cover image A Love by Design

A Love by Design

Elizabeth Everett. Berkley, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-20066-7

Everett’s disappointing third Secret Scientists of London Regency romance (after A Perfect Equation) again grants readers a glimpse inside Athena’s Retreat, a haven for female scientists in a world that refuses to acknowledge their intelligence. This premise remains a valiant attempt to shine a light on Regency women outside of the domestic sphere, but this installment unfortunately devolves into an overdramatized and unbelievable mess. Margaret Gault, a hardworking, devoted, and ambitious engineer, has been given a commission that may make her career: to design a tunnel underneath the Thames. As she tackles this monumental project, she rekindles her love with her childhood friend George Willis, now the Earl Grantham. The romantic plot is simplified to a point that it leaves essential chemistry lacking—right up until the couple face sudden danger in the jarring climactic twist. The use of modern slang (the word clit appears multiple times) will pull readers from the narrative while the tidy resolution to a well-established tangle of seemingly insurmountable conflicts fails to satisfy. There’s too little substance behind any of it for readers to feel attached to either the characters or the world they inhabit. Fans will hope for a return to form in future installments. Agent: Ann Leslie Tuttle, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Jan.)