category: Mystery; not exactly historical romance
Series: The Casebooks of Barnaby Adair #2.5
Publisher: Savdek Management Pty. Ltd (the author’s company)
Release date: June 2014
Book source: purchased (Kindle)

The Casebooks of Barnaby Adair (in order):

1.    Where the Heart Leads (Penelope and Barnaby; Stokes & Griselda are a secondary romance)
1.5  The Peculiar Case of Lord Finsbury’s Diamonds (reviewed 1/23/14)
2.    The Masterful Mister Montague (Montague and Violet)
2.5  The Curious Case of Lady Latimer’s Shoes (this review)
3.    Loving Rose (review coming next week) (Hint – it’s a lot better!)


10 Responses to “The Curious Case of Lady Latimer’s Shoes, by Stephanie Laurens (review)”

  1. Bea

    The blurb doesn’t seem promising to me but I’m sorry that the book didn’t rise above. I enjoy an occasional historical mystery but I think I’ll skip this one.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I kind of wish I’d skipped it. I think she does better when she is traditionally-published and has a good editor. This one is self-published, and while the formatting and copy-editing and all are professional, the story just doesn’t work for me. Luckily, her newest book, Loving Rose, is a decided improvement. The review is here, if you’re interested.

  2. Katherine P

    I’d been curious about this one as Stephanie Laurens was the first romance I ever read. I think I will definitely pass though. You’re right about the quality of the mystery not mattering that much if it’s a piece of a romance novel but not the other way around!

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Actually, it did! My review of Loving Rose just came out today (9/05 – sorry, I’m behind on answering comments), and it was much better. Not quite her best, perhaps, but good, and definitely better than the last several.

  3. Mary @ BookSwarm

    While I appreciate authors branching out and trying new things, it just doesn’t work sometimes. This sounds like one of those times. She does romance so WELL. Time to return, I guess. Definitely a bummer, to quote Anna.

  4. Angela's Anxious Life

    It is really too bad you didn’t like this one. Especially after sticking with the author for so long. 15 years!! I think the only author I have stuck with that long is Stephen King.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Oh, wait until you’re my age – you’ll have authors you’ve stuck with for decades, too! I stuck with Anne McCaffrey for almost 30 years, from my high school days until her death. (Even though some of her later books weren’t great. [the Petaybee series and Catalyst *cough cough*]