Million Dollar Baby is a cosy-romantic read rich in the glamour of the 1930s, though rather poor in regard to its history and mystery. It probably won’t satisfy the most discriminating readers, but it is an easy and enjoyable story for those who don’t expect too much.
Marjorie McClelland, a 20-something moderately successful mystery writer, debuts in the first of this series from Amy Patricia Meade. Creighton Ashcroft, an Englishman with a million-dollar fortune and a 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom II, is immediately smitten, and readers should be too. With both.
Several of the characters are equally attractive — Mrs. Patterson, with whom Creighton boards as the 27-room mansion he’s just bought has been empty since the previous owner’s death five years earlier and needs extensive renovations; Det. Robert Jameson, with matinee idol appeal; and a few other residents of the small town of Ridgebury, Conn. Others, including the widow who previously owned the mansion, and the local bookseller, are appealingly repulsive.
Ridgebury isn’t the problem, nor the scenes in New York City. The difficulty is in setting — and keeping — the story in the 1930s. Writing historical fiction is a challenge, and, while Meade does better than many first-time writers, the story still comes up short. The dialogue occasionally betrays her, and Creighton sometimes “forgets” to speak British English. (The Brits have gardens, whether consisting of flowers, lawns, or vegetables, but they do not have yards surrounding their homes.)
For the most part, the characters do possess the morals of the ’30s, but the exceptions are, for those discriminating fans of historical fiction, simply egregious. It’s debatable whether Creighton would or would not deign to sit in the kitchen rather than be served in the dining room. Artistic license may give Meade the benefit of the doubt here.
But, it is utterly impossible for a respectable young woman like Marjorie to accept a gift of clothing from a man other than her husband. It is utterly impossible for a gentleman like Creighton to offer them, and it is wildly beyond the realm of reason for Mrs. Patterson to urge Marjorie to forego pride and accept the gown, shoes, bag and fur! My own mother, who was a mere infant at the time depicted, still does not approve of girls receiving gifts of clothing from boys.
The plot gets tangled at about this point in the story, and the mystery gets lost in the process. The enlightenment leaves a bit to be desired. And, from beginning to end, the characters occasionally act irrationally and in ways that jar. None of this will sit well with the discriminating reader, but those who are eager to be entertained will find enough here to amuse them.
NOTE: Sis received an advanced reading copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest and independent review. Sis is pretty independent, so you can be sure this review reflects her own opinions.
Available in Kindle edition: