Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

book cover

The Crimson Rooms
by Katharine McMahon

ISBN-13: 978-0-425-23858-5
Trade Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Released: January 4, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
Still haunted by the death of her brother, James, seven years ago in World War I, Evelyn Gifford is shocked when a young nurse named Meredith and her six-year-old son appear on her London doorstep. The child is Jame's son, conceived in a battlefield hospital shortly before his death. The grief-stricken Gifford family welcomes the child, who is the spitting image of James. However, what Meredith tells Evelyn about her brother destroys her innocent view of him forever.

With the men of her family dead, Evelyn must support those who remain by working as a legal clerk at a time when work for female lawyers is virtually nonexistent and few welcome them at court. Then her boss takes on the case of a friend, a war veteran charged with murdering his young wife. Evelyn is included in the defense team and their investigation for new evidence that might turn around what appears to be a clear case against their client.

One of the lawyers on the team, the handsome but engaged Nicholas Thorne, compliments Evelyn and keeps bumping into her outside of work. Is he truly interested in her or is he just using her?

My Review:
The Crimson Rooms is a tragedy-style historical set in 1924 in England. It also contained a mystery and a romance. The characters were complex. Historical and setting details were expertly woven into the story and brought the story alive in my imagination.

However, it's a depressing story. Evelyn's family is stuck in their grief. Her two main legal cases can't really have "happy endings" even if won. And, due to the high post-war female-to-male ratio and her low self-image, Evelyn's desperate to have sex with the first willing male (even if she knows he's just using her) so that she can have sex once in her life. We're not even told why she feels it's so important to experience sex.

Furthermore, I couldn't believe that Evelyn really had the guts to defy her family and society to get her legal training when she's so submissive to everyone's wishes and whims at the beginning of the story. By the end of the story, she'd gained my respect in her lawyer role but lost it in how she behaved in the romance role.

So the historical part of this story was excellent, the mystery was interesting (though the court scenes at the end were a bit slow paced), but the romance didn't work for me. There was a very minor amount of bad language. The story also contained some "hot" kissing and a brief, not-particularly-graphic (unmarried) sex scene.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Read an excerpt using Google Preview.


Janel said...

Nice review! Sounds like an interesting book. I've added it to my TBR list. Happy Reading!

Genre Reviewer said...


Thanks. I'm glad I could help connect you with a book that interests you. :)