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by Alanna Knight
Allison and Busby, October 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0749082569

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE STUART SAPPHIRE is the second novel of Alanna Knight's Tam Eildor series. Scottish amateur sleuth Eildor is a time traveller from the year 2050, and whenever he lands, he quickly forgets all but the haziest details of the 21st century life from which he came. This allows Knight to create a series of historical novels in which there are no temporal boundaries.

When Eildor arrives in Brighton in 1811, the grotesque, self-centred Prince Regent is behaving pretty much as history says he did. Maria Fitzherbert flutters and frets at a respectful distance from the royal pavilion and Beau Brummel makes some cameo appearances. Meanwhile, the Regent carries on with a young Marchioness who likes wearing the crown jewels to bed.

Then, the Marchioness is found strangled. With her own pearls. In the King's bed -- as Knight informs the reader at least three times. As the Prince Regent and his cronies crank up a damage control machine that would put the present royal family's handlers to shame, one of said crown jewels disappears. Once possessed by the last male descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart Sapphire is a greater loss in the Regent's eyes than the late Marchioness. Eildor is enlisted to find the jewel, the thief, and the murderer.

He attempts to do so, despite being waylaid by the 15-year-old Princess Charlotte, whose "top-heavy" and "already over-ripe body" he finds repulsive and whose forwardness could prove dangerous. He is further distracted by another young woman, the murdered Marchioness's svelte and charmingly waiflike stepdaughter.

The sumptuous material culture of the Regent's court is described in greater depth than the characters, and the romance plot often eclipses the mystery. Both conventions make the world Eildor finds resemble not the Regency as written by Austen, Byron, and Thackeray, but by Georgette Heyer.

Accepting these terms, I really tried to care about whether Charlotte would pull Eildor or Eildor would pull the stepdaughter, but it proved impossible. Perhaps this is because of the low stakes: whatever happens, Charlotte must die in childbirth only a few short years later, as, in reality, she did, and Eildor must return to 2050 even sooner, without the stepdaughter.

Despite this, I wanted to know more about this taciturn Time Lord, about his life back (forward?) in 2050. Frustratingly, the questions that the sci-fi framework provoked but never answered seemed much more interesting than the Prince Regent's stolen sapphire, dead mistress, and doomed daughter.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, December 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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