Book Review: India Black & India Black and the Widow of Windsor

A few weeks ago, while perusing the ‘NEW’ section at our well stocked, local library, I came across two books by author Carol K. Carr. The titles caught my fancy and I checked them out. The first was titled ‘India Black’and the second was ‘India Black and the Widow of Windsor.’ I am a history buff and historical novels are right up my alley.

In the first book we are introduced to the charming, beautiful, and very self-confident India Black, who is a madam at a whorehouse. Or more to the point, she calls herself the abbess of her establishment, The Lotus House. The story starts in Victorian England,  when a client, affectionately called ‘Bowser’ shuffles off his mortal coil while partaking of very earthly pleasures at India’s establishment. While attempting to deposit Bowser’s earthly remains near the Thames, she meets an agent of the Empire, a Mr. French. He informs her that Bowser, also known as Sir Archibald Latham, a high-ranking officer at the British War Office, had an important memo in his briefcase, which in the wrong hands would cause major havoc. Of course, as expected the briefcase was gone and also absconding is Bowser’s favorite ‘bint’ (courtesan). Mr. French convinces India Black to assist in the retrieval of said briefcase. To be truthful we should admit that he blackmailed her shamelessly. The efforts to prevent the information within the memo from reaching possibly disastrous hands, lead India and Mr. French into a whirlwind adventure.

In the second book Dizzy, formally known as Mr. Disraeli, the British Prime Minister during Queen Victoria’s time, ‘requests’ her services along with Mr. French when they suspect a planned assassination of her majesty, the Queen of England. A medium of questionable repute had been paid to convince the Queen that her late husband, Prince Albert, insist she spend the Christmas holidays at Balmoral rather than her usual haunt. India Black takes on the guise of personal servant to a snuff addicted, crusty, old Scottish dowager by name of  Marchioness Tullibardine. As usual, the Queen travels with an entourage of relatives, and an assortment of  sycophants and lackeys. Intelligence suggests there is at least one would be assassin among the entourage or the servants of the castle. Can India and French figure out who it is before the Queen’s life is imperilled?

Both of the books move at a good clip, but I particularly liked the second book. It is laugh out loud funny in many parts. The plot is a tad transparent in the second book but it is still an entertaining read. The established relationship between the handsome and enigmatic Mr.French and India Black adds much to the second book. Even though India Black is a madam, the books are squeaky clean and there is nothing remotely erotic to be found.

An excerpt from the book:

‘As I expected, the meat was charred beyond recognition, the potatoes boiled to mush, and the peas had been cooked into a sticky green gruel. French looked momentarily dismayed, but Vincent dove in with all the grace of a suckling pig at the sow, chewing with his mouth open and grunting softly in satisfaction. Vincent was not a critic of a free meal. No doubt French was wondering why I employed a cook as shockingly bad as Mrs. Drinkwater. His cook had probably been trained in Paris and could whip out a turbot sauce mousseuse without blinking an eye, but then French’s chef didn’t work in a brothel. I counted myself lucky that I’d found a cook willing to work with a gaggle of naked women and a score of priapic, inebriated gentlemen parading through the halls on a daily basis. Unfortunately, Mrs. Drinkwater insulated herself from these conditions by drinking copious amounts of gin, sherry, wine, beer and even the odd bottle of vanilla extract. As you can imagine, this did not improve her cooking.’

If I were to rate this out of 5 I would give this book a solid 4. I cannot wait to read the next India Black novel and hope that Ms. Carr is busy working on it right now.

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