A little while ago, I got a message on Goodreads from a lovely person named Jessica at Berkley Publishing Group asking if I would be interested in an ARC of the second book in Jennifer Ashley’s ‘Below Stairs’ series.
I would! I was! And it was like Christmas come again when I got the book in the mail!
And for all that I loved the first book, Death Below Stairs (it’s amazing, go read it now!), I love this second book, Scandal Above Stairs, even more! Is that possible? Yes!
Am I using too many exclamation points? Probably, but don’t hold your breath for me to stop because this book is worth every maybe annoying punctuation mark!
Back in the first book, we meet Kat Holloway, a cook in one of the fancier homes in London while Queen Victoria reigns in England. Kat is in her late twenties, early thirties, I’d say – old enough to have a ten year old daughter but young enough to be considered a young upstart by the older cooks in aristocratic London and the more experienced members of the staff at her own house. Kat is sassy and smart and steady to the core. Cooking is her job, and she takes it very seriously, but she’s as good at everything as any man.
And this is exactly what Daniel McAdam, a mysterious jack-of-all-trades tells her and anyone who will listen when he lays out all the reasons he admires and respects her.
Kat and Daniel don’t get the happily ever after I very much wanted them to have at the end of Death Below Stairs but… that’s absolutely fine with me.
Because that meant there would be a second book, of course!
It’s only been about six months since I read Death Below Stairs and getting back into Kat’s world, about six months later in the story, was like catching up with old friends. Kat, Daniel, Mr. Thanos, Lady Cynthia, Davis, James… I missed them! And I got to meet Tess in this story so that’s even better!
In Scandal Above Stairs, somebody is stealing all sorts of antiquities from the fancy homes of London and, as before, the gossip flows freely through the grapevine of the downstairs staffs. Kat, however, is pulled in more when Lady Cynthia specifically requests that she help figure out the mystery as one of Lady Cynthia’s dearest friends has been repeatedly victimized by the thieves.
Things take an absolutely delightful turn when Kat not so subtly plays matchmaker with the mens’ suit wearing Lady Cynthia and the fish-out-of-water Elgin Thanos. Cynthia and Elgin may be the pairing I ship hardest in this book!
Tess Parsons, the new girl in this story, is brilliant in her role as a sort of surrogate daughter, cook’s assistant to Kat and I very much love the story more for her being there.
But then… then Daniel starts opening up to Kat about his history! Tiny bits at a time but enough that it makes absolute sense when Kat stuns him with the declaration that she would adopt his son James if anything ever happened to Daniel.
The mystery gets solved of course, because Kat and Daniel think in tandem even when they aren’t in speaking range of each other. And the twist is fantastic and perfect for the history lover in me (think mummies!) but to explain more would be to spoil the book and, let’s be honest, I really want you to read the book! We’ll talk details after you do!
I will say that even though it is a mystery and has a whodunit theme, that is not the overriding theme of Jennifer Ashley’s book. I couldn’t have predicted who was behind it and all and, to be honest, I didn’t really try. I was having way too much fun just reading!
A final thing to mention about these books about Kat Holloway? They’ll make you hungry! The way Jennifer Ashley describes the food Kat cooks, the way she writes Kat talking about food… it’s heavenly. It’s a whole new reason to want to time travel back to Victorian England, only this time I want to go below stairs and sample food like Tess does throughout this story!
As far as happily ever after goes… it’s getting there. For Kat and Daniel, for Cynthia and Elgin. It’s getting there. Possibly I’m unwilling to commit because I’m daring to hope and dream that there will be more to the story of Kat Holloway. It’s not a bad thing to dream of, really. Unless it doesn’t come. Then I will be incredibly sad.
Many, many thanks to the kind people at Berkley and Penguin Random House for the chance to read this incredibly lovely book.
And, to Jennifer Ashley… please, you are going to write more about Kat Holloway, aren’t you? I adore every bit of it! And thank you for writing it!